National CD Reviews – July 2008
National Music Reviews
Left & Right
Street Date: 05.27& 06.24, respectively
Abiku = Genghis Tron + Get Hustle + X + Berserk + Coughs
Having enjoyed Abiku’s previous release, Location, I was a bit intimidated by the 96 track Left & Right collection of songs. However, this release shows an artistic advancement that places Abiku at the bleeding edge of innovative and original music. If punk music still exists today, Abiku is it – the bizarre and tortured female vocals show an amazing range and emotion that is unparalleled.
Additionally, the combination of sounds (electronic drums, analog keyboards, warbling monotone yelping vocals) results in less of a combination of genres than a new genre altogether, something like Future Punk. Like all new things, this album will not blow up the charts, but fans of no-wave, proto-punk, grindcore, electro, power-violence and metal should take notice – and if you play music in any of these genres, take a lesson and listen to Abiku. –Ryan Powers
Aborted = Nile + Suffocation + Skinless
Unless they start harmonizing melodic choruses, Aborted will always remain one of my death metal weaknesses. New additions to the genre tend to generally remain uninteresting to me, these Belgian gentlemen tip-toe the line between brutality and melodic accessibility wonderfully. Hot on the heels of the previous release, Strychnine.213 comes out without slipping a single step, and though there isn’t any growth between the two albums, it still delivers just under 40 minutes of very enjoyable metal with all of the familiar themes, tastefully used samples and adept song structures.
Though the album could be their most accessible release to date, it also feels a bit heavier and more aggressive than the previous release. While many old school fans tout the band’s first two albums as their goregrind masterpieces, I do appreciate the direction Aborted has taken, with their ability to include tinges of grinding ferocity in their now slightly more accessible style. More great work as always. –Conor Dow
Expansion Team Records
Alex Moulton = The Whip + Midnight Juggernauts + Daft Punk
Unlike most of the recent electro drenched, nonsensical party albums of the last couple years, Alex Moulton has created something more thematically based, namely romance in outerspace. No robots surrounding this love canon, it is full of prophecies, passions and pounding beats of biblical proportions.
The cover art by legendary fantasy artists Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell depicts a couple floating through space, leaving a burning city behind for the comfort of a UFO. The music is masterfully crafted, sounding more like the score to an 80s love story than a dance hall burner. Tack on the peculiarity of Kraftwerk, and a little LCD Soundsystem style and you have the schematic for a sexy time. Is this the first modern post-banger album? –Andrew Glassett
Slaves for Life
Amaseffer = epic all the way
How much more epic can you get than creating a massively orchestrated piece of music built on the concept of Moses leading the Israelites out of Jerusalem? That is exactly what Amaseffer has done with this their first in a trilogy of concept records. The majority of the tunes are long with a few shorter interludes; the record plays out like a movie soundtrack. Most of the music is actually orchestrated/synths though there are mighty and big guitar moments with those great falsetto power metal vocals.
With the first listen of the album I thought well this is going to get old fast, but after a few listens the damn thing grew on me. The orchestration is diverse, full of different atmospheres and sounds, including background moments of people screeching and yelling. This is one record you can’t really skip around on the tracks the album is made to be listened too as a whole or honestly the point behind it will be missed. –Bryer Wharton
Helmet Room Recordings
Antenne = Portishead + Orinda Fink + Eluvium
Meandering along like Air’s Moon Safari, Antenne’s #3 (their third full-length album) is sure to be as much of a cult favorite. Antenne is more widely known throughout Europe, as Kim G. Hansen (Denmark) was a founder of the experimental noise-rock band Grind. Grind transitioned into Armstrong, playing trip-hop, which resonates over to this album with Long to Kiss and Blue Light. Electronic keyboards and static programming are quantified by blocks of acoustic guitar.
These tracks are two of the few with sultry, harmonious vocals slowly sung by Marie-Louise Munck. The majority of tracks need no vocals over fuzzied tempos gorgeously sequenced among soundscapes of nature walks. I love Ttreaa#7; it’s just as well-crafted and timed as any Kid A song. And I would love this on vinyl, please. –Jennifer Nielsen
Corruption Concealed (Uner Deceptive Slogans)
Astpai = Latterman + Leatherface + Set Your Goals
At some point along the way, someone decided that to front a pop-punk hardcore band, you had to have a clean sound and a vocalist who sounded like he sucked a balloon arch’s worth of helium before singing. Austria’s Astpai throw that convention out the window with their sound, and they’re all the better for it. In the 90s, it always seemed like European hardcore bands played second fiddle to their much beefier and popular US counterparts. Recently, however, US hardcore is getting more and more stale and it looks like some European bands are ready to take the stage front and center. Astpai is a great start.
It’s hard to make catchy music that is also dirty and honest and Astpai pull this off really well. The music moves back and forth between fast drums with harsh vocals. Stiff Little Fingers and pop hooks that are still sung in that same grovelly voice. Astpai really brings back the danger and excitement that once could be found in more melodic bands like Leatherface and Lifetime. As they say in German, zehr gut. –Peter Fryer
When God Gives You Lemons You Paint that Shit Gold
Atmosphere = Brother Ali + Mac Lethal + Sage Francis
The newest release by the powerhouse duo Slug and Ant is a far cry from their early material. I must admit that I initially fell in love with the DIY quality featured on God Loves Ugly. The minimal production on this album really allowed Slug’s autobiographical lyrics to shine through. Eventually I grew to love his later releases, even though many of them lacked the raw qualities found on God Loves Ugly.
When God Gives You Lemons You Paint that Shit Gold totally breaks the mold of what Slug and Ant have done in the past. Every song on the album works as a mini story and surprisingly, none of them seem to be about Slug. Instead, he chooses to dwell on the stories of the working class, underpaid and underappreciated folks that lurk around the streets of Minneapolis. Although the beats are a bit too overproduced for my liking, Slug’s lyrics still shine through––even though it takes a few extra listens to realize how excellent certain tracks are. –Jeanette Moses
Black Mayonnaise = Lustmord + O�phoi
As far as I can tell, Mike Duncan of Black Mayonnaise has been releasing material since the early 1990s. Though this is the first of his material I have heard, it is certainly a testament to the endearing qualities of the ambient/dark ambient soundscapes that make up this release in a nutshell. There’re a lot of interesting ideas here, but it’s a tough listen for me because Unseen Collaborator feels like it really can’t decide in which direction it wants to take the listener.
On top of that, there’re recycled ideas and samples that are used across several tracks that, while I could normally appreciate it if done subtly, I mostly found to be distracting because they would repeat themselves, sometimes ad nauseum, through several songs. For me, recordings of the dark ambient flavor are either something I really get into, or find rather frustrating. I have to choose the latter on this one. –Conor Dow
Bottle Up & Go
Bottle Up & Go = Black Keys + Entrance + Murder City Devils
First I’d like to thank SLUG for giving me album’s to review each month, without them I would be lost in an abyss of old mix CD’s and bands I’ve listened to more times than Michael Jackson thinks about little boys. Now I’ve got something new to put in my player and I love it. In fact, this is just what I was looking for. Bottle Up & Go is the perfect blend of blues and rock.
Did The Black Keys knock up a hooker in New York to give birth to this miracle boozy, bluesy band? What makes BU&G even more fun to jam is that they’ve got that same guitar personality as Black Keys plus an insane voice like Spencer Moody of Murder City Devils. This album screams party until dawn, too bad there are only 7 tracks that I’m going to have to repeat until the night is over. – Lyuba Basin
Come All You Madmen
The Briggs = Street Dogs + Dropkick Murphys + The Living End
Come All You Madmen is the kind of album that reminds me of why I found punk rock so appealing in the first place. Countless bands cite The Clash as an influence and try to evoke the “Spirit of ’77”, but The Briggs are one of only a few bands out there today who truly recapture the attitude and energy of early punk rock without sounding generic or derivative.
From the boot-stomping sing-along “Mad Men” to the fist-pumping choruses of “This Is L.A.” and “Ship of Fools” The Briggs deliver one of the most fun and listenable albums of straight up punk rock that I’ve heard in a long time. The band also expands upon their formula, utilizing horns on “Bloody Minds” and taking a softer approach on “Not Alone” and the great acoustic closer “Molly”. Punk rock just doesn’t get a whole lot better than this. –Ricky Vigil
Brigitte Handley and the Dark Shadows
Collector’s Choice Records
Brigitte Handley = The Damned + The Distillers
I searched high and low for a decent biography of this band, but all I could find anywhere was the crappy press-kit write-up, which boasts that they have toured with and supported the likes of The Quakes and The Meteors. That’s a downright dirty trick. The reason they mention that stuff is to get fans of those bands to listen to the band they’re writing about. Those are two of my favorite bands, and if you’re a fan as well, I can tell you that there’s nothing for you here. Misleading bios aside, these girls are definitely talented.
The problem is that this EP displays severely limited creativity. “Sleeping with a Vampyre” (cue eye-rolling) is the best track on this thing. Unfortunately, the lyrics are totally cliched. The content of the title track (“Individuality is everything to me/I don’t wanna lose my identity) is rather ironic being on this record, because there isn’t really anything unique or original about this EP. I think this band is capable of something much better than this. Here’s to hoping that they can bring together something more substantial for a full-length in the future. –Aaron Day
The Atomized Dream
Canvas Solaris = instrumental prog-rock; need I say more?
Well, Canvas Solaris definitely attempt to go outside the box of your typical instrumental progressive rock with The Atomized Dream. The album’s most redeeming quality is its keyboard/synth usage; it does a great job at creating strange, spaced-out atmospheres and actually makes some of the songs unique. There are moments with some great guitar work using lots of tempo changes and some crazy scaling of notes.
This is just probably where my tastes lie, but after repeated listens, the record gets old and starts to grate on you, giving you that feeling of—is this it? Can’t they do something more? The songs blend together with one exception, “Chromatic Dust,” I’ll give the guys that. This record is good for one thing: having some chill background music or something to just plain calm the nerves. Yes, the jazz tempos are nice; the beats are inventive at times, but if I’m going to listen to some instrumental rock, I’ll take Don Caballero. –Bryer Wharton
The Diseased and the Poisoned
Carnifex = Bury Your Dead (pre-new vocalist) + Dying Fetus + Skinless
Before even giving Carnifex a fair chance, I made judgments from the band’s bio. Victory Records is selling the band as death metal, which is a huge mistake, mainly because Victory Records is known for releasing screamo and hardcore bands, not death metal. Secondly, Carnifex is not a death-metal band; they’re deathcore, and for all the death metal homies, that is a huge difference. That said, Carnifex do what they do extremely well.
There are other deathcore acts that implement a lot of breakdowns in their music, but none that I’ve heard so far do it with the tact and originality that Carnifex do; there are plenty super-terrific breakdowns on this new offering; the style has a clean yet brutal edge. There is no guitar-soloing, but plenty of lead work, thrash-metal rhythms and blastbeats, all with some killer guttural growls and high-pitched snarls.
“The Nature of Depravity” is downright heart-stopping. Carnifex do the deathcore style great with this new record; the songs are repetitive in nature, but they manage to keep you listening without getting bored. Looking for some good, slickly produced and sledgehammer-heavy deathcore? Break it down with Carnifex. –Bryer Wharton
The Unspoken King
Cryptopsy = Kataklysm + The Black Dahlia Murder + one of the fastest metal drummers ever
Cryptopsy early on in their career were considered in the top tier North American death metal bands with albums Blasphemy Made Flesh and None so Vile, they moved to a more metalcore style when vocalist Lord Worm left the band and Mike DiSalvo joined in many fans lost interest extremely quick with the bands two albums with DiSalvo. Lord Worm returned to the band with the bands Once Was Not album and seemed to reinvigorate the bands old fans as well as new ones, Lord Worm’s presence in the band did not last and now there is a new vocalist and a very different style for Cryptopsy, which undoubtedly will alienate the bands hardcore death metal followers.
It is hard to outweigh the good versus the bad on The Unspoken King while renowned drummer Flo Mounier does an amazing job at what he always does with the speed of his playing and with his many tempo changes. Though the new vocalist is bland and sounds like every run of the mill metalcore singer and even worse when he implements his clean singing style. There are moments when the lead guitar sounds amazing and technical as hell then there are moments that sound like Korn or the growing in boringness of The Red Chord or The Black Dahlia Muder.
To put things simply fans of the new breed of metalcore or deathcore will enjoy this without end. Fans that hold Blasphemy Made Flesh and None So Vile in their hearts as great death metal albums will hate this new offering. I understand a bands need to change and progress but they could have done it differently and better with The Unspoken King there are just to many mediocre moments in the vocals and guitars to hold this album in the regard it could be. –Bryer Wharton
Lost to the Living
Daylight Dies = Katatonia (old) + Opeth + creativity
When I first heard Daylight Dies years ago, what ultimately came to mind was Katatonia Brave Murder Day-era worship. The sound was very similar in guitar tone and structure. I kind of passed them off with little interest, missed their follow-up to their debut, and now have Lost to the Living falling in my lap with great surprise.
Yes, those old-style Katatonia influences are there—with even a little bit of Opeth seeping in; just without the enormous amount of acoustic guitars they use. Lost to the Living is damn fine doom metal; the songcraft is stellar, with great melodic guitar riffs and vocals that don’t sound run of the mill. Some of my favorite moments are when the band uses clean singing; it kind of breaks up the album and its doom-laden … uhh, everything.
The emotions they stir up aren’t horribly dark due to the immense amount of great melodies on the album; it is somber and dark but has a lingering hope that leaves you able to listen to the record repeatedly without being depressed as hell. –Bryer Wharton
Dead Sea Effect
Those Of Us About To Die Salute You
Dead Sea Effect = Ministry Beats trapped in your closet + a hung-over Wolf Eyes
By fist listen you can tell that this band is merely just a side project for the two members. The two members are Peter C. Neusch (Race Against Space) on guitar with Justin Vellucci (solo artist) playing everything else. These dudes just seemed to mash together some strange Duane Denison guitar track with some gutless clicks and clacks in the background and some Brain McMahan spoken word over the top chopped it up seven different ways and called it an album.
These seven songs really could have used some nurturing and compassion. If I would have had it my way, their would have a been a real drummer pounding his way all Zach Hill style instead of some flimsy Spoonman sounds in the background. A real drummer would have given these songs the will to live but instead all they just whither away. Boo hoo. – Jon Robertson
Freedom of Speech Means Talk is Cheap
Tent City Records
Destroy Everything = Left Alone + U.S. Bombs + Wednesday Night Heroes
If there’s one thing the world will never, ever need anymore of, it’s loud, fast punk bands featuring leather-clad, mohawked members of dubious intelligence more concerned with getting drunk than smashing the state. Though leather-clad, mohawked, loud and fast, Destroy Everything seem to avoid most of the negatives associated with their particular brand of punk rock on Freedom of Speech.
Their style is a lot more catchy than most of their brethren and features considerably smarter lyrics than I expected. Granted, one of the songs featuring said smart lyrics is entitled “Dickhead,” but it’s really a lot better than you’d think. “Fast Food” is the perfect companion piece to the Descendents’ classic “Weinerschnitzel” while “All the Kids Are Liars” has a vaguely folky and outlaw-country influenced swagger. I really didn’t expect to enjoy this, but Destroy Everything are too good to ignore. –Ricky Vigil
Wolves and Wishes
Dosh = DJ Shadow + Oval + The Books + (insert genre here)
Anticon has always housed a glorious lineup of underground hip-hop talent (you’re welcome, Atmosphere!), but Wolves and Wishes, the umpteenth release by producer extraordinaire Dosh, just might be the collective’s greatest moment. Here, Dosh once again uses his unique hip-hop production style as the jump-off point for a journey through samples so vivid and diverse that even Kid Koala will go green with envy.
Want jam-band horn section with your beats? Just toss on closing track “Capture the Flag.” Broken Social Scene-styled catharsis with a huge danceable beat behind it? “Bury the Ghost” is your game! It’s an album so sprawling and satisfying that you’re likely to hear bits of your favorite artist at some point (“That’s totally a Four Tet ripoff!” you cry while “Food Cycles” plays), but really those moments are smaller parts of the big picture: Dosh has crafted an astonishing beat festival that’s as emotional as it is downright funky. Evan Sawdey
Music For Cats
Double Pumpers = Ya Mom’s Busted Ass
Picture yourself hanging at your parents and all of a sudden they decide to leave so like some weirdo you decide to go searching through all your parents’ personal belongings. Along the way you find some strange sex books and other things that you don’t want to remember.
One of the things you do remember finding was some ridiculous ass pictures of your parents all coked out at some 70’s rock show. Well that picture was probably taken at the Double Pumpers show. This music sounds like a local band that probably plays the same broke down bar with the same haggard fools (your parents) reliving their glory days while listening to the band play Deep Purple’s “Smoke On The Water” for the fifty-millionth time. Bogus! –Jon Robertson
The Seldom Seen Kid
Elbow = Doves – dramatics + obtrusive melancholy
For awhile now, Elbow have been one of my sweethearts. They write dreamlike Brit-pop drones with haphazard poetry that when executed, come across as the aural version of a Wong Kar Wai film: rich in imagery and beautifully drenched in a wash of longing and disappointment. Sadly, The Seldom Seen Kid leaves me feeling just that; a little disappointed.
All the elements seem to be there—lyrical whispers and atmosphere aplenty—and yet I can’t help but feel like I’ve been here one time too many. Sure, there are obvious blues influences that seem new, and the campy “The Fix” with Richard Hawley nods towards an apocalyptic carnival. It is certainly entertaining, but nothing holds me quite like it should. I guess I’m still waiting for all that potential to pay off. –Ryan Michael Painter
Eivind Opsvik = Joe Zawinul + Crazyhorse
There exist associations with certain instruments and the occasional artist who can break their spell: Bjork and Zeena Parkins can turn the anticipation of the harp (i.e., a fey ballad) upside down into a squiggling glitch mob; Jonny Greenwood flipped the banjo’s Dixieland image into a neo-Gothic rhythmic method on the Bodysong soundtrack. Now jazzer/bassist Eivind Opsvik expects us to accept the pedal steel into jazz?
Well, alright. Throughout Overseas III, said instrument (ably performed by Larry Campbell of Bob Dylan fame) slathers these otherwise NYC Downtown-flavored ballads with sustained prairie colors, juxtaposing the guitar’s usual alliance over the top of even the more Coltrane/Sanders-esque saxuality (“Breath of Bark”). Jarring? Opsvik and company make this genre-hopping seem natural, even naming one of the track “Ginger Rogers.” –Dave Madden
eRikm & akosh S.
Zufall = nonnon (collegiate days) + Evan Parker
A coffeeshop in the 90s in San Francisco never sounded so good! But seriously, experimental music is hard to quantify. Or is it codify? This is classical experimentation in which the artists combine two seemingly unrelated sound platforms and mash them together into a slurry of disjointed sounds and ideas, riffing off each other and at times leading one another to various modes of existence.
eRikm heads up the turntables and samples and akosh S. squelches the sax and various other percussive elements. They are incredibly talented at what they do, but for some reason, I just don’t seem to care as much as I feel like I should. Maybe it is a little too academic for us common folk. It is obvious to me that this is the type of music that must absolutely be experienced live, so that the listener is able to see the interplay between these two talented Parisians. –Andrew Glassett
The Estranged = The Briefs + Heavens + Exploding Hearts + Warsaw
After listening to this album a few times, I was still undecided about my opinion of it, so I decided to provide both a positive and a negative review for you, the faithful SLUG reader. Some would say that The Estranged’s combination of bouncy northwestern pop-punk with the dark ambience of early post-punk is an interesting and exciting new formula. Others would call it entirely derivative and indebted to earlier, better bands.
Some would say the jagged guitar riffs, snotty vocals and steady, creeping beats delivered consistently throughout the album create a lasting, persistent mood. Others would say all the songs kinda sound the same. Some would say The Estranged have a unique sound that merely needs to be more fully developed for them to stand apart from the pack. Others would say Ian Curtis is already influencing enough mediocre bands. Both opinions are probably right. –Ricky Vigil
Unholy Fight for Metal
Crush Until Madness Records
Evil Angel = early Sodom + early Destruction + Sleeveless denim splattered with beer vomit
This release by Finnish youngsters Evil Angel embodies many of the stereotypes and foolishness of heavy metal, and it is initially hard to take seriously. The band has a generic-sounding name and typical song titles that’ve been endlessly recycled since 1982, like “Worship Death” and “Demonical Blasphemies.” But even though I feel like I’ve heard thousands of hours of this band’s music before even finishing the first song, I can’t help but be charmed by Unholy Fight for Metal.
True, you don’t really need this album if you haven’t exhausted yourself on the best albums by Possessed, Bathory, Sodom, Destruction, Hellhammer, et al, but I’d honestly suggest local metalheads search this out before rather than settling for another wacky-thrash album or hybridized emocore abomination. Even if it’s formulaic, Evil Angel still serve up 30-odd minutes of authentic denim and leather beer-swilling authenticity. And you can’t go wrong supporting boutique labels like Ohio’s Crush Until Madness, who’re doing it for love, not trying to move units. Just take care not to hurt yourself. –Ben West
Flying Lotus = Dabrye + RZA + Portishead
While making a documentary in Paris about his musical relatives, a taxi driver asked Steven Ellison aka Flying Lotus if he and his crew were musicians. He slumped down in his seat, but great aunt Alice Coltrane spoke up: “Yeah, this guy, he’s a musician too; he thinks he’s a filmmaker, though”. After a few listens to Los Angeles (and all of his stellar work, for that matter), you notice that Ellison’s music is the perfect mix of both, the album title, his hometown, providing the thematic element (something you’ll really notice if you’ve ever spent time in L.A.) to this extraordinary hypercompressed, claustrophobic molange of samples, broken rhythms and analog loveliness.
You hear spooky, foggy nighttime Malibu surf (“Camel”), experience whiffs of Little India’s spices and rhythms (“Melt!”), see red carpet traffic jams (“Golden Diva”), pull down the wrong street at the wrong time (“Riot”) and drowsily smile like a tourist in La Brea (“Sleepy Dinosaur”). –Dave Madden
Gentlemen Auction House
Emergency Umbrella Records
Gentlemen Auction House= The Polyphonic Spree + Arcade Fire on SSRIs
These guys, and one girl (seven total), are as poppy as your nephew on Jolt cola. That being said, the songs aren’t that bad and do the job of exploring the multi-vocalist/instrumentalist wave of right now. The bridges are some of the best parts: well done, incorporating varied rhythms and plenty o’ organ. This band is pleasantly pleasing at everything they do. It was pleasing in the way that makes me want to wash myself bloody ‘til I’m cleansed of the pop-demons.
Thank baby Jesus on a cross for pumice stones and Band-Aids. Somewhere a model binged on a bunch of indie and chamber-pop albums, then discreetly went to the powder room and made Gentlemen Auction House’s latest. A label rep must have knocked on the door, perhaps expecting a rail of pearly decadence, only to discover his latest band in the sink and a passed-out bulimic. –Jon “JP” Paxton
GG Elvis and the TCP Band
Back From the Dead: A Punk Elvis Tribute
GG Elvis = Elvis + bands that the man himself would probably have hated
If I was a high profile movie critic, and this record a high profile movie, I would give it a sideways thumb. It’s just ok. Apparently, the “TCP” in the name stands for “Taking Care of Punk,” but if I didn’t know better and had to guess, I’d say that it stands for “Totally Crucifying Presley.” It’s not something that any self respecting Elvis fan would ever be caught dead listening to.
Likewise, it’s not really something that many punks would listen to either. It was like they understood up front that the demographic this was going to be marketed to (pre pubescent punk rocker boys) wouldn’t have the interest and therefore, the attention span to listen to straight up Elvis covers. So, they basically sing Elvis lyrics to classic punk rock tracks. One song basically is Black Flag’s “Six Pack.”
“Blue Suede Shoes” has a “Code Blue” breakdown, which is actually pretty entertaining. That could either be because it is actually funny, or because it is laughable. You decide. I wouldn’t be able to sleep comfortably tonight if I told you that this was worth buying. However, if you are often around pre pubescent punk rocker boys, borrow their copy and have a listen. –Aaron Day
Grave = Entombed (old) + Unleashed + Dismember
Swedish death metal fiends have strange timing, fellow Swedish death metal band Unleashed have released their latest Hammer Battalion on the same day as Grave’s Dominion VIII hit the stores here in the U.S. That said there are similarities in each bands music but Grave take a dirtier road with their trademark gritty down-tuned guitar tones, but like their peers the style hasn’t evolved or changed much from their early days or their last couple albums.
The tempos are a still a mix of speedy and slow, guttural violent vocals shredding up the place. There is nothing wrong with keeping your sound in the same territory, that way the fans won’t be disappointed. Maybe Grave does this because when they did alter their sound a bit the fans got pissed, gotta give the fans what they want right? I like to call this process the Deicide syndrome, said band released record after record that sounded pretty much the same did they loose any fans, no, did they gain it’s pretty likely a few, but there is an inherent safeness in it.
You could say well if a band doesn’t change then they are just rehashing the same thing over and over again, well then, how the hell did AC/DC become so damn famous. If you’ve got it right once and the fans are satisfied, why re-invent the wheel, it’s still brutal as death metal should be and it’s still a blast to listen too. –Bryer Wharton
Live Your Dreams
Harbour 81 = Sick of It All + H2O + Good Riddance
I don’t even pretend to know what’s going on in hardcore these days, but I can tell ya that Harbour 81’s debut is pretty damn good. Live Your Dreams recalls the driving energy of Sick of It All and the melodic intensity of Bad Religion, and though they may not be the most original band around, it’s certainly refreshing to hear a hardcore band rooted in punk and featuring comprehensible lyrics.
The album is chockful of standard hardcore rallying-cry songs (“Break Down the Walls,” “Live Your Dreams,” “Feel the Hurt”) but they’re delivered well enough that they don’t seem unoriginal. “Queen of Hearts” has a similar feel, but it’s a lame and cheesy love song that seems silly coming from the gravelly-voiced lead singer. Apart from that, Live Your Dreams is a great album full of songs to get your skull bashed in to. –Ricky Vigil
Life… The Best Game in Town
Harvey Milk = KISS (with integrity) + Black Flag (with maturity) + Melvins (without the giggles)
In the interest of full disclosure I must admit that I absolutely adore Harvey Milk. Their breakup in the late 90’s after “The Pleaser” rent my heartstrings, and their reformation in 2005 to record “Special Wishes” filled me with anxious joy. Of course when one so loves a band, one is susceptible to the worst kind of disappointment. Well, it is 2008 and I’m extremely pleased to report that Harvey Milk’s newest release “Life… The Best Game in Town” not only fulfills my hopes, but maintains their unblemished legacy.
The addition of bassist Joe Preston (Thrones, ex-Melvins, ex-Earth) hasn’t altered their winning formula of off-kilter, angular and obtuse pisstakes on the hardest of hard rock. Harvey Milk still splice together orchestral arrangements, morose dirges, fistfuls of classic-rock guitar, and the bleakest, most intelligent lyrics found outside of a John Fante novel. Opening song “Death Goes to the Winner” closes with smeared lyrical snippets from Velvet Underground, giving the classics their firmest kick to the ribs since Black Flag updated “Louie Louie.” Buy this album, and then buy the entire Harvey Milk discography. In this reviewer’s opinion, they’re as good as heavy music get. –Ben West
Parasite of Society
Headhunter = Destruction + Saxon + German power metal
To sum up the history of how Headhunter came to be in 1990, here’s a short history. Bassist/vocalist Schmier was fired from Destruction and went on to form Headhunter. Three albums were recorded and toured for. Then in the late 90s, Destruction reformed with Schmier back at the helm. Well, now, Headhunter has been reformed, giving Schmier an outlet to play and sing for music that doesn’t fit what Destruction is. Headhunter is a hybrid of traditional German thrash and power metal.
There are moments on the album that most definitely sound like they could be coming from Destruction, but those moments are far less than the originality factor that Headhunter displays on Parasite Society. Schmier’s vocals take a different route than they do in Destruction and it’s actually fun to hear him do it and use some clean singing styles and different ranges of growls and snarls.
The whole record has a great classic metal appeal that fans of thrash and power metal can enjoy; there’s also plenty of easy sing-along moments. The guitar/bass-playing is full of catchy moments, wailing solos and plenty of great riffs. The drumming is what you’d expect from Jorg Michael, who has been a force in a massive amount of German metal. Parasite Society is a great throwback to classic metal, yet retains a modern sound that culminates in a fresh-sounding record. –Bryer Wharton
Hollenthon = Therion + Haggard + Battlelore
Sometimes I just feel like I have no idea about what’s going on in the international metal world as well as at home; maybe it’s because I don’t feel like reading pages and pages of useless factoids on Blabbermouth.net. This is my first experience with Austria’s Hollenthon, what I do know is that vocalist and guitarist Martin Schirenc fronted acclaimed grind act Pungent Stench during their on-again off-again career.
I didn’t know that Pungent Stench is broken up now. Makes sense that Schirenc would come back to his other band, Hollenthon. Both bands are entirely different. With Opus Magnum, you have an epic symphonic death/black-metal mastery. This takes anything Therion have done in the past, say, five years, to school. There are a wide variety of elements put forth in just the guitars alone. But the main focus in the music is definitely in its orchestrated parts; the record truly sounds like it has an actual orchestra behind it; not at all synthesized.
The sound is huge, like rattling-your-walls-till-every-picture-falls-off big. There is a wide range of vocal performances, from choir-type operatic female moments to (the bulk of it:) death growls, snarls and clean moments from Schirenc. The diversity in every song is the driving force behind wanting to listen and listen to Opus Magnum again and again. –Bryer Wharton
I Shalt Become
I Shalt Become = The gentlest passages from Burzum, Leviathan and Xasthur
Fans of muscular, tooth-gnashing black metal had best steer clear of “Requiem,” for I Shalt Become have delivered a slab of the prettiest black metal I’ve yet heard. Even for the introspective genre of depressive black metal, this droning, repetitive release is easy on the ears; buzzing along for over 40 minutes with nary a change of tempo. Lilting washes of keyboards swirl in and out of simple guitar riffs and minimal drum programming while vocalist S. Holliman’s creaky moans and breathy whispers rustle about in the haze.
I can’t honestly say that I Shalt Become have broken new ground, or even added a particularly interesting twist to the black metal one-man-band phenomena that has broken in the wake of Leviathan and Xasthur. Requiem has merely excised the mourning from the muscular and kneaded it out to album-length. Seek this out if your ears thirst for the buzz and drone of black metal, but not its fire and brimstone. And though the band and label might like to carve me up for saying it, this album is pretty enough to take a nap with, though the figures in your dreams might wear hoods. –Ben West
Iota = Torche + Weedeater + Om
Although this is a national CD review, I am quite happy to say that Iota are from Utah. What we have here is some five fantastic tracks which explore the scopes of space, psychedelic, and stoner rock. Two of these tracks exceed ten minutes in length, one which more than doubles that, with some totally tasty jam sessions that demand repeated listens at full volume.
Not only will fans of older stoner rock appreciate this, but their kids who enjoy the sludgy metal will as well. Each song tends to follow its own path, but all of them guarantee a great deal of spacious fills and trance inducing movements that will just urge you to lean back farther in your filthy easy chair, or press harder on the gas pedal. I fully expect this to be heavy in my rotation all summer long. Set the controls for the heart of the sun. –Conor Dow
Old Man Records
Jon Sonnenberg = Electronica – Electronics
This album is a release of electronically composed songs written by Jon Sonnenberg and redone with only acoustic instruments. The feeling of the acoustic touch upon these tracks is an experience for your ears to behold, so technical and yet so simple without the help of synthesized noise. My favorite track is entitled “D.O.A.” because of the subtleties in the rhythm and beats and for the overall effect this song has on my mind.
It seems like a wonderful montage song of a road trip scene or a very productive art session from a video I have yet to see or is yet to be made. As far as the rest of the songs are concerned, it’s all gravy, especially if your usual genre of musical enjoyment is always satisfied by electronic concoctions. Check it out and expand your ear drums to sounds not often seen or felt. –Adam Dorobiala
Keep of Kalessin
Keep of Kalessin = Behemoth + late era Emperor + a whole different level of metal
The Keep got their start in the late 90s and have had a successful yet dismal career. Pretty much the only reason the band put out albums and exists today is because of main songwriter Obsidian C. Previous albums including 2006’s Armada seemed to be run-of-the mill black metal.
This new record Kolossus shows a massive progression and distinct change in sound from what the band has been, and all in all such change is a massively important thing, the band has gone from mediocrity to amazement. There is no definite tag to give The Keep’s music, other than dark metal, elements of death, black and progressive metal are prevalent in all tracks. Everything has a big emphasis on songwriting and diversifying the bands playing.
You have blast beat death metal moments followed by prog style musicianship with magnificent synth and piano melodies. This style has an edge that I haven’t heard in a while; the whole thing is fresh and rejuvenating. Kolossus is without question one of the best releases from Nuclear Blast (aside from the new Testament of course) this year! –Bryer Wharton
Machinery = Darkane + The Devin Townsend Band + The Duskfall + Mercenary
At first listen, Machinery puts you through you through the ringer; the opening track, “Gold,” is a prog-metal tune with clean singing and plenty of great melodies, then when the second track, “Reason Is the Truth,” rolls in its total melodic death-metal, fast, thrash-style riffs and growled vocals. That said, the styles that Machinery put forth on this, their sophomore record, are catchy and just a great listen, full of melodies that leave you begging for more astonishingly heavy riffs.
The prog and melodic death-metal styles are both played with excellence and a drive to stir up emotions; there’s even some atmospheric keyboards rounding the sound out. The Passing is definitely one of the best heavy melodic metal albums of the year. –Bryer Wharton
Marduk = Keyboard-free bloodthirsty Black Metal
The world of Black Metal has become remarkably popular since the Swedish Black Metal beast known as Marduk first spread its filthy wings in 1990. After years of difficult and unstable distribution in the USA, Regain Records has seen fit to reissue what many consider to be Marduk’s classic 1998 Black Metal full-length Nightwing with improved artwork, remastered sound, and a bonus live DVD.
How does this decade-old slice of Black Metal ferocity hold up today, in a world glutted with thousands of new Black Metal releases? Put simply, it slays. A concept album addressing the legacy of Vlad Dracul aka “Vlad the Impaler” whose gory deeds inspired the story of Dracula, Nightwing is as brutal and ferocious as Black Metal gets. Honestly, I defy any Black Metal band to write a more aggressive and memorable song than “Of Hell’s Fire.”
While the grainy live DVD may be a “diehard only” affair, the crisp sound and much-improved graphics make this reissue of Nightwing a must-have for budding Black Metal fans and experienced veterans alike. Bravo, Regain Records! –Ben West
Marduk = The Motorhead of black metal
I’ve always appreciated Marduk from afar, enjoying them when I caught a track on a mix tape, specialty radio show or podcast, but never making the commitment of purchasing an album. Germania (and the also recently reissued Nightwing) has convinced me that I’ve made a huge and horrid mistake, for truly, this is a big-name black metal band that embodies the genre.
A horrid rainstorm kept me from catching these Swedish slaughterlords in Atlanta in 2001, but now, thanks to this reissued live album, I’ve got a fuller appreciation of what I might have missed. Recorded in 1996 at several dates in Germany, Germainia embodies what a live black metal album should sound like.
Each instrument is sharply defined, crowd-banter and ridiculous stage-speak is kept to a bare minimum, and the tracks are performed in a rawer, more bloodthirsty manner than the studio-recorded album tracks I’ve heard. While the live DVD is a grainy diehard-fan-only production, Germania stands as a testament to the hypnotic ability of a band in their prime—live, raw, and taking no prisoners. –Ben West
Better Looking Records
Meho Plaza = These are Powers + Bloc Party + Smash Mouth
Music can sometimes be uncomfortably intimate. Hearing an album sometimes gives you an unfettered look into the soul or psyche of the artist. For instance, upon first listen of Meho Plaza, I heard a band starving for approval, not from the X96 crowd, but from the scenester that is really into the Liars.
They want it so bad that they can’t seem to hide the subtle yet desperate leanings on what I suspect are their dark, secretive musical roots; the shameful, catchy radio bands that they once aspired to sound like as awkward teenagers, but so quickly turned their backs on as they began their journey into the underworld of L.A. indie rock—where bands with the confidence to produce off-kilter, original music would be venerated with an almost sacrosanct deification. So they crafted their sound, being careful not to make it too catchy, while never straying far from their radio-hit roots, at least so in spirit. –Megavore
Millencolin = Lagwagon + The Vandals + Much the Same
It’s hard not to have high hopes when a once great, long-running band comes out with a new album. This year alone has seen less-than-stellar new releases from 90s punk stalwarts Goldfinger and No Use For a Name, among others, so I wasn’t expecting great things from Machine 15. However, unlike those aforementioned less than-stellar-bands Millencolin has actually delivered a pretty good album!
“Detox” is a fun and bouncy number that recalls the days of 90s punk without sounding desperate to re-create the sound, while “Done is Done” takes a more aggressive but equally good approach. There aren’t any truly bad songs though most of them are pretty standard fare, but at least Millencolin sticks to what they do best. Millencolin isn’t likely to convert any new fans with Machine 15, but it’s a solid release for anyone nostalgic for the long-lost 1990s. –Ricky Vigil
Mindless Self Indulgence
The End Records
Street Date: 4.29
Mindless Self Indulgence = Does it Offend you Yeah? + Presets
An almost excessively polished album, If walks a thin line between great pop sounds (“Never Wanted to Dance”) and embarrassingly cheesy (“Evening Wear”). At best, moments of this album are a guilty pleasure, but the totally radio-safe sound leads down a path of mediocrity that gives this album less shelf life then a Ugandan hooker.
Now, if you are 12 to 16 years old, enjoy extremely poorly written lyrics, gelled hair spikes and music as sterile and boring as a BYU school reunion, fucking go for it. I hope you enjoy it, and leave everything worth a damn to people with some self worth, you sad, pathetic failure. –Ryan Powers
Nefastus Dies = Alchemist + At the Gates
I don’t want to resent this band for performing a style of metal that I simply don’t care for, for Urban Cancer displays some genuine talent and more than adequate musicianship. However, I’m among the admittedly small minority of grouchy, older metal fans that believes At the Gates’ landmark album “Slaughter of the Soul” is among the worst things to happen to death metal (along with glossy ProTools production and triggered drums).
While Canadians Nefastus Dies are far less guilty of watering down the intentions of the original framers of the Death Metal constitution than the legions of sideways haircut-sporting mallcore crowd, Urban Cancer still commits many of the same sins, primarily with its abuse of melodic, trebly riffing. While effective in short bursts, each song on Urban Cancer feels overlong, having over-reaching while attempting to be epic.
Whenever a song begins to build momentum, such as during the 7+ minute-long “None of the Above,” its bone-crunching machinery quickly becomes entangled in the song’s velevety interludes, and begins to spin its wheels and spew smoke. The overall effect is merely abrasive, rather than truly heavy. –Ben West
Negativland – “Is There Any Escape From Noise” = This album, it’s easy to listen to!
Keep in mind that this review is written from the perspective of a man who purchased Negativland’s Our Favorite Things dvd earlier today. I love them. Negativland has been making noise collage muzak since 1980. I got turned on to them while reading No Logo. Do you hate advertising? Do you think that those in power can’t be trusted? Do you think that anybody can make music? Even you? Culture jamming is the name of Negativland’s game and they are still on it!
The geniuses behind Dispepsi and Fair Use: The Story of the Letter U and the Numeral 2 are back with a few more points to make, all done with humor I assure you. They throw Nixon’s words right back at him on the first track, “Richard Nixon Died Today.” The ninth song, “Influential You” might just be my favorite. Having this cd, currently, in my possession is the greatest thing that I’ve gotten from being affiliated with (I guess it’s not an acronym?) Slug. I bragged about it to a friend and he suggested I rip it and seed it. Negativland wouldn’t have a problem with that, but U2’s label might. Assholes. –Eric Blair
NOMO = Konomo No. 1 + The Heliocentrics
NOMO’s previous effort, the brilliant New Tones, relishes in a swaggering “live” shuffle of acoustic percussion, tape-bleed, shimmying horns and lugubrious tempos. This time around, the band tightens up those loose ends, harnessing the rhythms into edited sequences, boosting the tempos, injecting more Funk into the mix and largely eschews the Balinese gamelan-like feel in favor of electric mbiras.
Compare and contrast aside, how is it? The prominent horn section is still spot-on and a bit more mature, showcasing virtuosity across the disc, but the draw of this band, that which gives their music a unique, compelling and immediately gratifying personality, has always been the organic, raw nature – the occasional stray note and all. Perhaps these are live jams translated in the studio, but the dancier (more East African than Carl Craig), more mechanical nature is something fans will need to acclimate to. Not worse, not better: just different. Let it stew for a bit. –Dave Madden
Amid its Hallowed Mirth & Of Sculptured Ivy and Stone Flowers
The End Records
Novembers Doom = My Dying Bride + Swallow the Sun + Novembre
If you’re a fan of doom metal, you’ve certainly heard a few songs by the illustrious Novembers Doom, who easily contend with many of their European counterparts and have definitely influenced many of the younger doom/death metal acts of today. The End Records have gone ahead and re-released the first two Novembers Doom albums and have included some nice extras as well, including old demo tracks and soft versions of various songs.
I think my only complaint is that I prefer the original artwork to the re-tooled versions here. But for the completist who just can’t seem to track down an old cassette copy of the Scabs demo, or for those who are new to gloomy offerings from the doom genre, these re-releases are definitely something worth picking up. –Conor Dow
Patti Smith and Kevin Shields
Patti Smith & Kevin Shields = Allen Ginsberg + The Velvet Underground
In a better world, we would all be blessed by a Patti Smith elegy upon our deaths. In the one in which we actually exist, though, it takes someone as angelic as photographer Robert Mapplethorpe to inspire such an honor. Mapplethorpe — friend of Smith and producer of 20th century iconic American images, including the cover photo of Smith’s 1975 debut, Horses — died of AIDS in 1989. Smith published the book, Coral Sea, in 1997 as a tribute.
This album consists of two live recordings of Smith reading that work at separate performances over soundscapes created by My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields. While others artists who flourished in New York City under the umbrella of the beat poets have scuttled into irrelevance with their inability to produce compelling new material, Coral Sea is a bold and accomplished continuation of that tradition, and is essential for anyone who still shudders at the line, “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked …” –Nate Martin
Portishead= jazz + Glitch + Witchcraft
Expectation and anticipation either can kill an album before the first note, or in this case, sample plays. Could anything ever live up to the hype? No. Taken on its own, Third is a sleeping work of wonder. Compared to the two previous Portishead releases, it fails to achieve the heights of what came before, but does nothing to tarnish the band’s reputation. Third comes complete with the genre-bending that you’d expect and hints towards the more rustic solo adventures that came before it.
It downplays the sci-fi soundscape for a more traditional mix of jazz and distorted electronics, if in fact such a mix of ingredients could have a tradition. Coming in third this time around isn’t so bad; it’s better than most could produce and nearly what I hoped for. –Ryan Michael Painter
Descendants of Depravity
Prostitute Disfigurement = Decapitated + Malevolent Creation + Suffocation
With Prostitute Disfigurement’s (cool name by the way) Descendants of Depravity, there is a great blend of modern grind, old grind and Florida-style death metal. The songs aren’t overly technical or differ much as far as standard death/grind goes. But hell, I’m a sucker for this shit.
Admittedly, there are some songs that come and go without any “wow” factor at all. “Killing for Company,” although it shows the band at the top of their game (riddled with speed, great lead work and blast beats a-plenty), it still seems as if the (good) shit starts hitting the fan a few songs in from “Killing for Company.” The band then sort of leaps from mediocrity status to something a bit better more technical, and most importantly, a hell of a lot more interesting. All in all, in the end, the record is a great death/grind romp. –Bryer Wharton
Carved in Stone
Rage = Dream Evil + Freedom Call – a little less lyrical cheese
German power metal troupe Rage have been around for over two decades, and admittedly I’ve only heard their last album Speak of the Dead. Just comparing the two Carved in Stone kicks some butt in comparison. The whole album is just a great guitar showcase with wailing solos and great thrashing style riffs, which actually set this long-time power metal act above the pack, it’s not wimpy at all except for a ballad track or two everything is heavy and thick in its guitars.
Then there are the vocals, Peter “Peavey” Wagner, has an astounding range and lyrical concoctions that will get you singing along even when you don’t quite now the lyrics yet. 2008 has seen some great power metal albums, add this to the pile and rock on! –Bryer Wharton
Lullaby Renditions of The Pixies
Rockabye Baby! = Mike Baiardi + The Pixies – Rock!
Lay your head down, sweet baby. You’re getting drowsy off these soothing tunes. Your innocent mind doesn’t associate these melodies with what I do: a sweaty Black Francis, a mane-a-shakin’ Kim Deal, a shirtless David Lovering bashing on skin and metal and Joey Santiago spitting lit cigarettes into a crowd of mangy college kids. My imagination replaces the mellowed harp solo of “Alec Eiffel” with razor-sharp, head-wrenching guitar notes and images of the guy who stage-dove and lit on my head.
And I’m forcing myself to not howl “caribouuuuuuuu!” Googoo, you are my little “Monkey Gone to Heaven”, just like the song you’re snoring to suggests. The most important thing right now for you my child is sleep, and these arrangements, grounded in vibes, glockenspiel, the aforementioned harp (realized by Mike Baiardi) and otherwise soft keyboards, will ensure this – and plant the right seeds so you don’t later find affect with fucking High School Musical! –Dave Madden
North Street Records
Street Date: 07.15
Sam Champion = Cold War Kids + Mooney Suzuki
Throw some pints of beer at the young kids and see what happens. Really, that’s probably how Sam Champion got started, and (if we’re lucky) that’s how it’ll probably end as well. This NYC-bred foursome really wants to write nothing but 60s rock classics, but their continual adherence to convention and formula prevents most of their songs from taking off and going, well, anywhere.
Fortunately there are a few songs that stand out amidst the hackneyed guitar extravaganzas: the “Incense and Peppermints”-affected “Dead Moon” settles for being just a regular pop song (thereby making it sound like the least-forced track on the record) and the very singer-songwritery “Lorraine” actually synthesizes all their influences into a pleasant excursion that doesn’t reek of wannabeism. Unfortunately, that’s all there is to recommend off of Heavenly Bender, and album that fades from memory only seconds after the disc stops spinning. Evan Sawdey
The Scarring Party
Come Away From the Light
The Scarring Party = Rosin Coven + tubas + banjos + and a shitty delivery
I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical when I read the press sheet for The Scarring Party. To put it bluntly, they seem a bit too gimmicky for my tastes. It would be different if this jumbled mess sounded good—which it doesn’t—and their onstage performances and delivery further reinforce my opinion that they are out there just to get a few laughs.
I mean, who’s not going to turn their heads and pay attention to a band with an accordion and a tuba on stage? Come on. This album is dark, boring, and a chaotic mix of acoustic pieces that don’t flow at all. The great thing about this album, however, was that it was only 33 minutes long. Please do yourself a favor and do not check this album out. –Tom Carbone Jr.
Smart & Stupid
Street Date: 04.08
Scream Hello = Fall Out Boy + Dinosaur Jr.
… really? Long Mascis-esque guitar workouts set against a punk-pop backdrop that borders on emo? Well, it’s worth a shot, right? What’s unfortunate about Scream Hello is simply how they could have actually capitalized on their six-string heroics to make something interesting, instead succumbing to their own indulgences and Nick Rotundo’s dry production values, leaving much to be desired.
For one, no pop-punk song ever needs to be longer than four minutes, much less six, which is exactly what “Vinegar & Baking Soda” does, leaving much to be desired. Furthermore, the track simply titled “RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR” (that’s right, 19 R’s in a row) attempts to mix it up a bit by being a low-key piano ballad in the vein of the Replacements’ “Androgynous,” but when you can’t actually make out the lyrics because of the base, frills-free production, the purpose winds up somewhat defeated, lying on the studio floor with blood slowly pooling around it. Hey, now there’s an emo image to actually write a good song to! -Evan Sawdey
Metal Blade Records
Shai Hulud = Zombie Apocalypse + Melody
It’s been 5 years since Shai Hulud put out anything new. Most people left them for dead after That Within Blood Ill Tempered, since Geert Van Der Velde who was their second singer, parted ways with the band. The ‘Lud is on their third singer and they are trying desperately to make people know that they haven’t gone away. Misanthropy Pure is Shai Hulud from top to bottom. Not much has changed in the last 12 years or so with the band.
They still play their unique start-stop technical melodic metal-core in the late 90’s sense of the word. Although M.P. is technically proficient, the vocals fall flat. New vocalist Matt Mazzali leads the band pretty well, but doesn’t show much range. That’s what’s missing from the new record.
Their older material showed more passion, this time around Shai Hulud is more calculated and the vocals are one note. Songs like “Misanthropy Pure” and “Four Earths” are blazing and show a real return to form for Shai Hulud. Misanthropy Pure isn’t a disappointment by any means, and it’s certainly nice to see a band that’s been around this long showing people how it’s done, but a little more range in the vocals would seal the deal. –Peter Fryer
Shame Club = Kyuss + KISS + Kick Ass
I was totally expecting this cd to suck on it big time in a lame ass stoner garage rock way. Boy oh boy was I surprised. This damb shit is bad ass. May the Shame Club live on in glory? This business comes out you non-stop and beats your face in while you scream for joy. Shame Club does play a fuzzed out thick bunch of noise but it’s dynamic.
It’s like if Stone Temple Pilots hated being weird artsy drug addicts and decided to listen to some good home-style blues and smoke all the weed they could find while hoped up on Pixie Stix and decided to serenade all the dandelions into head banging their yellow heads off. There is no shame in pimpin out the Shame Club because they are just too pimp!! –Jon Robertson
Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra
Miles of Styles
Street Date: 05.06
Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra = The Vince Guaraldi Trio as fronted by a bored John Frusciante
There’s nothing inherently wrong with Miles of Styles at all. It’s a disc filled with straightforward, unadventurous jazz recordings with a heavy pop leniency, switching up styles drastically on a track-by-track basis. The problem? These songs are so basic and rudimentary that their enjoyment is sustained only through the allotted track time, not serving much of a purpose after.
Some songs sound like Gorillaz instrumental tracks (“Bathtub Dub”), and the requisite Asian-jazz number (“Chinese Chillin”) is ruined by the vocal shouts of guys’ imitation chop-sockey movies throughout, and “San Diego,” the only track with a singer, inexplicably comes off sounding like the Eagles covering a song by Ambrosia. Fortunately, there are some moments of joyous levity (an excellent uplifting number called “Prague Rock”), but when all is said and done, consider this a disc of soundtrack numbers to play over the credits of your straight-to-YouTube home movie. -Evan Sawdey
Concerning the Absence of Floors
Friends and Relative Records
Shelf Life = two robots making out
This isn’t really “music” by its traditional definition; there is no real form or even notes for that matter. What it does do is set a very particular disposition for the listener: one that may be unnerving or on the other hand, comforting. What I don’t like is when the recording reveals itself as a recording, such as when you can hear something brush up against a microphone. It doesn’t happen that often, but is somewhat distracting to the world it has created.
Creaking would be the main palate of the sounds; almost as if two metallic objects are seductively caressing each other. While they stroke up and down, sounds creep in and out of their ears as if they are having a difficult time concentrating on anything but the task at hand. It could possibly be taking place in a Buddhist monastery or in the metallic wreckage at the end of the apocalypse: either way, it is holy. –Andrew Glassett
Desire for a Holy War
Skullflower = Sonic Youth at their most experimental + SunnO)))
Sounding as much like an orchestra tuning up in the blast cone of a jet engine as ever, Matthew Bower’s mighty Skullflower have unleashed another indelicate transmission of their sonic scree and squeal. A few rungs down the production ladder from 2005’s Orange Canyon Mind, and nowhere near as relentlessly hypnotic as 2003’s Exquisite Fucking Boredom, Skullflower’s impact is none the worse for wear at the burred sonic edges of Desire for a Holy War.
I consider myself a Skullflower fan, owning multiple releases (though I’m a far cry from being a completist; their discography is massive and frustrating), and I’m always in awe of how their sound varies from release to release, especially considering that the majority of their music sounds like guitars played by fanblades, with tortured lines of feedback squealing like rusted hinges. Utech Records continue their dedication to craft and presentation with this first release in their URSK series.
A limited edition of 750 discs, each released in the URSK series, will pair cover artwork by Stephen Kasner (cover artist for Integrity and Rotting Christ, among many) with musicians on the Utech roster. Every facet of this series is certain to be spectacular, if Desire for a Holy War and previous Utech releases are any example. Search it out now before they’re gone. –Ben West
Spark is a Diamond
Try This on for Size
Street Date: 06.01
Spark is a Diamond = The Beegees + Earth Crisis
Labeled as a Refused-meets-Death from Above 1979 mash-up, Spark is a Diamond falls grossly short of this magnanimous claim. The hardcore roots are apparent, with brutal vocals screaming over the simple song structure, but the inability to create dance-ready hooks is apparent.
There’re even a few songs that blatantly rip off Death from Above’s signature riffs and sound—albeit with mediocre disco beats and vocals that sound like they’re from a Victory Records compilation from 1995. Additionally, this has to be close to the least-dynamic album I have ever heard: Besides an electronic throwaway track, every song on this album is nearly identical in shittyness. Spark is a Diamond is a one-trick pony, and that trick totally sucks. –Ryan Powers
Stick to Your Guns
Comes From the Heart
Stick to Your Guns = Terror + Caliban + AsTallAsLions
Beep! Beep! Beep! I usually start my morning off by sufficiently pressing the snooze button on my alarm two or three times. I wish I could do the same with all of these cookie-cutter metalcore bands these days. Just like getting through the day can be a drag, so is getting through Stick to Your Guns’ latest release, Comes From the Heart. It might come from the heart, but it sounds a whole hell of a lot like they’re trying to imitate every other band that’s come out of Southern California in the past five years.
I give them credit for infusing more of a hardcore feel with the gang vocals they incorporate into their chuggy, metal-style songs, but the clean vocals are so contrived you can almost hear the band discussing how they could appeal to a wider audience. That’s not very punk rock, my friends. Solely concentrating on how to sell more records goes against the DIY ethic of punk rock, and oftentimes means that you shoot yourself in the foot instead of gaining the fans you want. Formula: tough-guy vocals, breakdown, sensitive guy vocals, repeat. I think I’ll just hit snooze and get up a little bit later. –Peter Fryer
State of Grace
Street Dogs = Stiff Little Fingers + Rose Tattoo + The Clancy Brothers
This is the album, finally the record that shows who the Street Dogs are, where they come from, and where they’re going. It’s been coming for a while releasing nothing but great punk rock records since their debut with 2002’s Savin Hill. Lead singer Mike McColgan put his made for punk rock voice to some of his most personal songs.
The second track “Kevin J O’toole” is memorial track to McColgan’s uncle, who was a member of the Boston Fire Department, was the inspiration for McColgan to become a Fire Fighter as well. The “General’s Boombox “is a eulogy to another of the bands heroes Joe Strummer, and the influence can be heard loud and clear on this excellent tune. The battle cry of “Two Angry Kids” take me straight back the emotion I felt being a young punk rocker. The last track “Free” is mellower and is evidence that some of these Dogs own a Bob Dylan record or two, but its great way to end this album.
State of Grace is everything a great punk record should be and even a little more. I hope all those kids stuck in the street punk rut pick this up and hear what punk rock can do.
Teenage Head With Marky Ramone
Sonic Unyon Records
Teenage Head=Ramones+Eddie Cochrane+The New York Dolls+The Rolling Stones
After reading up on Teenage Head and listening to their first release in years, I felt embarrassed that I’ve never heard of them previously. After forming in 1976, T.H. has often been called Canada’s answer to the Ramones and remarkably has soared almost completely under the radar here in the US due to various unfortunate circumstances. With their likeness to the Ramones’ power pop-punk it’s only fitting that for this release; Marky Ramone would join them and bring his legendary drumming into the mix. T.H.
With M.R. consists of re-recorded tracks from previously recorded and released material from T.H. spanning back to their first release, Teenage Head (1979), to 1988’s Electric Guitar. Old hits and fan favorites mixed with Ramone on drums and producer Daniel Rey (Ramones, Misfits, White Zombie, etc) at the helm makes this album something special. I recommend checking out Canada’s best-kept punk rock secrets. –Jeremy C. Wilkins
The Damned, the Shamed
Terror = Hatebreed + Death Before Dishonor + Tough Guy
Terror is on Century Media now. Weird, I know. But don’t fear, the new release is 100% Terror and 100% hardcore – for better or worse. Terror found their formula and is sticking to it. Not much separates The Damned, the Shamed from 2006’s Always the Hardway, so if you are familiar with that you’ll be familiar with this one. Terror has always been more of a live band. Recorded they are decent, but the tunes start to flow together into one big mess of tough guy vocals, fast guitars and then a break down.
Vogel shines as a front man, but that can only be experienced in the confines of a small club. Terror is still one of the better bands to get your faced smashed to, but after a while getting your face smashed just doesn’t cut it anymore. Terror found their groove and they’re sticking with it. It’s doubtful they’ll ever be able to capture the raw energy and passion from their earlier work and TDTS is an adequate release, but it isn’t doing much that’s fresh or exciting. –Peter Fryer
Thank You = Drum’s-era Liars + Aa + Animal Collective
Everyone’s bonkers for Baltimore these days, what with Wham City! weirdos exploding from the gritty soundstages of The Wire onto the radars of respectable music critics everywhere. Thank You has leapfrogged alongside citymates Dan Deacon, Ecstatic Sunshine and Beach House onto a significant indie label and has hooked up with a producer whose creds include TV On the Radio and Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Terrible Two is a five-track, 35-minute exhalation of anti-pedantic enthusiasm with rhythms like jazz tribalism, math rock guitar repetitions, and an uproar swollen by noisy samples and sounds made by whatever instruments they find lying around. Its songs are epic in scope and change mid-track like a play changing acts. The song titles all allude to procreation (“Embryo Imbroglio,” “Pregnant Friends”), and it appears that one of the most musically exciting cities in the country has just given birth … again. –Nate Martin
The Ting Tings
We Started Nothing
The Ting Tings = CSS + New Young Pony Club – girl power
Girl thinking: “I have a boyfriend, but I have so many other crushes! It’s OK, though, because I am in my experimental phase.” What she actually means: “I have a boyfriend because I’m too insecure to be alone, but I’m feeling incredibly trapped, so I will shamelessly flirt with everything that moves so I can trick myself into thinking that I have any type of self respect.”
Thanks to Columbia Records, we have a soundtrack to every indie girl and their “crushes.” The Ting Tings are a raped version of female-led indie dance groups, and they are a doing an extreme disservice to their genre. Instead of sounding empowered, they come across as trying to please too many people at the same time. Can someone say slut??? –Andrew Glassett
Holy Ride EP
Transgressor = Voivod + psychedelic thrash
Transgressor is an 80s band whose career never took off. According to the band’s bio, the guys met up at a NYC Celtic Frost show and decided to bring the band back to life. The band only released material on cassette back in the day. Holy Ride is basically a collection of material retooled with “new lyrics and vocal melodies … from the band’s first phase of songwriting from 1987 to 1988,” states the bio.
Well, I can say this EP is a gem and I can’t wait until they come out with a full-length. The band is progressive thrash, a style you really don’t hear much of at all nowadays. The vocal range is immense and spaced out, which fits well with the psychedelic and spaced-out moments of the music. In all the thrash bands I’ve listened to, new and old, I’ve never heard something as original as this; seriously, the diversity in the EP’s five tracks is mind blowing and after only a couple listens, the “wow” factor hits. Be prepared to lift your jaw back in place after hearing this EP. –Bryer Wharton
Burnt Toast Vinyl
Street Date: 04.01
Unwed Sailor = …Trail of Dead + Girls Against Boys + Explosions in the Sky – vocals
These days, it’s really hard to pull off a good instrumental rock album, especially when Explosions in the Sky and Eluvium have that market somewhat cornered (where are you, Phantomsmasher?). Fortunately, Johnathon Ford (under his Unwed Sailor guise) absolutely knocks it out of the park with Little Wars.
The album isn’t as much a full-on rock album as it is an exploration of the moody melodicism that pokes through a lot of other instrumental post-rock outfits like Mogwai, here tossing in the occasional alternative concession, as on the extraordinary opener, “Copper Islands.” Occasionally, Ford will bash out the backing track to some pretty Top 40 hit that will never be (“Echo Roads”), but by and large, he’s just content making instrumental rock that takes shortcuts to your catharsis (and there ain’t nothing wrong with that). Evan Sawdey
Delicious Vinyl All-Stars: RMXXOLOGY
Street Date = 7.29 Digital release available now.
RMXXOLOGY = Young MC + Tone Loc + Bmore + Blog House
As the Blog House scene slowly encroaches on our everyday music collection, occasional releases rise above the legal issues to become reality – most often not representing the best remixes around, simply the most licensable. However, Delicious Vinyl is representing some heavy hitters, featuring remixes by Peaches, Hot Chip, Mr. Flash and Diplo.
In this release, the overwhelming theme is 90’s hip-hop, tightly chopped and blasted to nu-rave proportions with electro-hyphy beats and bmore bpms. Overrall, the CD is an interesting mix, with a few apparent club bangers – Tone Loc’s “Wild Thing (Peaches Remix)” and Young MC’s “Know How (Aaron LaCrate and Debonair Samir Remix)”, and a few more forgettable tracks. I am left with the feeling that this compilation is nothing more than a label sampler, left to push the good artists (and not even their best work) along with the bad. That being said, Delicious Vinyl still gets props for pushing rad DJs and creating a great concept compilation. –Ryan Powers
Exotic Fever Records
Keep Singing! = James Miska + Earth Crisis @ Sage’s Cafe
In her introductory letter, Katy Otto of Exotic Fever Records reminisces about the wealth of inviting information about veganism/animal rights available at hardcore and punk shows back when she first started going. I remember those days … many years ago. Many venue changes & participants later, hardcore & punk have once again diversified: “screamo” and “folk-punk,” respectively, shine forth on this album.
From a new-er roster come contributors for this “Benefit Compilation for Compassion Over Killing:” Gina Young, Attrition, Sinoloa, The Vonneguts. A few ol’ schoolers like Strike Anywhere brighten the album a bit more. All 15 bands donated a vegan recipe as well as their time and talent. Each song touches on the issues of animal-rights ethics or policies—even current politics in subculture. The effort and quality of this compilation proves that vegans don’t have bad taste—in food or music. –Jennifer Nielsen
Return of the Hotrod Zombies
Return of the Hot Rod Zombies = Revenge of the Hot Rod Zomies + A little ska
The whole point of compilations is to hear new bands, so that’s why good, cheap comps are so important to the survival of an underground scene. Here we have a collection of rockabilly, psychobilly, punk and ska bands. Now, so many genres on one comp is actually a good thing, so any kid that picks this up can get a taste of each. I, for one, will not soon forget the track by The Vagrant Dead; “Grave Order Bride” has to be one of the best psycho tracks I’ve heard in years.
Since most of this comp is psychobilly, there are a lot of scene vets like the Slanderin, The Chop Tops, and speed-metal psychos The Black Rose Phantoms. Throw in some punks bands like Left Alone and Switchblade Riot, and you’ve got some pretty good music. Some other real suprize inclusions were Utah locals Mad Max and the Wild Ones, a family act fronted by a 5-year-old kid, amazing to see live, and Los Duggins come out of nowhere and deliver with their bone-crushing country sound. So track one of these down and get an idea of what’s going on in the psycho scene. –James Orme
The Wake= First, Last & Always-era Sisters of Mercy – being the first + Live Drums
The Wake were—or if you believe their longstanding promise of resurrection—are America’s answer to Funhouse, Children on Stun, Rosetta Stone and the dozens of other bands who took to the dark rock esthetic championed by The Sisters of Mercy. Often hailed as the best American goth act, The Wake were always an oddity to me. All things considered, I should have loved them; instead, I shrugged them off. Not even an EP of remixes by Rosetta Stone’s Porl King made me change my opinion.
A decade later, I’m presented with Blacklist, a CD/DVD collection of hits, rarities, videos and a 1995 live show filmed in Mexico City. I can’t say that my opinion has changed much over the years. They’re certainly competent musicians. The songs sound a bit dated, but I imagine that’s part of the charm. The video aspect of the release is marred by its low-budget origins, but is otherwise well produced. I imagine it’s quite the coup for fanatics; I’m still underwhelmed. –Ryan Michael Painter
When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth
WDRTE = Plastic Constellations + McClusky + Panthers
What do you do with two subpar singers? In the case of WDRE, you record seven simultaneous vocal tracks on each song so that your singers sounds like they are arguing with each other over who sucks the most. The effect, unsurprisingly, is intolerably cacophonous, and in my opinion, should be entirely replaced by a Jethro Tull-esque flute.
In fact, put six to seven flute tracks running and rename the band When Jethro Tull Ruled the Earth. But by then you might as well learn some actual Jethro Tull songs and become a Jethro Tull cover band. That would be much better. –Megavore
Profound Lore Records
Wold = Wrath of the Weak + Ildjarn + Gnaw Their Tongues
I may not know much, but I do know this: Wold fucking HATES YOU. Here is a two-man band from Canada, who has been perfecting their black, dismal noises for nearly ten years. Violent, dark, and nihilistic, each song buzzes throughout the listener’s ear just long enough to lull them into a trance before ripping them away with a quick shifts and adjustment in the formulas. This chaos really works, and the wicked sounds produced here are quite unique in their own right.
Though this will most certainly appeal to most of the noise fans, there’s many elements of unconventional black metal present as well in atmosphere, production, and vocals. Their previous album Screech Owl was quite memorable, but Stratification is damn near devastating. I fully expect Wold to burn bright and disturbing for quite some time; I just hope my ears endure long enough to keep up. –Conor Dow
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