National Music Reviews – February 2009

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The American Black Lung
Good Vibrations 7”
Street: 11.18
1912 Records
The American Black Lung = old rock n’ roll + punk sensibilities
Imagine a basement crammed with 100 rowdy kids, a four-piece raging ball of raw rockin’ and kegs complete with empty party cups. Sound sweaty? Now imagine it in one of the most godawful hellholes of the American armpit of southwest, Tucson, Ariz. The American Black Lung exemplifies that sweltered city of suburban sprawl with a dirt-smeared smile (chew and missing teeth included). The only problem with the offering is that it’s only three songs. As soon as the groove starts picking you up by yer boots, it ends. Hopefully, this is just a taste of what’s to come for TABL. The Good Vibrations 7” is the band’s 1912 Records debut, as their primary record label, Uprising Records (I Am The Ocean, Dr. Acula, Katsumoto) doesn’t seem to be doing much right now. The straightforward rockin’ of TABL is nothing new to the sonic landscape, but damn, it’s a sweaty kegger full of fun. -Nick Parker

Asobi Seksu
Hush
02.17
Polyvinyl Records
Asobi Seksu = Slowdive + My Bloody Valentine + pop
This review could be summed up in one word: disappointment. That’s really all there is to it. 2006’s Citrus was as good as everyone said it was, so the prospect of the next Asobi Seksu was exciting. How would they improve on that wall-of-sound, but catchy style of shoegaze, that really only they could pull off? Well, I guess we have our answer; they couldn’t. Asobi Seksu decided to go stripped down for Hush, which isn’t inherently a problem. However, they lost that spark, that interesting ability of singer Yuki Chikudate to bring a certain lightness and beauty to the sometimes-pop, sometimes-noisy band behind her. Gone is the need for the earplugs on Hush and with it, the stellar dichotomy of abrasive and gentle that was their calling card. It would be a pleasant listen if it came up on Pandora.com, but it wouldn’t receive a thumbs-up; it might even get skipped. -Peter Fryer

Beirut/Real People
March Of The Zapotec/Holland
Pompeii Records
Street: 02.16
Beirut = Final Fantasy + A Hawk & A Hacksaw + Devotchka
Real People = Beirut + Album Leaf + No Kids
The first half, recorded with a 19-piece Mexican band, is unmistakably Beirut, with its grandiose instrumentation and sickeningly catchy melodies. The latter portion, recorded under Condon’s old band name, is the product of being locked in a basement with a collection of synthesizers. Real People’s Holland plays like Condon was trying to construct a soundtrack for a dramatic teen comedy in the late 80s. I mean that in the best way—it is just as lush and melodic as the Beirut EP. Strangely though, synth beats seem to be very flattering for Condon, as “My Night With The Prostitute From Marseille” is more infectious than anything on March Of The Zapotech. That could, however be my love of classy hookers coming though. –Cody Hudson

Bloodsworn
All Hyllest Til Satan
Agonia Records
Street: 11.28
Bloodsworn = Total War + Human Remains
Norwegians Bloodsworn recorded All Hyllest Til Satan (which translates to "all hail satan") in 1999, but the financial difficulties of two separate labels delayed its release until November 2008. Unfortunately, this is not a rediscovered gem. The strained vocoded vocals (which sound a great deal like the much better grind act Human Remains), the clicky drums, and the scale-climbing guitar all combine to equal a remarkably average industrial-tinged black-metal release. The members of Bloodsworn are involved in the superior bands Urgehal and Beastcraft; seek them out instead. And if it’s industrial black metal you seek, search out Diapsiquir's Lubie Satanique Depravee or Blacklodge's Solarkult. All Hylest Til Satan would've been stillborn even if released in 1999. -Ben West

The British Columbians
S/T
Rural Records
Street 01.09
The British Columbians = The Black Keys + Ringside
Maybe I belong in the army, but there is something about bands recreating a megaphone effect that really hits the spot. The Strokes have never failed at it, and now the British Columbians are taking a stab. It might not be the most authentic way to go about creating a record, but it really adds a powerful sensation next to the fast-paced riffs and beats. The self-titled album isn’t all hooting and hollering; it also touches base with a sensitive side that’s got the same blues appeal as artists such as Ringside and The Black Keys. I mean, sometimes it is really, really hard to tell the difference. It puts me in a spot where I can’t decide if The British Columbians are just riding the talent waves of past artists or if they simply know what they are doing. -Lyuba Basin

Bulldozer
The Hammers
Motherbox Records
Street: 10.08
Bulldozer = Bad Dropkick Murphys Doppelgangers
I bet these guys HATE being compared to Dropkick Murphys. Still, the similarity is undeniable and can’t possibly be an accident. If you had me listen to “The Hammers,” I would just assume that it’s some new Dropkick Murphys song. The sound is all right, I suppose, but there is nothing special about this record. So, to compensate, they try to go over the top with their lyrics. The name this band has tried to make for themselves is that they are so un-P.C. that it will basically make you barf. The problem is that these guys sound like real douchebags in the process. This is punk rock, or at least it’s trying to be. So, what’s with calling people “faggots” on the record? I don’t give a fuck who has done it before. This is 2009. In this political climate, there isn’t room for ignorance like this anywhere, let alone in punk rock. Thus, there is no room for Bulldozer. -Aaron Day

Cars & Trains
Rusty String Deluxe Edition
Circle into Square
Street: 12.03
Cars & Trains = David Bazan + Casiotone For The Painfully Alone + something Anticon
This album sounds like an old folk artist acquired a malfunctioning pacemaker. It seems like as the album moves forward from the beginning, it becomes less and less analog. When it reaches its synth-fueled peak, Tom Filepp is joined by Anticon’s Sole, which takes the album in an unexpected direction, but I suppose hip-hop is infiltrating every genre these days. The end of the album is comprised of remixes, most of which sound like old Her Space Holiday songs, which I found very enjoyable. Filepp really has this whole electro-folk thing down. Oh my, all the sub-genres these days. -Cody Hudson

Christ Inversion
Christ Inversion
Housecore Records
Street: 10.28
Christ Inversion = dime store Belphegor + Crebain
Well, after Pantera had become established as the "popular band you'll most likely love if you're from West Valley City,” young Philip Hansen Anselmo gave a stab at black metal with Christ Inversion. What makes this interesting is that it isn't half bad for the time period it was released. The year was 1994 and Christ Inversion put out their first of two demos, both featured on this disc that I am reviewing here. This was a big year for more notable black-metal releases such as Darkthrone's highly revered Transilvanian Hunger album. What Christ Inversion actually consists of is some seriously heavy, tough-guy black metal which also teeters toward death metal and maybe even some East Coast hardcore. Riddled with samples and some decent riffing, this is actually a fun listen. While I wouldn't label it essential to a black metal collector, it is an interesting piece of history. -Conor Dow

Coconot
Cosa Astral
Bcore Disc
Street: 11.24.08
Coconot = Paul Simon + Le Loup
The comparisons to Animal Collective and Panda Bear abound in this release by Barcelona-based band Coconot. Their music is groovy and percussion based, but is much more orchestrated and thought out than their American contemporaries. They are straightforward tropical pop, with all the hooks of a Jamaican rave and the precision of a Brazilian samba band. This is indie-world music perfected, with an infectious pop vein that is undeniable. Steel drums, marimbas, explosive chants and various percussion instruments swing in and out with ease and attentiveness. The song “Tao” is especially catchy and ties easily to the true nature of the world. -Andrew Glassett

Combichrist
Today We Are All Demons
Metropolis
Street: 01.20
Combichrist = Icon of Coil + Wumpscut + Hocico
Andy LaPlegua, formerly of Icon of Coil, wanted something different from the typical dance electronica and created Combichrist in early 2000. The group is pretty much the shizznizzle at the moment in gothic and regular dance clubs; they’ve come to SLC a few times in the last year and just played the Avalon on the 30th. I’m not much of an electronic music fan, but what drew me to Combichrist was the darkness and noise their albums created. But … LaPlegua’s vision of the group has changed from ultra-angry to a more danceable style. It’s not the Chemical Brothers or Paul Oakenfold, but the anger is gone with a good half of Today We Are All Demons. The single that came before the album Sent to Destroy is the trademark Combichrist and the latter portion of the album brings some of that anger back in. Overall, the record is a disappointment for someone like me, who relished in the harsh, pissed-off sound Combichrist purveyed. This is just too damn pop oriented. -Bryer Wharton

The Damned
So, Who’s Paranoid?
The English Channel
Street: 12.08
The Damned = Roy Orbison + The Doors
I first caught wind of So, Who’s Paranoid? on Halloween night 2008 when I saw The Damned on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Immediately, my mind went wild imagining sounds reminiscent of Damned, Damned, Damned, Music for Pleasure and Machine Gun Etiquette, but such is not to be found on this record. “Nothing” and “Little Miss Disaster” are about as close as it comes and are two of the album’s better tracks. This album is very much in the same vein as their last outing, Bedtime for Democracy, which overall, was just all right. One thing that must not go unmentioned is the development of David Vanian’s voice. It sounds pretty ace these days. This album isn’t the new Damned record I had hoped for, but you can’t go wrong with The Damned. When it comes to them, you’re going to get substance, no matter the record. So, while this one may not garner too many new fans, there is much to hear on this record, and old-timers should certainly grab this one. -Aaron Day

Dirtfedd
The American Nightmare
Koch Records
Street: 02.24 Dirtfedd = Drowning Pool + Sonic Syndicate + American Headcharge + Professional Murder Music
Oh, how I love it when band bios try to paint a picture that the artists went through hardship and are darned ready for some stardom. I could ramble on about the PR aspects of any band but that defeats the purpose of this review. For a six-piece, I’d expect some innovative tunage but hey, when a member of the eight-or-so member troupe Slipknot produced the CD, the possibilities of any dynamics with many members is just pointless. The American Nightmare is a mishmash of styles, utilizing some elements that came from extreme metal and turning it into a nu-metal nightmare. There are so many negative things I could say about this record that in the end, I would just come off as redundant. In a short summation, the album is made up of breakdowns, screamed and whiny-ass vocals, horrific keyboards and really damned annoying guitar riffs. This one’s coming soon to the cheapo used bin at your local CD shop. -Bryer Wharton

Eighteen Wheels Burning
Tweak’d Out Strung Up & Redefined
Meteorcity
Street: 02.24
Eighteen Wheels Burning = ZZ Top + Dirty Sweet + Mudhoney
Eighteen Wheels Burning are so close to being a bodacious band, with a sound that’s thick and dirty, similar to post-grunge stoner bands like Craw. But they have one major flaw. When they get the dirt flowing and it starts to sound all dark and fuzzed out, they break out the bogus 80s guitar solo. I hate guitar solos; they are probably the most cheese-dick thing ever invented in rock music. There are so many things you can do differently in a song than let the guitarist get their wank on. That’s the problem with Eighteen Wheels Burning; they are too busy playing with themselves than getting down into the crunchy goodness of what post-grunge music is all about. Word to the wise, Adam Valk: If you keep wanking on that guitar, you’re gonna go blind -Jon Robertson

Eulogies
Tempted To Do Nothing EP
Dangerbird Records
Street 10.07
Eulogies = Death Cab for Cutie + Silversun Pickups
EPs already give me a hard time. What can I honestly do with four tracks? It doesn’t give me any options to pick what songs I like best and want to play on repeat for a while. Tempted To Do Nothing is 13 minutes of “eeehh.” It makes me think of a band full of choirboys who decided to put instruments in their hands. Simple chord progressions, gentle voices and basically what your parents would like you to listen to instead of that damn punk music. Where’s the rush, where’s the climax? Four songs and I’m already snoring? I’m hoping that Eulogies decided to put their most unimpressionable tracks on the EP and saved the best for last; otherwise, the name fits because they’ll be headed to their musical funeral. -Lyuba Basin

Fake Problems
It’s Great to Be Alive
SideOneDummy
Street: 02.17
Fake Problems = Against Me! + Murder By Death + The Gaslight Anthem
These young Floridians continue to show signs of musical evolution on their second album, combining the somber, reflective style of their first album with the raucous, reckless sound of their early EPs to create an album that is more reflective of their versatility than anything they’ve released in the past. Though vocalist Chris Farren explores the themes of good and evil throughout much of the album, the varied styles featured throughout keep Alive fresh from start to finish. “The Heaven and Hell Cotillion” hearkens back to the band’s earlier, folkier days, while “Level with the Devil” approaches morality with a Western-tinged theatricality that would fit right in on a Murder By Death album. Jagged, dancey numbers (“Diamond Rings”), all-out rockers (“Alligator Assassinator”) and slower, introspective songs (“There Are Times”) all combine to make It’s Great to Be Alive a great album. -Ricky Vigil

Frost
Experiments In Mass Appeal
Inside Out
Street: 01.13
Frost = Porcupine Tree + The Strokes – the hipster style + a hint of Portishead
Trying to dissect Frost’s Experiments in Mass Appeal was harder than it seemed on the surface— just trying to come up with the band equation was difficult. The UK act doesn’t play traditional prog rock; it’s more modern in every aspect. Even with Porcupine Tree’s more recent albums where the band has modernized and updated their sound, well, Frost has them beat. You don’t really have to listen to prog rock at all to enjoy this record; in many aspects it’s more UK-pop-oriented than proggy. The first few tracks have some hefty guitar riffs played out with an upbeat rhythm section which includes plenty of synths. There is a bulk of talent and thought that went into creating this album. This is just one enjoyable piece of music for anyone that listens to rock; don’t let any progressive tags dilute your interest. -Bryer Wharton

Grave Digger
Ballads of a Hangman
Napalm Records
Street: 01.27
Grave Digger = Judas Priest + Iron Maiden + Manowar – the wussy ballads
My previous experience with Grave Digger was only in seeing some of their terrifically cheesy music videos; thus, the new album is my first full-on experience of the German power-metal crew. Gathering up some facts from the bio, the band with origins in 1980 had a short run of success before changing their name and trying to go glam, which led to a break-up. The band is classic metal through and through, but interestingly, their career had more success through the 90s on. Ironically, on Ballads of a Hangman, there aren’t any ballads, although there’s one that borders on a power ballad. Everything else is supremely rocking in the oh-so-classic way, with fast riffing and smooth, yet old-school-sounding, production. The most positive thing about the album that leaves any classic metal cliches and monotonous sounds at the door is the gruff-styled vocals: no uber falsetto stuff here; it’s similar to Rob Halford’s rougher singing style. If you like Priest or Maiden, then be a Grave Digger! -Bryer Wharton

HEP*Z
Centavos
Street: 01.01
100% Zero Records (the local label)
HEP*Z= Motorhead + Poopy Necroponde (on downers)
Necroponde is at it again, this time with a satirical homage to “classic” metal. Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery gets somewhat lost in his take on the genre in some songs––culminating with ironic lyrics about consuming every type of drug in the 80s metal arsenal of substances in the song “Smoke Some Hash.” This is not for the diehard hard rock fan that can’t poke fun at themselves, but for everybody else that will enjoy some surprisingly well-crafted rock songs with a less-than-serious Judas Priest mentality (or any other UK band of that era and style). Lemmy would be well pleased if he heard Necroponde’s take on his voice; I almost thought I was hearing a Motorhead cover band initially. For a good time, follow the prescription on the liner notes: “Play this shit loud and high as fuck, bitches.” -JP

Here We Go Magic
Self-titled
Western Vinyl
Street: 02.24
Here We Go Magic = The Shins + Animal Collective + Any other “hip” neo-folk indie-pop band
When I received this album, I was expecting nothing more than another bearded pussy with an acoustic guitar and SM-57 microphone. I was wrong (about the beard part). Here We Go Magic is the moniker of songwriter Luke Temple, plus two. This is his sophomore release. That being said, I hope he learns with time. The music isn’t bad by any regards, it’s actually quite pleasant (pleasantly boring); the main problem is that this vein of music has run dry and Temple lacks the sincerity and originality that his contemporaries have found no problem injecting into this type of music. A few of the grooves on here are good and will provide pleasant background music, most notably the delightfully repetitive “Fangela.” After that, skip to the closing track, “Everything’s Big.” To sum it up, to hell with these NYC-apartment 4-track bands. You’d be safe sticking with Fleet Foxes this year. -Ryan Sanford

Iran
Dissolver
Narnack Records
Street: 02.03
Iran = Deerhunter + TV on the Radio + Black Dice
Iran emerge from a seven-year slumber showing they’ve never lost the wild-eyed edge of youth, refusing to trade any excitement for maturity and boring securities. Take minimal post-punk leanings and pull it by the hair through a puddle of noise, throwing in singer Aaron Aites’ brilliance and TV on the Radio’s Kyp Malone’s angular guitar-playing and you have their third album, Dissolver, which sounds a little less like erratic lo-fi schizophrenics and a bit more like one of the more promising albums of 2009. “I Already Know You’re Wrong” sounds like Deerhunter giving Sebadoh a handjob in some bad dream, with brilliant multi-instrumental tracks like “Where I’m Going” helping the album reach new dimensions. While a great album without many flaws, the only drawback is that it sometimes sounds like a collection of TV on the Radio B-sides. Still, I think I’d prefer this. -Ryan Sanford

Iron Fire
To The Grave
Napalm Records
Street: 01.27
Iron Fire = Dream Evil + Dragonforce + Hammerfall
This Danish four-piece plays the very definition of modern power metal. Yes, there are touches of classic metal/power metal; the production here is tight and thick in all realms, making it a hefty and fun listen. Renowned Swedish producer/musician Frederik Nordstrom produced Iron Fire’s 2007 Blade of Triumph album, and while I can’t be sure it sounds like he produced To the Grave, the production is damn similar to his band Dream Evil. Lyrically, Iron Fire sing about all things fantasy oriented—no surprise for power metal; it is all highly cliched for the genre, but what else is a power metal act going to sing about? To the Grave isn’t really going to bring in non-power metal listeners, but with the success of Dragonforce, the genre is growing in American popularity. So please, sell/trade any Dragonforce record you have and snag this Iron Fire record; honestly, you won’t miss Dragonforce at all. -Bryer Wharton

The Killers
Day and Age
Island Records
Street: 11.25
The Killers= Interpol (in a cheap way) + The Bravery (just as cheap)
Day and Age is that album your estranged aunt buys you for Christmas from Target when she finds out you like “indie” music. They are still trying to write those epic introverted love songs. As vapid and vacuous as this album is, it is still entertaining. Even though it has duller hooks than the earlier albums, it is still a guilty pleasure on the levels of Kelly Clarkson. This is nothing you would personally go out and buy, but if it came on the radio (if you listen) you wouldn’t change it. That is how I feel, at least; maybe I am not pretentious enough, though. -Cody Hudson

Killola
I Am the Messer
Self-Released
Street: 11.18
Killola = Garbage + The Start + Veruca Salt
From the first track to the last, Killola’s I Am the Messer felt almost eerily familiar to me. This band could come from 1995, not 2008, as they sound like a mutant Smorgasbord of multiple female-fronted “alternative” bands from the mid-90s. And while I love a lot of those bands, Shirley Manson and her ilk succeeded because they actually pushed some boundaries. Killola seems caught between a garage sound and slick pop, but they don’t carve out any new territory for themselves. As a pop album, it’s grimy and fun enough, but too many of the songs feel cut off at the knees. I kept wishing that they’d Rock The Fuck Out already, but they only ever get close, and it’s not catchy enough to make up for the lack of any real aggression. Vocalist Lissa Reiffel’s voice sounds great when she gets some gravel into it, but too often she sings with fake go-girl “attitude.” Overall, it’s an OK album, but I don’t see why I’d want to listen to this when I could listen to Garbage or Veruca Salt instead. -Clea Major

Look Mexico
Gasp Asp 7”
Tiny Engines
Street: 12.23
Look Mexico = Braid + Minus the Bear + Scream Hello
Despite the gruesome cover art featuring a variety of bloody animal heads ensnared by a snake, Look Mexico’s Gasp Asp is a mellow collection of three songs that combine smooth vocals with delicately layered instrumentation and killer drumming. I admit that the cover art had me hoping that these laid-back Florida dudes had secretly let a whole lot of Slayer seep into their sound, but this 7” is good enough that I’m not really disappointed. Side A (“You’re Not Afraid of the Dark, Are You?”) begins with a sweetly smooth string section, which sets the mood for vocalist Matt Agrella’s clean and relaxed delivery over hypnotic guitars and surprisingly varied drumming. Gasp Asp is a little bit self-conscious and almost a little too “Awww, shucks” cute, but it recalls the days of emo before it got all smeared in eyeliner. Go ahead and give this one a spin. Just because there’s no screaming, it doesn’t make you a pussy. -Ricky Vigil

Made in Mexico
Guilleraton
Skin Graft
Street: 11.16
Made in Mexico = Aids Wolf + Teenage Jesus and The Jerks + Daddy Yankee
Everything on the planet will eventually be stolen, appropriated or gentrified by Whitey, so maybe it’s pointless for me to be annoyed with Made in Mexico’s Guilleraton. Made In Mexico are a bunch of white hipsters from Providence, and this album features song titles like “March On La Migra” and “Viva La Luz.” It is Not Okay to latch onto someone else’s culture just because it seems more oppressed and kewl than your own. And maybe the band meant this as a respectful tribute to Mexican culture, or a symbol of new global ideology, or whatever—who the fuck am I to judge? But it comes across as gimmicky and it pissed me off before I could even give the CD a listen, which is a shame because there’s some good material here. They mix post-punk and noise rock with reggaeton, salsa beats and acoustic guitar, and the results are intriguing and unique. Surely they can explore the potential here without pissing all over someone else’s culture. -Clea Major

The Modern Society
The Beat Goes On
Original Signal Recordings
Street: 2.10
The Modern Society = Sahara Hotnights - female vocals + The Pink Spiders + Jackson United
Hailing from Atlanta, The Modern Society’s brand of rock n’ roll/pop n’ punk is upbeat, catchy and yet it still misses the mark, though not by much. Tracks like “Matinee” and “Mona Lisa” urge a sing-along and some good ol’-fashioned hand-clapping, while tracks such as “Paper Moon” offer a foot-stomping beat to rock to. So what’s the problem then, you ask? It’s hard to pinpoint exactly, because the ingredients are right and everything flows well, but there’s still something missing. Maybe it’s that some songs are too polished and clean instead of raw and edgy, or that the choruses float around in your head for too long and are too simple. On the surface, The Beat Goes On succeeds, but it fails in its lack of overall depth and originality. -Jeremy C. Wilkins

Nebula
Peel Sessions
Cargo Records
Street: 12.9.08
Nebula = Jimi Hendrix + Black Sabbath + lots and lots and lots of weed
Nebula is a stoner band that either takes itself WAY too seriously, or is so fried out of its mind that it thinks it’s actually Jimi Hendrix. Sure, the musicians are pretty tight, the recording quality is top-notch (what do you expect from the BBC, though?) and the riffs groove well to the sight of ganja smoke against a lava lamp, but could this band seriously be trying to invoke the ghost of ol’ Jimi through Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler’s playbooks? The songs are very Hendrix, but the tones are 100% Master of Reality and Paranoid. Even the almost metallic opening guitar riff of “Carpe Diem” gives way to a “woo ooh” that seems like an homage to the left-handed Woodstock legend’s “Crosstown Traffic.” Skip this and pop in Are You Experienced? or Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath instead. -Nick Parker

Obi Best
Capades
Social Science Recordings
Street 02.24
Obi Best = Azure Ray + Lily Allen + Metric + Regina Spektor + Kate Nash
These indie girls are really climbing up that talent ladder, aren’t they? They like to show all those boys who broke their hearts just how unique and special they really are now that they have a record deal. Oh yeah, they show them by singing sappy songs about love and origami and aww … don’t you wish you were still with her? Probably not, because if you are like me, you’re overwhelmed, because there are about a million of those girls who each have at least a 12-track album. If you do the math, I think there are possibly more sappy songs by these Raggedy-Anns then there are taxis in New York. At this point, I’d rather go back to angry bitches like Alanis Morissette who like to yell and cover their boobs with hair rather than deal with the uncomfortable cuteness of polka dots and ballet flats. -Lyuba Basin

Point Juncture, WA
Heart to Elk
Mt. Fuji Records
Street: 02.10
Point Juncture, WA = The Album Leaf (think “Always for You”) + Wet Confetti + (gasp!) Sonic Youth
Oh, nostalgia. It’s a favorite feeling of mine, and this album inspires a lot of it. Although I don’t usually tend to characterize music as organic, Heart to Elk truly is forming an integral element of a whole. Sometimes it’s raw and screechy, other times it’s soft and earthy. It’s sort of like spending a week in the depths of a forest. The sounds you hear there are ever changing, and this album captures that woodland essence quite well. The band is obviously not as proficient and versatile as the great veterans in the aforementioned equation (I’m talking about Sonic Youth here), but the two definitely share some of the same sound qualities. Heart to Elk is an instrumental hotbed for purified reverberations. -Erin Kelleher

Psychic TV/PTV3
Mr. Alien Brain vs. The Skinwalkers
Cargo
Street: 12.08
Psychic TV/PTV3 = The Velvet Underground + Coil
A Psychic TV record is always a messy, terrific display of studio tricks, disconnected lyrics, sideways songwriting and futurism via genre-bending of outdated styles—and usually four albums whiz by before you really “get” the first one. This disc doesn’t break ranks with that notion, as this current lineup (featuring vocals from Genesis P-Orridge’s recently departed Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge) cycles through a pureed strangeness as inviting as it is off-putting. “Trussed” is curiously Soundgarden’s “Mind Riot” meets Godspeed You! Black Emperor, drummer Morrison Edley chugging along on hi-hat amidst the bands incredibly complex drone. P-Orridge does la-la-I-love-you sounds on the meandering, screwed-up rock ballad, “The Alien Brain,” then jumps to metal posturing (“Papal Breakdance”) to flailing Iggy Pop antics on the over-the-top-Stooges-like “Pickles and Jam.” Grotesque, fascinating and otherworldly, the accompanying DVD (a documentary of sorts) only furthers Psychic TV’s oracular mythology. -Dave Madden

Root
Hell Symphony
I Hate Records
Street: 12.10
Root = Mystifier + Acheron + (early) Impaled Nazerene
A Czech black-metal classic originally released in 1991, Hell Symphony is plodding, primitive black metal closer in spirit to Mercyful Fate than Darkthrone. While lacking the blistering speed, static, and treble of current trends, Hell Symphony convinces on first listen. Nostalgic for Morbid Angel's earliest, clumsiest demos? Wishing Slayer still retained their Show No Mercy awkwardness? It's all here, and it fits like a sweaty, sleeveless denim vest. One small critique; couldn't I Hate Records have improved the shitty cover artwork? -Ben West

Scott Pinkmountain & The Golden Bolts Of Tone
The Full Sun
Howells Transmitter
Street: 02.10
Scott Pinkmountain & The Golden Bolts of Tone = A less mystical Frances + Scott Walker without the flair and proficiency
It’s no secret that this guy is clearly good at what he does. Before becoming Mr. Pinkmountain, Scott’s last name was Rosenberg, and he played a mad saxophone. It’s that very overtone, the jazzy instrumentals and sometimes-bluesy quality of the album, that make it worth listening to. “I Shall Not Be Released” is the album’s shining star, but it doesn’t get much better than that. The opening track is pleasant enough—piano and delicate vocals provide for a nice listen. As the album progresses, however, it quickly spins into chaos and becomes a vacuum that sucks up all the album’s pleasantries. I’m all up for psychedelic jazz, but when it becomes a complete abyss of noise, it’s far too overwhelming. I appreciate what’s trying to be accomplished, and this album is pretty close to being a successful experiment, but those noisy kinks definitely need to be worked out. -Erin Kelleher

Sepultura
A-Lex
SPV
Street: 01.27
Sepultura = Soulfly + Cavalera Conspiracy + Nailbomb – Max and Igor Cavalera
Well, I’ll give Sepultura some credit: A-Lex is the closest the band has sounded to any era of Max Cavalera-Sepultura since he was ousted from the band over a decade ago. Unfortunately, it’s the latest era, Roots/Chaos A.D. which adds to that fact; the album sounds a hell of a lot like any project Max has been associated with since his ousting. The band took on a complex concept for the new record based on the Clockwork Orange novel. Though I wonder, listening to the tribal/industrialized jam-type-vibe tunes from the album, which came first, the concept or the music, because neither really fits the other. Add to that notion that the album was recorded in three months’ time but was primarily based off jam sessions coming from the group, it really doesn’t seem like they tried to refine or unite those jams. The tunes come off as bland, repetitive and lacking any feeling, especially none of the feelings that The Clockwork Orange gave us. -Bryer Wharton

The Sir Finks
(Tres Mexixanos) Del Sur De Texas
Get Hip
Street: 2008
The Sir Finks = The Ventures + Dick Dale + Los Straight Jackets
Instrumental Surf rock is not for everybody, but if you’re into it, it can be a beautiful thing. The Sir Finks sprang out of Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1995 when skateboarding buddies Mike Guerrero and Jason Gentry became enamored with instrumental surf rock and formed a band to take this music to the rest of the world. Or so they thought: After a few short years, the Finks dissolved and the members went their separate ways into other bands, but while together, they managed to turn some heads and create some great surf instrumentals while they were at it. This 22-track career-spanning collection treats the ears to surf guitar that just drips with echo, bass rhythms that throb the brain and snare-drum beat that grab you outta nowhere. I say surf music like this isn’t for everybody because it demands the listener’s attention to hear subtle nuances of the music, but if you give a band like the Sir Finks your ear, you’ll love what they do to it. -James Orme

Six Organs of Admittance
RTZ
Drag City
Street: 01.20
Six Organs of Admittance = Sir Richard Bishop + Fursaxa
Have you ever grabbed a guitar and a four-track and plunked away for hours, only to wake up the next day and chuck the recording in the trash? Well, not all of us can be Comets on Fire and Current 93 member Ben Chasny, a.k.a. Six Organs of Admittance, a busy guy who hones his craft with everyone from the aforementioned bands to Devendra Banhart to Sunn O))). This double album is a collection that dates from 1998 to the present (some of it unreleased, all of it rare) of Chasny's Gamelan meets Syd Barrett guitar/chant/percussion works. Hypnotic and intimate with an inviting, non-pretentious air about them, each track is a substantial journey (most over 17 minutes long), a journey spent immobile, simply enjoying cloud-caused shadows as they move over a desert valley (in a pensive, noir, non-New Age manner, that is). -Dave Madden

Sole & the Skyrider Band
Remix Album
Anticon
Street: 02.03
Sole & the Skyrider Band = The Anticon Collective
Not being a huge fan of wordy wordsmith Sole, but being a huge fan of most things Anticon, I was really excited for this track-for-track (sequenced in the same order) redo of the “band’s” self-titled release. From Dosh’s drifting, drum-heavy take on “The Sound of Head on Concrete” to Sleeper’s dense textures and circuit bent “Magnum” to Subtitle’s nu-Crunk future beats on “Nothing is Free” to Astronautalis’s spacious piano balladry on “A Sad Day For Investors” to my favorite, Andrew Broder’s wobbly, overdriven version of “Stupid Things Implode on Themselves,” this crew conjured enough magic to make me revisit the originals. A really terrific album except for one problem, something I hesitate to mention, as it’s extraneous: putting “This is a promo/thank you for downloading this promo” on the album every 30 seconds is an obnoxious, dickish Def Jam move. Just distracting to no end—so knock it off, Anticon! -Dave Madden

SOS
Adult Situations
Independent
Street: 02.17
SOS = Jesus Lizard + The Melvins + Urge Overkill
SOS has been around since 1995 and it shows, in a good way. These guys make some tough, hard-hitting music. It’s like an old-school muscle car that’s being ghost-driven into a brick wall. While the vocals sometime sound like James Hetfield from Metallica, it’s easy to tolerate because the songs are so hardcore. You have to respect bands that are bit older because they put attention to details that are vastly overlooked with most bands of today. The main thing about these guys is you can tell that they concentrated on the tones and EQs of the instruments. This is something that most poser-ass douche bands of today rarely concentrate on. Keep it up, SOS, I would answer your distress call any goddamn day of the week. -Jon Robertson

Square on Both Sides
Indication
Own Records
Street 02.16
Square on Both Sides = Ilya Monosov + Kings of Convenience
You know the soundtrack to an incredibly depressing movie that makes you feel worthless and yet really good at the same time? I know it’s quite a contradiction, but Indication follows along those same lines. Soundtracks like that and albums like this are hardly noticeable until the last track plays and the realization occurs that it was the music that made the emotions so intense. Square on Both Sides did a wonderful job creating a record that enhances our already melancholy winter moods. It features slow and quiet tracks of guitar and piano with little to no lyrics. The vocals you do hear are spoken whispers that seem to say, “I give up, I don’t give a fuck.” Oh, it just hurts so good! It’s almost a relief that we can have 11 tracks to tell our story while we live out the rest of the miserable winter. Seasonal affective disorder, anyone? -Lyuba Basin

The Subhumans
Death Was Too Kind
Alternative Tentacles
Street: 11.08
The Subhumans = Agent Orange + Adolescents
Whenever there are two bands with the same name, it’s natural to have a bias against the one you haven’t heard. Such was the case with me and The Subhumans from Canada, being a big fan of The Subhumans from the UK. I’m glad to say that I was quite pleasantly surprised when I heard Death Was Too Kind from the Canuck Subhumans. Turns out this record is a reissue of some of the band’s older material that apparently catches a mint on auction sites. So, is this disc worth it? Yes, definitely. Even if the source material wasn’t hard to find, it would still be worth it. “Death to the Sickoids,” a skate-punk-sounding ripper, is the opening track and it sets a high standard. Luckily, the rest of the record follows suit and finishes with the truly outstanding instrumental “Pissed Off … With Good Reason.” If you’re a preexisting fan of The Subhumans, you’ve already got this record. If you aren’t familiar with the band, make yourself familiar with them. Don’t skip this one. -Aaron Day

Sylosis
Conclusion of an Age
Nuclear Blast
Street: 01.27
Sylosis = All That Remains + As I Lay Dying + Killswitch Engage
I guess modern thrash metal is a decent term to describe this style music which Nuclear Blast is labeling Sylosis, although I’d say it’s more metalcore than anything: Just because it has fast riffing doesn’t make it thrash. The UK’s Sylosis dish out what is become highly popular amongst the more mainstream metal crowd with their debut, Conclusion of an Age. Amongst those fast riffs are plenty of melodies; some highly bland, some slightly potent. The vocals are pretty standard fare, though they have the range from death growl to thrash/hardcore scream to clean, none of which are appeasing at all. This might sound all harsh, and it is harsher than it should be; I’m just really tired of artists playing this style. Admittedly, I enjoyed the first records of all three bands in the equation of this review, but then they just kept recycling their records. So in that statement, Sylosis has that new-car smell as opposed to the established bands. In this modern melodic metalcore, ditch the thrash tag, please. -Bryer Wharton

Various Artists
Heavy Metal Killers
Earache
Street: 02.16
Heavy Metal Killers = Judas Priest + Iron Maiden + Mercyful Fate
The Heavy Metal Killers compilation coming from Earache records is much in the same spirit as their Thrashing Like a Maniac compilation, only this time around, instead of new bands playing thrash metal in its traditional form, we have new bands playing classic heavy metal, mainly influenced by the NWOBHM. I really didn’t know there was a resurgence of new bands coming out and playing this style, If I didn’t know any better, I would have just thought this was a comp featuring classic bands that I hadn’t heard of. In that statement there is plenty of significance, meaning that none of the bands on this compilation are bad at all. They all vary in style from the British greats, and I’ve had a hell of a time listening to other albums that I need to review without coming back to this sucker. Everything is masterfully played and sung; it’s refreshing to know that the spirit of classic metal is still alive. Compilation highlight would have to be In Solitude’s track, “Witches Sabbath.” -Bryer Wharton

Velvet Cacoon
Genevieve
Southern Lord Records
Street: 03.30.2004
Velvet Cacoon = My Bloody Valentine + Krohm
Beneath the mucky layers of pretentious interviews and sad drug-addled blunders, the laughable past of Portland's Velvet Cacoon may either intrigue or steer away newcomers. But there is something to be said about the band still managing to deliver material that has inspired other decent projects in spite of it all. The band avoids most of the typical formulas and instead focuses more heavily on creating a hypnotic sense of tonal layering that bleeds slowly into the listener's ear. The vocals are also not your typical grim shrieking, but instead more of a raspy whisper, which doesn't really add anything interesting. When it comes down to it, I find Velvet Cacoon to be fairly forgettable, but since this is just a re-release in anticipation for a new upcoming double-disc album, perhaps their direction will become a bit more interesting. Go pick up Wrath of the Weak's album Alogon instead. -Conor Dow

Weird Owl
Ever The Silver Cord Be Loosed
Tee Pee Records
Street 02.17
Weird Owl = Entrance + Dead Meadow
Tee Pee never fails to bring me heavy guitar, psychedelic vocals and mythical references. Weird Owl is no different from other Tee Pee children: The Warlocks, Witch, Earthless, etc. This album is fully loaded with all the head-swaying you need. I can already see the strobelights and fog machines. Trevor Tyrrell’s vocals exude the perfect amount of “I’m not even trying” attitude. Take that and break it down with lengthy guitar solos and thrusting percussion. Now add some hypnotic delay and you’ve got a new winner of my everlasting neo-psychedelic fantasy. Tee Pee is like the Martha Stewart of the music world, crafty and rebellious—who could ask for more? Weird Owl meets all the expectations of Tee Pee greatness. The best part of it is that, unlike Martha, it never gets old. -Lyuba Basin

Woe Of Tyrants
Kingdom Of Might
Metal Blade Records
Street: 01.06
Woe of Tyrants = Into Eternity + At the Gates + Black Sabbath + Metallica
Like most records, Woe of Tyrants’ first worldwide release, Kingdom of Might, has its pros and cons. The big pro going for the Ohio-based band is the fantastic lead guitar performance. There are a couple big cons, however, and honestly, I don’t think the band may be to blame—the sound mixing seems off and the vocals seem to be pushed to the back of the mix with the music louder than the vox (which in a sense is a good thing due to the lackluster vocals, which are pretty standard death growls and screams with no power behind them, though I can picture the vocals sounding much better in a live setting). Cons aside, Kingdom of Might is a great listen that melds many sounds, from outright blazing guitars and speedy drumming, to complex melodies to some downright doom/stoner type riffing. –Bryer Wharton

Xystus
Equilibrio
Sensory
Street: 09.30
Xystus = Epica + Avanantaisa + Orphanage + a full orchestra
Dutch prog-metal act Xystus definitely took on a challenge with Equilibrio, basically a heavy-metal opera; the music was initially just a live stage/concert performance, but the portions of the performance have been put onto a studio recording. The whole heavy-metal opera thing has been done before and in my opinion, has never really lived up to its potential. The factor behind this work that makes it stand out is the band enlisted the Utrechtsch Studenten Concert Orchestra, apparently one of the oldest orchestras in the Netherlands. Wouldn’t you know it, the orchestration is a much better portion of the music presented here than any of the guitarwork. At times the songs can come off as either overly busy or extremely cheesy and hard to take seriously, although there are some fantastic tunes lurking amongst the tracks. Equilibrio can be a chore to take in at once, but if you have the patience, exploration is worth the time. -Bryer Wharton