National CD Reviews – May 2008

Music from the Motion Picture
Street: 03.18
21 = LCD Soundsystem + MGMT + Peter Bjorn and John + Rihanna
How are we going to make this movie “cool”? How can we appeal to generation Y? I know! Let’s find all the hip bands of yesteryear and put them in our movie. OK, so maybe this comp did get us right a little bit, the exclusive LCD Soundsystem track, “Big Ideas,” is pretty cool—kinda a cross between their 45:33 album and Sound of Silver album sounds. In addition, an electro-dub heavy remix of the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What you Want” by Soulwax brings the only other reason to seek out this compilation. Everything else is pretty average, played out, or random, not much to make this soundtrack stand out by any means. Speaking of the film, Kate Bosworth has a huge forehead. Has no one else noticed this? Weird. –Ryan Powers

Dying Vine
Metal Blade
Street: 05.13
Aletheian = Death + Cynic + Atheist
Dying Vine is Aletheian’s second album and was originally released in 2005—three years later, Metal Blade obviously saw promise in the band and has given Dying Vine the re-mixing and re-mastering treatment and worldwide distribution, as well as an added bonus cover tune of Cynic’s “How Could I.” I’ve had the original release in my collection since it came out and hopefully, this new larger label and re-master will give the band some more credit, which they most definitely deserve. Aletheian quite possibly makes death metal sound the most beautiful and serene that it can sound. There is no denying the progressive influence on the record with technical guitars flowing and playing circles that dance in your head, coupled with epic and majestic keyboards. But then there is dynamic shredding going on here, with piercing growls. The juxtaposition of melody and brutality is a nifty one here; many bands have tried and the ones that achieved the success are legendary. Aletheian is poised to snatch that greatness with this album now achieving a larger audience. I’m ready for the next full-length—guys, bring it on soon. –Bryer Wharton

We are the Nightmare
Nuclear Blast
Street: 04.15
Arsis = Necrophagist + Death
Arsis have been hailed as one of the few American death metal bands that are at the front of the scene as far as ingenuity goes. The Virginian band relishes in their tempo changes and sheer musical technicality, the band seems to have forgone the groove element of death metal seen on the band’s previous albums. But in that lack of groove there is a massive does of chaos in the swirling leads and solos; the whole record is basically a guitar player’s showcase, with the drumming coming in at a close second. We are the Nightmare holds in its hands the ability to transcend the death metal genre, mainly because of its slight metalcore element with its vocals that aren’t the standard cookie-cutter monster-sounding death growls, and that thriving chaos. This means other genre fanboys that exclaim greatness whenever they hear guitars that Darkest Hour couldn’t come up with might jump on the wagon. Arsis deserves credit but not from those fanboys—they deserve it from the people that have stewed in the American death metal scene since it began and can appreciate a relatively new band that can play very well. –Bryer Wharton

Moribund Records
Street: 04.08
Avsky = Svartsyn + Craft + Katharsis
Swedish black metal always has a tendency to win me over because it generally seems more energetic and youthful than many bands from neighboring countries. I can’t place my finger on it, but Avsky doesn’t contend this generalization at all. Though this album doesn’t try to break any new ground, all of the songs manage to stand out from each other, and the vocals actually have a unique grind to them (OK, and the reverb effect helps a bit, too). Though Avsky’s style doesn’t exactly revert back to the early black metal days of Darkthrone or Bathory, where thrash and punk were still heavy influences, it still has an almost crust-punk tinge to it that adds a great deal of appeal for me. It’s almost as if these guys have managed to cross over several eras of black metal but in a manner so subtle that it’s nothing but fantastic. –Conor Dow

A Whisper In The Noise
Dry Land
Exile On Mainstream
Street: 05.06
A Whisper In The Noise = Poison Arrows + your doom approaching + ghosts in the shape of acoustic instruments + Arcade Fire + Church of The Red Museum
The first track on Dry Land, “As We Were,” is straight-up menacing. This song will be the soundtrack that plays when Death himself approaches me to put an end to my days and CD review-writing for eternity and to put an end to all the suffering I have put endless bands through by giving their album bad reviews. The second track, “Awaken to Winter,” would be the celebration that occurs after I am dead and gone. This album is soft and gloomy, similar to your grandparents without their antidepressants. The more I listened to this album, the more I realized how wonderfully sad this album is. Every song comes across in a well-thought-out natural sound and every note seems to accentuate the overall dreary feeling. If you listened to this album too much on your home stereo, black clouds will roll in and it will start raining all over your house and ruin your couch. –Jon Robertson

The Balustride Ensemble
Street: 03.03
The Balustride Ensemble = Mogwai + Boxharp + Mum
As a debut release, Capsules is that music you hear when experiencing sleep paralysis. It’s that creepy, piano-ridden, gentle background music that seems to sneak up on you from behind and appear out of nowhere—leaving a curtain of ancient dust behind. Tapered around a lot of creaking noises—rocking chairs, doors, floors, you name it—Capsules is comforting and weird at the same time, which is a hard balance to find in any genre. Nothing about this album is particularly striking; however, it remains within its own box of gentle and unobtrusive little melodies that sound like they’re being ushered in from a miniature piano box—it’s that subtle. If you were to spend an afternoon in a rocking chair on a snow bank, this would be your soundtrack. –Kristyn Lambrecht

Guilty Pleasures
Kaiser Records
Street: 03.2007
Bamboula = Gorilla - heavy Hungarian accents + Paul Roman
Psychobilly in America is ill, and that’s not a compliment. Creativity is a thing of the past for far too many bands in the genre. Luckily, there are notable exceptions to this trend. Bamboula is one of them. They are a ray of hope for American psychobilly. Too many psychobilly bands these days try to hide their non-psychobilly influences. The result is, obviously, that many bands are interchangeable in regard to sound, not to mention almost every other aspect. Not these boys, though. They show off hardcore, punk rock and ska influences with pride in “Thee Infected,” “Bamboula Bop” and “Cannibal,” respectively. Also, if I didn't know better, I'd say that “Get Out” (or the intro to it, anyway) is a tribute to King Kurt. Overall, the music is similar to Gorilla, and Adam Miller's voice sounds like Paul Roman from The Quakes. This makes for a truly fresh sound. If you're looking for a Demented Are Go sound-alike, look elsewhere. Lord knows there are plenty of ’em. –Aaron Day

Billy Talent
Street: 05.13
Billy Talent = Green Day + new school A.F. I. + Project 86 + Goldfinger
From the get-go, the vocals on II are enough to make me want to put gum wrappers in my ears and leave them in there forever. This dude’s vocals sound like a cartoon character’s. Lead singer Ben Kowalewics must make it a point to sound like some strange British animated character on helium. The album’s lame-ass power pop is a perfect match to his magnificent voice. These dudes are whack. If everyone in the whole world started kicking each other in the crotch as hard as they could, we could all sing like this. Maybe that’s what B.K. does before he starts singing, and judging by the short-bus melodic pop-punk music on II, the rest of the band must beat each other in the head with baseball bats so their brains function on a slower, less creative level. Bad news!! –Jon Robertson

Black Tide
Light From Above
Street: 03.18
Black Tide = Motley Crue + Guns N’ Roses + Avenged Sevenfold
There is a cool honesty in the music Black Tide plays; the band basically pays homage to a scene that isn’t supposedly cool anymore, though that fact is changing. Some people may say it’s a novelty they’re playing off the fact that 80s metal and hard-rock bands are camp or retro these days. Regardless, Light From Above is well played, catchy and most importantly, fun to listen too for traditional metal lovers and hard-rock fans. That said, the band does tread a fine line between metal and hard rock. There is definitely a lot of Iron Maiden-style soloing and riffs flowing over the cup that Black Tide has filled. The vocals and lyrical content for this new band is refreshing—there is no relationship dribble or touchy-feely emo stuff, just sheer hard-rock rampaging. Amongst the juicy licks and hard rock/classic metal attitude, there is a small pop sensibility with the band. All in all, it flows well and forms a great album; it’s a nice feeling for these youngsters to appreciate where metal and hard rock came from and in a way, pay homage to it as well as craft some fun tunes. I challenge Black Tide to keep this spirit going and hold that old-school vibe high in regard as to their creation of music. –Bryer Wharton

Broadcast Sea
Wounded Soldier
East:West/Pluto Records
Street: 03.18
Broadcast Sea = The Jesus Lizard + Nirvana + Slint
Dirty. That’s the only word I can think of to describe this record. Blending the genius of The Jesus Lizard with Nirvana’s In Utero and adding a splash of ultra-heaviness, this release from Broadcast Sea is one of those releases that would have flown under the radar for me had it not mysteriously ended up in my review box. It’s not what I would consider to be a work of genius, but it is an absolute crush-fest from beginning to end … the kind of record you want to have angry sex to. Extreme low-end and noisy-as-fuck guitars combine with back-in-the-mix vocals to sculpt an entire album that would work perfectly as the soundtrack to some low-budget indie movie love and bank robberies. –Gavin Hoffman

Brown Jenkins
Angel Eyes
Moribund Records
Street: 04.04
Brown Jenkins = the death rattle of your only child
Brown Jenkins is back with a full-length dose of sludge which wears hats to please both the black-metal kids as well as the doom-metal fans. When I reviewed the previously released EP, I expressed concerns about sitting through a full-length album release of his work because most of the songs wander a bit before finding an ending. Fortunately, the full album isn’t much longer than the EP; however, much of the material still blends together without variety or deviation from its path of madness. While I appreciate this as the point of existence for one of the styles of metal Brown Jenkins explores, it still just sits just on the fence between bold-faced direction and non-commitment, refusing to take me as a listener anywhere except into feelings of impatience. Not exactly a terrible listen; on the contrary, not exactly a memorable one, either. –Conor Dow

Bury Your Dead
Victory Records
Street: 03.18
Bury Your Dead = Fear Factory + Between the Buried and Me + Martyr AD
Well, I’ll be damned—some of the tracks on this rocker are pretty catchy and listenable, even if 10 minutes in it starts to blend together. I suppose it’s because of the many lineup changes over the years and the addition of vocalist Myke Terry (Cassius) that this one stands out. So, whatever the reason for cutting the chaff is fine; this record is better than their prior releases. Now, this album isn’t breaking a whole lot of new ground, nor is all of it good—sometimes scream/sung vocals that are out of tune just sound bad, not tough. Lyrically, Bury Your Dead covers heavily trodden ground about darkness and betrayal, finding the light, etc. However, at least two tracks cover child abuse and a broken home on here, and they have some teeth. The guitar lines can be monotonous, but then again, that’s Bury Your Dead’s calling card. The advantage of this approach is that the guitar-playing sounds restrained, as if you know they could play much more complex song structures, so when the more technical melodic parts kick in, they are noticeable. Overall, this release is passable, but not terrific. –Peter Fryer

Burning Skies
Street: 05.13
Burning Skies = Dying Fetus + Heaven Shall Burn + Misery Index
Finally, a band that actually fits their deathcore description, and the hardcore part of the death metal ain’t that stupid breakdown crap, either. This album is riddled with speed shredding away anything in its path in an old-school style with modern flair. As for the death-metal portion of the album, which the band so easily blends with hardcore, well, there are your fanciful guttural growls amongst some perfect leads and soloing that would make some modern U.S. deathcore and metalcore acts wallow in their wimpiness and lack of ability to write a good grinding tune. The U.K.’s Burning Skies have 11 of those grinding tunes that should shatter any deathcore act around. The tempo, riff creation and cohesive blend of what Burning Skies have put forth here is something to behold. This is what deathcore should all be like; then maybe it wouldn’t get knocked about as being boring all the time. –Bryer Wharton

Candlelight USA
Street: 05.13
Burzum = one of the 2nd wave black metal Forefathers
Burzum. The only solo project of Varg Vikernes, a.k.a. Count Grishnackh, a.k.a. controversial and outspoken Odalist, a.k.a. convicted murderer, a.k.a. prison escapist, a.k.a. church arsonist, a.k.a. fantastic musician. Would you like to know how countless people got themselves into this mess known as black metal? Look no further than Burzum, a project which still stands out as solid material, even today among all of the imitators and namedroppers. This anthology release is a nice, although short list of some of the better songs Varg ever wrote, and off of almost every album he ever released, including his not-so-popular, dark ambient “midi-because-I-wrote-it-while-in-prison, OK, guys??” work. As a Burzum fan, I can’t recommend an anthology disc because his albums are best as complete listens; however, if you want an idea of where much black metal inspiration stems from, this disc should suffice. –Conor Dow Canoe
Canoe Music
Street: 01.08
Canoe = Sufjan Stevens + James Taylor + poppy goodness
I was immediately intrigued when I saw a cover of Holland 1945 by Neutral Milk Hotel on Canoe’s debut album, Places. I mean, let’s face it, no matter how clich NMH are to the indie-rock hipsters out there, you’ve got to be interested in what this folk-rock band out of Portland does with Holland 1945. And it was just that—a stripped-down, folksy version of the previously distorted song. The rest of Places is filled with other downright catchy acoustic tunes that will undoubtedly entertain you and your girlfriend (in a good way). While “Anxious Jenny” has the immediate poppy vibe to it, other songs on the album don’t necessarily follow suit. “Drip Drip Drop” is a bit more solemn, but still embodies that folk spirit, lyrically and sonically, that is seen elsewhere on the record. Check this album out for sure, and check them out in Logan and Provo at the beginning of May. –Tom Carbone Jr.

Metal Blade
Street: 04.01
Cataract = Unearth + Hatebreed
These Swiss metalcore stalwarts have been kicking ass and taking names for a decade. Their last record from Metal Blade, “Kingdom,” seemed a bit mediocre. But damn, they took it up a notch for this self-titled beastly thrasher. The second cut on the album, “Blackest Hour,” starts out with a great lead, and those leads only continue throughout the album. Cataract play metalcore to the very definition—there are plentiful hardcore-style breakdowns that are not only intermingled well through the songs, but actually have a substance and heaviness to them that other bands just seem to take for granted and who perform them in such a way that they come off as boring. Take into account plenty of thrashing moments on the album complete with howling guitar solos. I applaud Cataract for kicking my ass with this new record and giving me some renewed appreciation for metalcore, not to mention some hope that the genre isn’t as stale as I think … hell, I’m starting to contradict myself; one month I get a bunch of crappy metalcore, the next a bunch of really top-notch stuff—just goes to show that when you play any genre right, you sound great regardless. –Bryer Wharton

City Scum
City Scum
Rich Botch Records
Street: 08.2007
City Scum = The Stooges + The Germs + Turbonegro
On the other side of the punk rock spectrum, here we have the garage-oriented barrage of California’s City Scum. Trebly, snotty, and terribly catchy, the debut 7” slab from these guys is the kind of thing that all these lame “nu-Stooges” ripoff bands are trying to do, and are failing miserably at. Sing-along choruses, twangy guitars, and a steady backbeat make for a record that makes me remember when punk bands cared less about how they looked than having a good time and, erm, “fucking shit up.” This release is the reason I personally prefer vinyl to CD or digital … “suck my dick and drink my cum,” bitches! –Gavin Hoffman

Do It!
Street: 04.08
Clinic = The Libertines - actual talent
Remember when Clinic was exciting? Way back at the start of the millennium when the U.K. foursome put out two albums (2000's Internal Wrangler and 2002's Walking With Thee) that were punky and arty at the same time while somehow coming off as totally unpretentious? Yeah, those were good times. Unfortunately, Clinic’s two albums since then have been filled with uninspired, indulgent art-rock dreck … and this year's Do It! is no exception. Opening with the trashy fuzzbox stomp of “Memories,” it sounds like the band collectively decided to give Charles Manson's entire back catalog the full-band treatment, here marrying whimsical Beatles-inspired keyboard-breaks to a production style that sounds like it was recorded in a rat's asshole. The very few songs worth saving (“Shopping Bag,” the lonesome, wistful “Emotions”) are genuinely worth saving, but after three albums of eroding returns, it's obvious that the only people who will ever check into this Clinic are genuinely, truly crazy. –Evan Sawdey

Goodfellow Records
Street: 03.25
Cursed = Cast Iron Hike + Cobra Noir + Converge
Cursed know how to brand woebegone hardcore. They are skilled in the ways of subversively satanic iconography, immoral typeface, and the “I should probably go to therapy cause I’m so messed up but instead I make creepy music” schtick. Moreover, they've maintained a keen awareness of nuanced hardcore authenticity that has elitists like me slowly nodding with approval. On III, Cursed plug in their voxes, crawl into a dark (and probably totally haunted) basement, and cough up some thick and dirty audio. They’ve toned down their sometimes silly, caricature-like horror aesthetic, and the cocksure hardcore rockabilly swagger of previous albums in place of a more no-nonsense, concentrated demonstration of a multifarious antipathy that is (perhaps at times too) reminiscent of Converge. I feel like Cursed is leading me further into their (still totally haunted) mansion of sound, and there are more rooms worth exploring. –Megavore

Dark Meat
Universal Indians
Vice Records
Street: 03.10
Dark Meat = BJM + Crazy Horse + Albert Ayler
Not that you should care, but the reason that dark meat is different than light meat is that dark meat is found around in areas that have more myoglobin, a chemical that temporarily stores extra oxygen that is necessary to oxidize the fat. It is obvious that Dark Meat is storing many chemicals in their bodies, but rather than oxidizing their fat, the chemicals are possessing them to make the most hippie kind of music possible. Seventeen people in one band? Is that really necessary? They sound like The Polyphonic Spree on even more acid, plus a little cocaine thrown in to make it a little more focused. Is that what cocaine does? Universal Indians is produced insanely well and contains many brilliant uses of the F-word, funky guitar riffs and horn orchestration that would probably make Anton Newcombe roll in his grave if he were dead. –Andrew Glassett (Kilby 5.02)

Dave Gahan
Hourglass Remixes
Street: 03.11
Dave Gahan = Depeche Mode + Moby
This collection of remixes from Dave Gahan’s recent album go about as well as those of his day-gig’s remixes have gone for the last 10 years: iffy. Who decides on this motley variety of good and bad? I picture an early-forties exec who digs Burning Man and thinks he’s onto some new tip (note: it’s not new just because it’s new to you), making recommendations to “the board” while seated at a $250,000 table in the Capitol Records executive sweet. He heard that hip LCD Soundsystem mix James Murphy did for Nike, and, fortunately for the album, swung labelmate The Juan Maclean for a Lightning Man-esque jaunt; The T Raumschmiere take on “Deeper and Deeper,” biting and stomping in usual TR fashion, is also a highlight. However, the mixes by Kap10kurt and Onur zer are null and void clubbers (the boring night at the club), stabbing synth, arpeggiated piano and other clichs sinking the originals. –Dave Madden

Dave Gahan
Hourglass Remixes
Street: 03.11
Dave Gahan = Depeche Mode – Martin Gore + A-List Remixers
The history of the remix album isn’t exactly an inspiring one. Often you’re left with bits and pieces of a song scattered against disjointed rumblings tranced up for clubbing for tourists who are entertained by anything that has enough bass and kick drum to grind to. Hourglass Remixes, however, takes the best tracks from Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan’s latest solo effort and gives them a proper reworking. Certainly the results aren’t flawless and are more often aimed towards a club setting, but rather than completely abandoning the original vocal in favor of a five-second snippet repeated for 20 minutes, they rely on the strengths of the original versions as a guide. “Love Will Leave” (kapl0kurt remix) is worth the price of admission alone. –ryan michael painter

The Deathset
Counter Records
Street: 04.22
The Deathset = Japanther + Dan Deacon
The Deathset really sounds like a literal combination of Dan Deacon and Japanther—the monotone punk vocals and electro dance background are almost too spot-on to differentiate the band in a meaningful way. On the other hand, both Dan Deacon and Japanther totally kick ass, so perhaps it’s not necessarily that bad of a thing. Additionally, the live shows of this band sound particularly fun—a pop-punk take on electronic dance; the music is neither aggressive nor angry, but much like pop punk, the long-term replay of this album is little to none. At the same time, it is fun to listen to. But if you think about it another way, it is no good. Except for the fact I kinda like it. In the other corner, it has some joke songs on it. Counterpoint: who cares? It’s just punk music. –Ryan Powers

666—Satan's Soldiers Syndicate
Metal Blade
Street: 04.29
Desaster = Absu + Destruction + Melechesh
Desaster have a long history stemming back to 1988, and with that experience comes true metal mastery. 666—Satan's Soldiers Syndicate is a metal opus that fans of black metal and thrash can sink their teeth into. Unlike many black metal acts, the guitar tone on this new offering from Desaster (who took their name from the mighty German thrash act Destruction) isn’t hollow; it holds meat to it—a thickness but raw, cold and ravishing grimness. And the vocals—don’t get me started. Where normal black metal bands tread with the same style of vocals, Desaster pulverize with these thrashing, demonic screams. The album is a perfect blend of thrash and black metal while influenced heavily by the old-school style of metal. Desaster take on their own sound and have crafted something for the true metal fan. And with this follow-up to their Metal Blade debut, Angelwhore, they have the backing of a label of a larger scale that can push the limits of where and what audiences Desaster can reach. This is a great trip into the old school with crisp yet crushing, raw production; there is nothing but acclaim and accolades to give to Desaster. –Bryer Wharton

Isle of Marauder
Street: 04.20
Diesto = Jesus Lizard + Botch
This record is pure chaos in the best possible way. It’s like getting dirty and feeling so right. Diesto drop the most righteous kind of dirty noise-rock that you’d think you went to heaven and had a mud fight with God. This band sounds like an angrier, noisier version of Unsane. When the lead singer from Unsane, Chris Spencer, was attacked and in Vienna, it may have been the guys from Diesto who did it. They knew that they were a better version of Unsane and that they were truly the new leader of sludged-out death metal so it was time for their reign of terror to emerge. Peace out, Unsane; hello Diesto. That’s evolution for you. –Jon Robertson

Dirty Girls
Murder Mountain
Prime Directive
Street: 08.2007
Dirty Girls = Eyehategod + Discharge + His Hero Is Gone
I’ve had to re-write this review four times, goddammit, so you fuckers better appreciate it. California’s Dirty Girls are the epitome of a “kick-ass-and-take-names-later” punk rock band. There are four songs on this 7”, and the fucking thing is roughly five minutes long … five of the most absolutely punishing minutes I’ve ever experienced. While a lot of so-called “punk bands” these days are content with simply ripping off Black Flag, Tragedy, or any number of “Dis-” bands, Dirty Girls take the aggression of D-beat punk and meld it perfectly with the pain and grime of Eyehategod. The result is a release that gives a much-needed shot in the arm to a genre that should have been dead and buried 10 times over by now. Track it down. –Gavin Hoffman

Nuclear Blast Records
Street: 03.28
Divinity = Lamb of God + Killswitch Engage + et al
Canada’s Divinity first released this album independently, but as fate may have it, they were picked up by Nuclear Blast Records some time after, and here is a multimedia release that includes the full album as well as some computer interactivity if you happen to have a CD-ROM. How is the music? Well, it’s fairly general run-of-the-mill melodic death metal with plenty of catchy hooks, dueling guitars and three-to-five-minute song lengths. Though the musicianship is fine, and I’m sure they put on an energetic live show, nothing about this CD is fun or memorable to me. It definitely has a “been there, done that” feel to it, which is fairly common for bands that tend to write styles of music that are all but a dry well. –Conor Dow

In Luft Geritzt
Prophecy Productions
Street: 05.09
Dornenreich = everything from Lunar Aurora to Tenhi
This is one of those albums where a band that is traditionally metal decides to steer an entirely different direction and write a batch of songs which might be laden with acoustic guitar and traditional melody-centric instruments. Though Dornenreich hasn’t exactly stuck with their initial style in the first place, they are able to remain very much respected by fans who appreciate bands such as Agalloch. Those who are fans of Dornenreich will likely enjoy this release, which in a nutshell is stripped down to mainly acoustic guitar and violin, with Eviga’s vocals rarely moving beyond a sullen whisper. The performance is extremely intimate and I’d definitely recommend listening with headphones as the production is warm and inviting, as if they’re playing in the same room you’re in. This is certainly reminiscent of the direction Opeth took with Damnation and Green Carnation took with Acoustic Verses. I highly recommend this. –Conor Dow

Down and Away
Reclaim the Radio
Warbird Entertainment
Street: 03.01
Down and Away = (Screeching Weasel/2) + (NOFX/2) + The Briggs
For some people, a band that is unabashed about having 20 songs that all use the same typical power chords might not be too bad of a thing. If you still get stoked when The Briggs come to town then you might even like these guys quite a bit. Their sound fits the “punk bands that high schoolers really like” mold pretty damned well, and even is a bit reminiscent of Screeching Weasel, albeit with a bit less talent. Unfortunately, for how these guys are sounding after their fourth album, even kids who still listen to Total Chaos can probably find something more worthwhile out there. –Ross Solomon

My Earth Dream
Napalm Records
Street: 05.13
Edenbridge = Nightwish + Angtoria + symphonic madness
Wow, if melodies were considered brutal, this album would be brutal as all hell. I thought Nightwish used a lot of symphonic keyboards; this record puts them and many others to school. Then again, with this album, the band had help with use of an actual orchestra taking part of the recording. With years of experience behind them, crafting an album that is catchy as it is powerful must be at least somewhat easy. None of the songs sound re-hashed or use any repeated material from previous songs. Call me a dork or whatnot, but I could listen to this record all damn day. Its melodies are soothing and beautiful but the guitars remain consistently heavy and rocking as rocking can quite possibly get. Power metal—or call it symphonic power metal—should always be this fun to listen to. –Bryer Wharton

El Perro Del Mar
From the Valley to the Stars
Licking Fingers Records
Street: 4.22.08
El Perro Del Mar= Azure Ray + Sigur Rs + The Fiery Furnaces
An opening track consisting of only two words: “Jubilee” and “Jubilation,” sung alternately over an organ, can spell one of two things: redundancy or creativity. El Perro Del Mar (Sarah Assbring, a Swede), accomplishes a little of both on this release. Influences of Motown, ambient organ and some horn/woodwind/sitar elements are all concocted into something very intriguing. The vocals are breathy and the chorus and verse structure is largely an afterthought—supplanted, mostly, by repetitious lyrics. This isn’t entirely unlikable; it’s just engineered to get stuck in your head very efficiently. This is some diverse and ultimately evocative noise. It may take a few spins but, at the least, can be respected by true music fans. The band’s name means “The Dog of the Sea” en espaol, which may be confusing coming from a Swedish act, but it just proves Assbring’s ultimate point: to give the unexpected in novel ways. –jon “jp” paxton

Embrace the End
Ley Lines
Century Media
Street: 04.15
Embrace the End = Every Time I Die (old) + Eyes of Fire + Norma Jean
Normally Embrace the End’s brand of metalcore/deathcore would turn me off, but this Sacramento-based five-piece can actually write good songs with immense structures, that actually have calculated rhythms and a mathematical precision to them. Underlying the speedy chaos that the band puts forth so effortlessly are melodies, a bit of thrash and black-metal influence. The band even offers up a doom-type tune, giving that much more bulk to the album and providing a much-needed break from the fast tempo changes and chaotic vocal concoctions. As far as sophomore records go, this one is well played and I don’t doubt these boys will make some high-profile tours for the summer; the music played on Ley Lines has a huge live feeling and seeing the skill it’s played with within that setting would be phenomenal. Please everyone give metalcore a chance: It is definitely taking a turn for the better with a select few bands; Embrace the End is one of them. –Bryer Wharton

The Respect Issue
Victory Records
Street: 05.13
Emmure= Acacia Strain + Impending Doom + Killswitch Engage
Emmure lay breakdowns heavier, chuggier and more randomly than any other band in fucking history. The cheesy metalcore lyrics like “Run. Fucking. Die. Just for fun,” backed by scratchy guitars became silly fast and left me having zero respect for this effort. The slower “ballads” feel like a mandatory emo clause Victory threw into their record deal. Regardless, any metal band relying on such heavy vocal effects should check their genre if their vocalist can’t throat the lows without multiple vocal pedals. –jon “jp” paxton

Absolute Design
Street: 11.07.07
Engel = Passenger + what n-metal wishes it could be
There is no question that the type of music Engel plays fits the n-metal genre. Engel utilizes lots of great breakdown riffs, melodic guitars and just that great catchy hook feeling that Korn and early Deftones used when they broke into the scene. Take into account that the bands’ influences are more rooted in Swedish music than American. To be precise, they are rooted in melodic death metal. Guitarist Niclas Englin (probably where the band got its name) played for In Flames and Gardenian, undoubtedly impacting the Gothenburg scene. But I guess the guitarist wanted to venture outside that realm. The end result is a catchy record in its vocals and songs. This record has been listened to many times by myself and it will be listened to many more, even if it’s just to find the amazing tune “Next Closed Door.” The album just has that sound that is pleasingly heavy yet almost simplistic but fruitful in melodies. Screw the cynics; this is some good listenin’ metal. –Bryer Wharton

Ghost Notes
Vapor Records
Street: 05.06
Everest = Simon and Garfunkel + Band of Horses + Elliott Smith
I was hoping for something new and monumental in the genre of “indie”-folk (is it OK just to call it mainstream pop now?) given the band name; but Everest didn’t make the steep grade. They’ve got the beat, the eerie slide-guitar and the plaintive vocals down pat. Ghost Notes wasn’t an exciting listen. though; due in part to standard lyrics like, “Take this love into your soft heart” with standard hooks “doot doot doot doot” [extra “doots” omitted for space]. I’d rather not “doot” in this style or ponder what the fuck a “soft heart” is (is it a medical condition?). Other groups created this same album for the love of the music and to pave new roads; not to tread on tired trails to satisfy a certain demographic. –jon “jp” paxton

The Explicits
Explicit Records
Street: 04.08
The Explicits = The Distillers + The Briefs + Radio Friendly Screamo Bands
This band and album aren’t terrible, but ultimately, this record is nothing new. The Explicits are the kind of “punk band” that are a safe starter band for kids who have yet to discover the bands of the early 80s, whom the Explicits are most likely influenced by. Lead singer Renee Phoenix’s voice is best described as Brody Dale-light. The song writing can be described in much of the same way. Instead of focusing in on the details many of the songs are incredibly vague. On “Over It,” Phoenix wails, “I’m so over it/I’m sick of your shit/I’m so over it” repeatedly over fast-paced guitars, but fails to ever mention what it is she’s sick of. This album also lacks the aggression that I’ve come to expect from female-fronted bands in the same vein. “Hallelujah” is the standout track on the album; everything else on the disc has been done before and done better by other artists. –Jeanette Moses

Fall of Serenity
The Crossfire
Street: 05.13
Fall of Serenity = Kataklysm + Heaven Shall Burn + In Flames
Germany’s Fall of Serenity underwent some an interesting lineup change since their last record in 2006; their bassist John Gahlert took over the vocal duties and guitarist Alex Fischer took up the bass, entering in new guitarist Ferdinand Rewicki. All this mixing is definitely for the better and adds a freshness to The Crossfire album. The album treads a fine line between metalcore and melodic death metal; there is just a tiny bit of hardcore seeping in, but then the whole album is filled with these great leads, soloing and melodic guitars, creating a perfect blend of harshness, brutality and somber melody. There is plenty of machine-gun drumming playing right in queue with the guitar. As an added bonus, Sabina Classen of Holy Moses and Temple of the Absurd guests, adding her great thrash vocal mayhem to the mix. There isn’t anything new to any genre thrown in here, but the album is well done and brutal as it is technical. Fans of melodic death metal and in a way, metalcore, take note: This fits every nook and cranny of the style of brutality you love. –Bryer Wharton

Metal Blade
Street: 04.29
Fate = Necrophagist + Throwdown + Through the Eyes of the Dead
Fate does a great job of mixing traditional and technical death metal with metalcore; throughout the stop-and-go tempos of the album are really stellar leads popping in from time to time as well as some finger-licking solos. It seems as if the band relies on their breakdowns to sound heavier-than-thou. The album has its really grandiose moments and then its boring “please do something” different moments. There is even some thrashy-type guitars going on, but it seems as if the really good stuff is few and far between and when it is used, it seems out of place for the arrangement of the music. I don’t necessarily understand why they crafted their sound this way; it can be very frustrating. When all is said and done, there are plenty of other dime-a-dozen deathcore acts out there that sound a hell of a lot worse and extremely bland. Fate has something going for them in their small nuances of musical technicality; there is potential here for something better; I just honestly wish they could have met that potential with Vultures. –Bryer Wharton

Fern Knight
Fern Knight
Street: 05.05
Fern Knight = Beth Orton writing songs for Joanna Newsom while fending off an attacking cello
Last year, Robert Plant decided that MOR-rocking was right up his alley, completing a whole album of covers with Alison Krauss before bringing the rawk during his Led Zeppelin reunion. Said collabo album, Raising Sand, was really just Krauss wailing like desert siren over T-Bone Burnett's studio fuckery, making for one of the weirdest discs ever to be foisted upon the NPR masses. Fern Knight—which really is nothing more than a front for singer/cellist Margaret Wienk—is really nothing more than Raising Sand Pt. II; Wienk sounding like some medieval wood nymph lost in the same forest that Joanna Newsome emerged from. The times when she's straightforward (as on “Sundew” and “Loch Na Fooey”) are the times when her avant-folk sound works best, but when she throws in a pair of seven-minute yawn fests and a pretentious three-part song cycle at the end (called the “Magpie Suite”); it's as if she's deliberately trying your patience. Just watch as your mind drifts on to more important matters … like that Zeppelin reunion tour … . –Evan Sawdey

Finest Dearest
Finest Dearest
Street: 04.08
Finest Dearest = Female-fronted 90s indie rock
San Francisco’s Finest Dearest is more than just a passable pop band; they’re skilled songwriters. With a nod towards 4AD Records’ Lush’s later releases, they combine gritty guitars with dream-pop hooks. Slower numbers like “Fathers” and “Pendulum” aren’t nearly as effective as the faster-paced songs, but all in all, it is a fine debut. I recommend checking out “Naming Ceremony,” “Night Blooming Flowers” and the “Making A Sound” trilogy as a starting point. –ryan michael painter

The Premonition
Century Media
Street: 03.25
Firewind = Nightingale + Fates Warning
Prog metal doesn’t get more epic and fascinating than this, but if you’re a prog-metal fan, you probably already know all about Firewind. Members with a laundry list of other famed metal acts from all styles have crafted 10 tracks of pure metal fun and awesome guitarwork; there are seriously more hooks here than any fisherman could ever need in his tackle box; bad analogy, I know, but it works! Every song here is a memorable one, be it blazing opener “Into the Fire” or the smooth “Mercenary Man,” or my favorite—the cover tune of “Maniac;” as funny as it may be, it rocks. This is catchy metal at its finest, with Firewind’s history and lengthy list of experience only adding to the musical experience they have delivered with The Premonition. –Bryer Wharton (06.02, Avalon)

The Foxglove Hunt
Stop Heartbeat
Common Wall Media
Street: 03.25
Foxglove Hunt = The Cure + The Petshop Boys
A lot of groups use the tried-and-true formula of retooling music from the past with a modern spin to create seemingly groundbreaking records. The Foxglove Hunt, on the other hand, is going straight for recreating the mediocre pop of the 80s. There is more personality in a zombie on Xanax then this borefest. It feels like it should be the soundtrack to a TV-movie sequel to Sixteen Candles. On the brief but positive side, the production is glossy and flawless, to ensure no accidental sounds that might give some depth to this shallow exercise in 80s tribute. –Ryan Powers

Ill Innocence
Peaceville Records
Street: 10.09.07
Gallhammer = Sigh + Pentagram + Boris
This female Japanese band have quite possibly released one of the most compelling and astonishing doom-metal albums I’ve heard in a long time. There is an honest doom on Ill Innocence, a feeling as though the band is completely unhinged from what other doom-metal artists are doing and just wrote these songs because it’s what they truly have in their darkened hearts. I may say this a lot, but when I do, I mean it with all sincerity—every song on the album is different and embodies different themes and styles from other metal genres; notably black metal; it’s those wicked female Japanese screams that sound evil and sinister and unquestionably unique. This is one doom-metal masterpiece that could be described in a short novel; it must be experienced firsthand to realize the massiveness to the music, the depth and sheer creativity of the beast. Fan of doom metal? Then by all means, Gallhammer cannot and will not disappoint with Ill Innocence. –Bryer Wharton

The Gossip
Live in London
Columbia Records
Street: 04.15
The Gossip = Debbie Harry + Glass Candy + The Donnas
My favorite way to listen to The Gossip involves drinking a multitude of Red Bull vodkas at 10 a.m. and then skipping around downtown SLC in booty shorts alongside the world’s largest disco ball. Unfortunately, I was not able to enjoy this particular disc in any of the aforementioned ways. The Gay Pride parade is still a few months away and driving around with the world’s largest disco ball in the trunk of my car sounds dangerous. But without fail, every time I popped Live in London in my car stereo, it wasn’t long before the volume was turned up somewhere close to 30 and I was singing and dancing while driving––it’s just that damned good. Although this live release (recorded during a London concert on July 9, 2007) suffers from some subpar recordings, the hooting crowd doesn’t detract from the overall quality. All of the songs are amazing, but my favorite tracks were the cover of Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody,” “Standing In the Way of Control” and “Careless Whisper.” –Jeanette Moses

Gregor Samsa
Kora Records
Street: 05.13
Gregor Samsa = Sigur Ros + Halcyon High + Low
I listened to this album while doing an art project—and after one listen through, refused to listen to anything else. Sounding uncannily like Sigur Ros, this senior release is as innocent as it is hypnotic—taking at least four or five listens to fully grasp the album. The album is themed primarily around a detached, artistic center that combines bells, chimes, electronic beats, and subdued vocals to create a beautiful collage of melancholy, slightly depressing songs that have that ability to change your mood from mediocre to artistically somber within minutes. I loved every minute of it—from start to finish Rest reflects the subconscious, dormant emotions we often experience within the stormy seasons of our lives, motivating creativity as much as confrontation. Rest is a beautiful, artistic release that deserves constant rotation on those though-provoking, drizzly and somber days. –Kristyn Lambrecht

As Knowledge Kills Beauty
Street: 02.11
Gripp = Del tha Funkee Homosapien + Early Blackalicious (minus a DJ) + some weird electronic shit
Gripp does his own production. If he had some quality producers and an actual DJ backing him, his future rhymes could find a place in my album rotation. If I were a big fan of computer-produced rap, then this album would already be there. The 20-year-old’s release displays potential, but unfortunately, Gripp’s album could easily be written off as semi-bullshit. Thirty seconds in, he raps about loving “hip-hop” over a synthesizer. I searched for a vinyl scratch or obvious sample on As Knowledge Kills Beauty and there were none. I believe at least two elements of the hip-hop four (MCs, DJs, B-boys and graffiti) need to be present to call it that. In this case, it’s just a rap album trading in on the name of the institution. –jon “jp” paxton

In Field & Town
Hardwood Records
Street: 04.08
Hayden = Older Ben Kweller + Wilco + Nick Drake
“No relationships were hurt in the making of this album” was the first thing I noticed while thumbing through the twelve-page booklet full of lyrics written by a man with a suffering heart. Tears had to be shed to write words as evocative and emotional as this album comes across. This Toronto based singer/songwriter seems to have come out of nowhere. Every piece of this album fits together as it should, with a melodramatic logic that folds sound and sense into an unbroken whole that resonates with unsettled meaning. Every song is like a relationship coming to an end––faster than the next sunset, but only the beautiful and reasonable parts of the circumstance.
With his mopey folk-rock grooves, Hayden unquestionably has something to offer with this album. Whether it be found serenity from someone who has “been through it” or reciprocated memories of love lost and the acknowledgement of the light at the end of the tunnel, In Field and Town was a pleasant surprise. –Lance Saunders

Some Racing, Some Stopping
Polyvinyl Records
Street: 02.19
Headlights = Sea Wolf + Someone Still Loves You Boris Yelstin + Of Montreal Between playing over 300 shows and putting out a pair of releases in just three years, Headlights are one of the most exciting and intriguing acts coming out of the indie-pop scene so far this year. Some Racing, Some Stopping, the band’s sophomore effort, greatly outshines its predecessor, something they shot for themselves. Kill Them with Kindness, their debut record, was a bit noisier and all around sloppier than Some Racing, Some Stopping, a record built on catchy guitar licks and the essential—albeit basic—boy-girl pop vocals. While most of the songs embody the general description for a pure pop song, others are a bit more somber and emotional. “January” is one such instance of a somber tune, but almost every other song is elevating and peppy. If you aren’t tapping your toe to this one, you aren’t human. Or you don’t like pop music at its purest form. –Tom Carbone Jr.

Audio War
Powerslave Records
Street: 01.22
Insolence = Head (PE) – an ultra annoying singer + Dislocated Styles
Insolence could be judged by their longevity; they’ve been around for over seven years. Back in the day when rap-rock or n-metal was huge, this record could’ve sold millions. Now with the genre basically dead with a few artists still playing the style, it’s not nearly as profitable. So there is some credit giving for Insolence because they’re obviously playing music they like instead of doing it just to sell records. For the genre, when the band isn’t pumping out stupid n-metal riffs, there are some really good drum beats and reggae-style vocals and jams; that style is about the only redeeming quality of the album. The other stuff sounds like it came straight from the late-90s, early-2000 era of n-metal where rap and metal were huge and Fred Durst was the biggest rock star around. For people that still enjoy this style of music, more power to them. Insolence probably do it better than many counterparts around today, so hey, enjoy a decent band that does what they do well. As for me, I’m sick of listening to this strange and annoying concoction of rap, reggae and really boring riffs and stupid vocal screams. –Bryer Wharton

Jarboe + Justin Broadrick
The End Records
Street: 03.18
Jarboe + Justin Broadrick = Jarboe + Justin Broadrick
If you have any idea who Jarboe (Swans, numerous collaborations) and Justin Broadrick (Godflesh, Jesu, Napalm Death, etc.) are, you don’t need an equation to tell you what to expect. Or do you? I’ll admit that I didn’t know what to expect the first time I caught wind of this project. Jarboe had previously worked with Broadrick by providing vocals for a track from a recent Jesu EP, so I suppose it only made sense for them to say, “Fuck it!” and create a full project together. Although there are some interesting continuances, I unfortunately couldn’t get into it. I can appreciate the creepy atmosphere they’re trying to accomplish, but given the talent on hand for J2, I would have expected quite a bit more from several songs which tend to rely heavily on repetition, leaving little room for moments that create desire for repeated listens. –Conor Dow

Jeremy Jay
A Place Where We Could Go
K Records
Street: 05.20
Jeremy Jay = The Smiths + The Shins - Enthusiasm
Sadly, this album went in one ear and out the other; or in other words, I couldn’t find anything to catch my attention. You could go through the entire album without realizing it; and the whole time it sounds like he’s just reading out of his little book of poetry. All that’s missing is some sunglasses and bongos and you’ve got yourself a beat poet. Although the music is very simple and repetitive, it adds emotion where Jeremy Jay lacks and every now and then, you’ll get a sweet little guitar riff that wakes you up from the daze of the album; the daze that is produced by Jay’s smooth Morrissey vocals. It’s funny how something can be so beautifully done, yet at the same time be unable to spark any flame of interest. –Lyuba Basin

Juno Reactor
Gods & Monsters
Street: 04.22
Juno Reactor = Enigma + FSOL + Massive Attack
While experimentation is always welcomed in any genre, electronic artists seem to become bored with the status quo far more quickly than your typical songwriters. Over the years, Juno Reactor has drifted through the darker elements of club culture while fusing an ever-changing obsession with world music without catering to the NPR crowd ( l Deep Forest). It is a combination that has kept their music in films such as Mortal Kombat and all of the The Matrix installments. Pulling influences from India and Africa, along with dub and traditional dance, and industrial scenes (I’ve always sensed a certain Laibach in them), Gods & Monsters is predictably all over the place, but for the most part it works, and when it doesn’t, you still have to admire their ambition. –ryan michael painter

Korven Kuningas
Nuclear Blast Records
Street: 03.21
Korpiklaani = Finntroll + forests + DRINKING
This is such a fun band. Korpiklaani hail from Finland, along with their brethren the illustrious Finntroll. Though their music is primarily metal-centric, they interlace a great deal of folk elements and a flavor of Finnish polka music called Humppa. Naturally, you can probably tell that this isn’t your typical brooding, grim and frostbitten metal band who pose scowling in corpse paint. Nope, Korpiklaani take on a sincere, but much jollier approach with choruses that are either group-sung or in a style of what is called “yoiking,” heavy usage of the accordion, and themes that mostly revolve either around mythical forest tales or drinking. If you can imagine what sort of metal bands might tour through The Green Dragon to play for Hobbits, Korpiklaani is one of these bands. Head to the forests, fill a stein with your favorite ale or mead and propose a toast to metal! –Conor Dow

Lazy Magnet
He sought for that magic by which all glory and glamour of mystic chivalry were made to shine
Is Music even Good? Corleone
Street: 01.13
Lazy Magnet = Starlight Mints + Yellow Swans + Animal Collective + Jab
Micah Och El A challenging minimal mix of orchestral and electro with singer-songwriter, a bit of punk, and “Other,” Lazy Magnet seems to challenge the idea of music with this calliope of ideas, brilliantly executed across genres with little regard for structure or defined sound boundaries. Flutes versus analog synths for the breakdown of a thrash punk song? Yeah, it’s here. Lazy Magnet’s Jeremy Harris has a long history in the Providence music scene, explaining in part the broad dynamic of this album. In fact, it is nearly impossible to review this album from a referential or empirical perspective; it simultaneously expresses the frustrations of being a generation of ideas without a way to express them in new and genuine methods, while playing against the traditional archetype of marginalized music always maintaining only abrasive natures or particular melodies or scales. Lazy Magnet reminds us that soft rock, world sounds, glitch noise, free jazz, and punk are really a combinable set of media to those willing to accept it—especially the black-metal parts. –Ryan Powers

Less Than Jake
Reissues of Pezcore, Losers, Kings & Things We Don’t Understand, and Goodbye Blue and White
Sleep It Off Records
Street: 03.18
Less Than Jake = horns + goofiness + bleached hair + white-boy dreadlocks
Going back and listening to these early recordings by ska-punk icons Less Than Jake is a lot like thinking back on my high-school days: there are occasional moments of triumph, but they’re heavily outweighed by innumerable crippling defeats and poor decisions. There’s definitely something endearing about the feelings of teenage hopelessness coupled with the band’s high energy on songs like “Growing Up on a Couch” and “Liquor Store,” but sometimes with great youth comes great crappiness. Goofy-ass songs like “Yo-Yo Ninja Boy” and numerous intolerable covers, including but not limited to “I Think I Love You” and “867-5309,” make it hard to listen to a good chunk of these records. Each album includes a DVD featuring the modern-day LTJ performing their old albums in their entirety, but it’s more sad than cool. The past should probably stay in the past for Less Than Jake and their fans. – Ricky Vigil

Massive Conspiracy Against All Life
Moribund Records
Street: 03.24
Leviathan = Judas Iscariot + Burzum on Dimethyltryptamine
Among the immense amount of material that Wrest has released under his Leviathan moniker, this is only his third official full-length album. After an almost four-year wait, this has grown to be a highly anticipated release. With the least amount of tracks yet, it may be his most concise work to date and is certainly not lacking the same adventurous songwriting which seethes with caustic misanthropy and paranoia. The songwriting here is fueled with a relentless intensity which could arguably make this Leviathan’s most aggressive release yet. The second track, “Merging with Sword, Onto Them,” stands out because the first half holds a slower tempo than most of the rest of the album and calls forth an atmosphere similar to Wrest’s other project, Lurker of Chalice. If this is the last Leviathan album, it’s a hell of a way to go out … another requiem for a turd world. –Conor Dow

Little Beirut
High Dive
Street: 04.08
Little Beirut = The Rinse? + The Billionaires + The Silent Years
Why would you name your band after a statement that President George Bush Sr. said while visiting your hometown on his cutthroat travels of the United States? Also, why would you write a love song for Condoleeza Rice entitled “Love During Wartime”? Wow, I just can't take it seriously. It took me about three songs to figure out why I couldn't locate a record label insignia anywhere on the digipack, which probably cost them a pretty penny; nobody would pick the record up! Portland is a dope-ass city, but I don't get why people persist on drilling we’re you’re from into your brain before you even listen to the damn music. I figure that the music should speak for itself. Errrr, the music ... Nothing new here; simple bridges, uncomplicated choruses and elementary verses. Sorry, guys, but this album can jump from the “High Dive” into a bone-dry swimming pool. –Push Barrow

Rejoice in Morbidity (re-issue) 7”
Vice Core Records
Street: 05.06
Lividity = Skinless + Impaled + Carcass
Here is an early piece of gore-grind metal from Lividity, quite possibly one of the most underrated gore-grind bands in the U.S. I hope all you gore hounds have a record player because this re-release of Lividity’s Rejoice in Morbidity is only available in 7” form. While there are four short songs contained in this demo re-release, the content will make a bloody pulp of your brain. Lividity have always utilized samples in their music to create a sinister atmosphere and there are plenty of them to go around for these four cuts of morbid joy. The songs play the groove of gore-grind heavily and don’t skimp on any technicality in their music; while there is groove, there is massive speed and blast-beat-style drumming to fracture your bones. The production from this early release is strangely better than some of the band’s later records. All you collectors and gore-grind fans enjoy this chunk of Lividity history available for the first time in roughly 12 years. –Bryer Wharton

The Lonesome Kings
Legendary Suffering
Kaiser Records
Street: 4.2006
The Lonesome Kings = The Hellbillys + Fear + The Batfinks + Minor Threat
I’m a sucker for good album art and I’ve been burned many times because of it. Luckily, the sounds contained on Legendary Suffering are just as interesting as the cover that graces it. Mostly, the songs on this one contain a lot of anger and a lot of sleaze (Singer King Sleaze isn’t called that for nothin’). The title track is the strongest track on the album and is surprisingly well written. It’s not every day that a psychobilly song has memorable lyrics, after all. There is more of a punk-rock flavor on this album than I anticipated. A few songs reminded me of Fear in sleazy lyrical content and style, and the guitar often reminded me of Minor Threat in speed and sound. It’s not all balls-to-the-wall fast, though; “Pure Evil” is a mid-tempo number in which the band showcases their rockabilly influence with intricate guitarwork and “Let Me Die” is a slow, brooding song that closes out the album rather nicely. My one gripe is that the vocals are way too quiet. Other than that, this is a solid release that fans of punk rock heavy psychobilly will eat right up. –Aaron Day

Tragol de Rova
Robot Radio Records
Street: 10.02.2007
Lucertulas = These Arms Are Snakes + Mars Volta + Night Wounds
Lucertulas are obviously on a mission to blow your mind. They want to either blow you away, or at least blow away your mind, like blow it onto the floor. In any case, there is definitely blowing to be had; you will feel a general blowing or the feeling of having been blown in some way or fashion. But just where are these blowing winds blowing? They are blowing across the Atlantic towards the inattentive ear of Omar Alfredo (Hernandez-Guantanamo El-Dexterimo Fantastico) Rodriguez-Lopez, so as to say, “Omar amore, you like-a da music?” However, they don’t realize that Omar is busying himself with making music that will blow your mind back all over the 70s all over again. I don’t predict a response. However, should you care to intrude on this impassioned, imaginary dialogue, tune the hell in, and have your mind totally blown away to hell and back again. –Megavore

The Mae Shi
Team Shi Records
Street: 03.25
The Mae Shi = Animal Collective + Matt and Kim + Saturday morning cartoons
Exuberant is an understatement. The Mae Shi started in 2002 and have since traveled the world time and time again, playing in countless basements in order to share their version of distended happiness. Similar in feeling to Polyphonic Spree, these guys cut out the hippie aspect and add a little nerdiness in the way of countless Casio chops along with the expected accompaniment of vintage drum machines. This is not the core of the band, though, as they are very proficient in post-hardcore and punk by way of drums, bass and guitar. Add in choir vocals and crazy off-the-wall screaming and you have a mlange of cheerfulness, mania and musicianship. Andrew Glassett

Make a Rising
Infinite Ellipse and a Head With an Open Fontanel
High Two
Street: 05.06
Make a Rising = Palace of Buddies + The Fiery Furnaces + Mike Patton
Schitzophrenia. So hard to know exactly what is going on in that head of theirs. Is it a crazy house? Is it a romp in the forest? Is it an electronic wasteland with jingle bells? Is it a night at the Apollo? Make a Rising is a remarkable example of a modern experimental indie-pop orchestra that has found the right balance of musicianship, magic and dramatic flair. The music is insanely engaging and flows peacefully from one end to the other, encountering different colors and modes along the way. The songs are more like movements than anything else, coming across as a post-modern symphony written by John Adams and then performed by a talented traveling troupe of circus musicians. Captivating and surprisingly moving. Andrew Glassett

Man Man
Rabbit Habits
Street: 04.08
Man Man = Squirrel Nut Zippers + a poor Tom Waits vocal impersonator
On their third full-length album, Man Man reign in the raw materials of their tribal surrealism and sculpt concise, jazzy pop songs, resulting in their most easily accessible album yet. The devoted will see this as a maturation process, a refinement of their style and wax philosophical about the transformation of the band's deep inner sadness into wild sonic joy. I hear a bunch of Nickelodeon-friendly pseudo-Dadaists who didn't get the memo that the swing revival died years ago. As these guys are currently basking the rays of hipster approval, I'm not sure this humble reviewer will have much sway, so I'll just encourage skepticism among discerning listeners and implore folks to actually listen to Trout Mask Replica before dropping a Captain Beefheart reference. Jona Gerlach

Shipwrecked in a Bottle
Fistolo Records
Street: 03.11
Meisce = The Tossers + Flogging Molly + Blood Or Whiskey
It seems more often then not that all these Irish/Celtic/punk bands are trying way too hard to be the most Irish, like a group of high-schoolers hell-bent on popularity and the acceptance of others. During the first few listens of Meisce's latest release, Shipwrecked in a Bottle, two things are made apparent: 1. They are talented musicians and 2. Although at times it seems that they're pushing the drunken Irish theme too much, the music isn't bad. From slow balladry to drunken fits of rage, Meisce has a song to fit every mood. For those who are of this Irish folk/Celtic/punk persuasion, open up your mouths and drink in what Meisce has poured for you with Shipwrecked in a Bottle. Jeremy C. Wilkins

Napalm Records
Street: 03.28
Midnattsol = Leaves' Eyes + Theater of Tragedy + Nightwish
Germany's Midnattsol are a gothic metal band from Germany fronted by female vocalist Carmen Elise Espans, who is the sister of Liv Kristine Espens Krull of the more prominent Leaves' Eyes and Theater of Tragedy. While you won't hear anything completely different from the aforementioned projects, what is presented here is some solid metal with obvious gothic and folk influences. To me, several of the songs were forgettable, and almost all eclipsed by the very excellent "Konkylie," which brings forth memories from mid-era Dark Tranquillity and other melodic death-metal acts. Although I've mostly grown out of my Tristania and Sirenia records, I do still have a soft spot for well-written metal fronted by adept operatic female vocals. This will mostly appeal to the girls who dress in black, and love both anime and Nightwish. It's a decent listen and certainly worth picking up if you like the style at all. Conor Dow

Mike Doughty
Golden Delicious
Street: 02.19
ATO Records
Mike Doughty = Soul Coughing - soul
Mike Doughty was the ultimate badass. He was a music critic who got fed up with hearing the whiny Nirvana knockoffs that flooded his mailbox, soon quitting his job with a "No no, let me show you how it's done!" mantra, forming Soul Coughing and winning the hearts of hipster kids the world over. Then Mike Doughty became even more of a badass with a series of solo acoustic albums that were quirky and funny and surprisingly rocking all at once. Flash-forward to right now: in listening to the bland, overproduced, forced quirkiness of Golden Delicious, you have to wonder, "What the hell happened, Mike Doughty?" He used to be a beacon of oddball coolness; now he's making us cringe by singing terrible, terrible couplets like "I love your baby fat/Your crooked nose is where it's at." He even plunders his own back catalog by doing a totally unnecessary remake of one of his best songs ("27 Jennifers")here appearing for the third time on a Doughty solo disc. Save for the two-minute acoustic lament, "I Got the Drop On You," Golden is about as far from Delicious as you can get. Evan Sawdey

The Mooney Suzuki
Live June 29, 2001
MVD Audio/CBGB Records
Street: 03.18
The Mooney Suzuki = The Stooges + The Rolling Stones + The Pink Spiders + The New York Dolls
I don't feel as sold on this record as I thought I would, given the style of music TMS play, and though I'm slightly let down, I'm still going to recommend this to others who enjoy these garage rock/punk tunes l 60s and 70s rock. The performance is recorded from a show at the illustrious CBGB's in June of 2001 and features TMS in a good place in their early career; still vibrant, rambunctious and full of excitement. After studying up on the band, it's easy to see their career (musically) hit a huge slump due to many factorsnot too far off from this 2001 time periodand has never regained its original potency. Either way, this recording catches a great rock n' roll band with a lot of energy and great stage presence. I'd say, "Check it." Jeremy C. Wilkins

Mourning Beloveth
A Disease For the Ages
Prophecy North America/Grau
Street: 05.13
Mourning Beloveth = My Dying Bride + Candlemass + Cathedral
This is as doom-filled as doom metal gets and it comes from Ireland. Despite the band's name, that might suggest some type of gothic tone. A Disease for the Ages holds none of that style; it's all fully downtuned guitars filled with gloom and just a bunch of unpleasantness; that is why they call it doom metal, right? The songs are lengthy and it takes some time for the tunes to build and grow on youfirst impressions are too heavy with strife to fully sink in. The majority of the time the music is extremely slow, kind of like being stuck running in a pool of glue. Melodies somber as they may be seeping in, giving a much-needed break from the shattering guitars. The vocal dynamic is impressive and unique with harsh death growls and clean singing that sounds like the doom-metal brand of Candlemass, only if their singers were having a really bad day. Any music is supposed to stir up emotions and Mourning Beloveth bubble up from the black gunk on the bottom of the pot to bring you to depths of sorrow that you don't normally feel, but do it without causing you to cry too much. Bryer Wharton

Mr. Gnome
Deliver This Creature
El Marko
Street: 05.06
Mr. Gnome = Sleater-Kinney + Death From Above 1979 (sans ego)
Shame on you, reader! How dare you kidnap the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, lock them up in a basement, feed them a steady diet of nothing but Warhammer 48K and Nashville Pussy records for two months, then unleash them unto the world again as Mr. Gnome. Very naughty, reader! Mr. Gnome, despite indulging in the occasional art-rock number ("Rabbit," the very flowery closer "Tied"), is mainly here to rock, whether it be the trashy riff-fests of "Thief" or the pissed-off Kim Deal homage "I'm Alright." Mouthpiece Nicole Barille could easily front a Sleater-Kinney tribute band, but instead she stretches out into all kinds of styles, switching up tempos mid-song just enough times to make the Mars Volta blush. Yeah, it's a great disc filled with mighty power-chord muscle, but its success will only encourage you to kidnap more bands, reader. But don't worry: your secret is safe with us ... for now ... Evan Sawdey

Warner Brothers
Street: 04.01
Muse = Van Halen + Queen
(Scene: remote location, nekkid girls brandishing fans, illicit drugs and unimaginable feasts; the members of Muse in the center of it all.) Warner Brothers suggests a live album and vocalist/instrumentalist/badass nerd Matthew Bellamy responds, "Eh, we'll do it if it's Wembley and we're gonna play our biggest hits first to get them out of the way. Why?! Because we're Muse, dammit." Handshakes take place because, well, this is Muse, dammit, an outfit that quite possibly contains the last rockstars under the age of 35 who can, for good reason, sell out two nights of 75,000 fans; this is a band of virtuosos who 1) inspire droves to learn an instrument (and discourage those who already know how to play) 2) can actually attack subjects only Rush would dare approach, then mutate them into pop masterpieces. Owing that live recordings are generally a contractual obligation, how does Muse top this? Eh, back to the buffet. Dave Madden

Nathan Moomaw
Gazebo Music
Street: 05.13
Nathan Moomaw = Iron & Wine + Damien Jurado + soul searching
First of all, I adored this album because it reverberated with the soothing quality of Iron & Wine; secondly, because of the intriguing and original concept behind the album. Each song is titled after a month of the year, reflecting that specific month in a respective year of Nathan Moomaw's life. This album is folkie and eerie like Devendra Banhart, but is sublimely subdued and quirky like Kings of Convenience. Unpredictable at its best, 26 is an acoustic personal journey through Nathan Moomaw's most private thoughtsthink Fevers and Mirrors by Bright Eyes sans the depression. Instead of dark suicidal melodies, Moomaw uses lighthearted chimes, innocent guitar chords and laidback, Damien Jurado-esque vocals to convey a sense of heartbrokenness atop a sense of human accomplishment, making 26 one of my favorite acoustic lo-fi albums of 2008. Kristyn Lambrecht

New Bloods
The Secret Life
Kill Rock Stars
Street: 04.08
New Bloods = Liliput + Raincoats + a dash of Rachel's
It's time we listeners speak out: the spoken-word rock song, much like the rap-album skit, must be stopped. Too often you're listening to a record, say a new post-grrl-punk record, and you're kind of digging the spastic sounds, the unconventional use of violin, and then bam! You're hit with a pretentious bit of spoken word that destroys the flow to no real end. What is the point? What creative impulse leads people to do this? I've noticed a decline in skits on rap albums recently, proof that if we make our voices heard we can affect change. Speak out, listeners! Say loud and proud, "When I speak, I speak; and when I rock, I rock!" Jona Gerlach

Allergic to Heat
Corleone Records
Street: 05.29
Nightwounds = McClusky + Skeleton Key + Lightning Bolt This album is your clumsy first hand job. It is the first time you contemplated whether you had gay attraction to your best friend. It is the kid who films himself masturbating in a Mexican Luchador mask and then puts it up on Youtube. It is the sad sports fan that all but subconsciously refers to his favorite team as "we." It is the moment when you know that you are about to engage in sexual acts with someone that falls well below your loosely held standards. It is when you attempt to make fun of how someone sings and for the first time secretly think to yourself that you might have real singing talent. It is the hours you spend meticulously planning your outfit to look just like you don't give a shit, and you show up wearing an itchy polyester marching band uniform. Megavore

No Use for a Name
The Feel Good Record of the Year
Fat Wreck Chords
Street: 04.01
No Use for a Name = Lagwagon + The Vandals + Millencolin
The Feel Good Record of the Year may not be the feel-good record of the year, but it may have been the feel-good record of 1995. Like many other aging punk bands, No Use for a Name seems to be trying to win back old fans by recreating the sounds of their glory days. They're not entirely unsuccessful here, but this record sounds dated even at its best. "I Want to Be Wrong" and the title track recapture the driving energy and general catchiness of NUFAN's best work, but most of the record is kinda bland. The acoustic "Sleeping Between Trucks" and the piano-driven "Ontario" are enjoyable deviations from NUFAN's tried-and-true pop-punk path, but they don't generate enough excitement to save the album. The Feel Good Record of the Year is far from horrible, but it definitely doesn't hold up to its name. Ricky Vigil

The Panderers
Hotshot's Boy
Snack Bar Records
Street: 02.21
The Panderers = late-era Van Morrison + Matchbox Twenty
When The Smiths began making major waves in Britain, it wasn't long before a slew of monosyllabic knock-off bands began popping up with names like Suede and James, each one garnering hearty endorsements from Morrissey, a man as obsessed with his own influence as he was his styling crme. Flash-forward to now: former Soul Coughing frontman Mike Doughty has formed his own vanity record label and decided to make his first signee ... (wait for it) ... a band that sounds a lot like Soul Coughing! No wait, even better: crappy, acoustic Soul Coughing! It's not that singer Scott Wynn's songs are badthey're just remarkably uninteresting, lacking any sort of gravitas or genuine emotional payoff. Wynn's only real calling card is his sandpaper vocal chords, but even then he doesn't wail on them as much as he should/could (only during "Shane" does he really let loose). Give him credit, though: his band's name couldn't be more fitting. Evan Sawdey

Be Gone
Cruz Del Sur
Street: 04.29
Pharaoh = Iced Earth + Control Denied + Iron Maiden
There is some wicked guitar work encompassed in this outstanding release from Pharaoh. In a way, it reminds me a great deal of later Iced Earth in its instrumentation and its vocal style, which is slightly similar but actually carries more range and emotion than Iced Earth has done in the later part of their career. No offense to the mighty Tim "Ripper" Owens. Then again, it's no surprise, since vocalist Tim Aymar sang for the amazing Control Denied. Amongst all the power-metal goodness, there is also that progressive vibe just in the guitars, meaning that each song is unique with its own sound and story to tell. Overall, there is just that epic metal feel without coming off as cheesy or contrived. I could listen to the cut "Buried at Sea" all damn day. Finding a band that utilizes every ounce of their mettle to craft each song with technical savvy and great use of hooks, melodies, and ranged vocal assaults is rare and when it happens, you cherish every one of those little musical notes, riffs and whatever else strikes your fancy. Hold on to your butts, power-metal fans, this record is one to get excited about. Bryer Wharton

Everything Is Alive
Street: 05.13
Pomegranates = Happy music + sad lyrics + a bummed-out picnic in the sun
I didn't think it was possible to fill as much sunshine into music like this and be so severely down on the world and relationships. I feel bad for the guys in Pomegranates; all they really want in the whole world is to be happy, but apparently, all the rotten people they keep interacting with are totally screwing them over. Nevertheless, that hasn't gotten them so melancholy that they can't make music that makes you feel good. If Rooney, The Cranberries, The All American Rejects and Anathallo had a smiling contest, it would sound like these guys having band practice. The contradiction of lyrical matter and musical feeling on this album is definitely the most interesting original aspect of this album. If people start treating Pomegranates with some courtesy and kindness, they will probably make the most angriest, meanest music accompanied with the happiest, most inspiring lyrics of all time. Jon Robertson

Porcupine Tree
Nil Recurring EP
Peaceville Records
Street: 02.19
Porcupine Tree = Pink Floyd + a whole new modern take on progressive rock
Porcupine Tree have been delivering prog-rock greatness for many years and have created a huge following. Their earlier albums didn't focus as much on the heavier guitar but more on soft melodies; the newer era of the band incorporates those heavy guitar moments with their past talent at crafting beautifully complex yet somehow simple melodies. This EP is a follow-up to their full-length, Fear of a Blank Planet. The songsfour strongare all lengthy, giving the EP almost more of a full-length album appeal than just a simple short EP. The music continues themes played out on their previous effort but actually tosses in more groove-laden guitar work. The songs are technically and downright amazing, all embodying performances only Steve Wilson and his Porcupine crew could concoct. This is a worthy predecessor to the stellar Fear of a Blank Planet. Please, Porcupine Tree, keep shattering the boundaries of prog rock and keep being busy as you've been releasing record after record of stunning musicianship with limitless potential. This, my prog-rock friends, is ... well, prog-rock heaven! Bryer Wharton

Power Quest
Master of Illusion
Napalm Records
Street: 05.13
Power Quest = Dragonforce + Avantasia
Born from members of Dragon Heart (now Dragonforce), Steve Williams, who actually founded the band, was the original keyboardist before Dragon Heart changed their name and now has become hugely popular. Former guitarist and current Dragonforce member Sam Totman helped the band in its early years. Power Quest is, without any question, whatsoever traditional/modern power metal, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. The style of their music is a style that thousands of bands play; symphonic keyboards with epic guitars and those cheesy-but-catchy vocal choruses. With a few power-metal acts that use keyboards, they seem to just toss them in and are out of place with the music. But Power Quest, with utmost excellence, intermingle those keyboards with their music, giving in that much more of a big, epic feel. "Civilised?" is one extremely catchy tune that has a replay factor that never gets old. As any good power-metal band knows, it's key to play music with power at its core. Power Quest go above and beyond to deliver that big sound for every power-metal hungry fan there is out there. Bryer Wharton

Shalina Music
Switchstance Recordings
Street: 05.16
Protassov = Tommy Guerrero + Clutchy Hopkins + a splash of Hendrix
This CD is an eclectic mix for all tastes. It has an acoustic undertone while letting other genres of music bleed in and out of the sounds composed by Stefan Fuss. From electronica to reggae and all the way to hip-hop, you can't help but wonder what the musical genius could possibly want his music classified under. Prostassov hails from a remote location near Essen, Germany, and it definitely shows in the music as well. I like how upbeat it is without going overboard and how even the slow songs aren't mellow enough to put you to sleep. In my mind, I can picture his melodies in a slow-motion montage part in a Transworld Skateboarding video or something to that effect. This album is a definite must-buy for the upcoming summer season, because if you don't own a guitar, who is gonna come over unless they hear an acoustic guitar in the background when you call them? adam dorobiala

The Problem is Not a Problem Anymore
Cerebral Cliff Records
Street: 2008
Putois = Mason Jennings+Amos Lee+Joe Lally+Dustin Kensrue (solo work)+dark, atmospheric gloom folk
Bob Mason, operating under the pseudonym Putois, has provided music listeners a brand of folk that is unique and irresistible. His latest release, The Problem Is Not a Problem Anymore, provides a dark, gloomy and atmospheric journey through an emotional wonderland of despair with small glimmering lights of hope throughout. This is a mature piece of work, by a very talented artist. From the more upbeat (definitely not happy by any stretch of the imagination, though) opening track, Safe Again, to the last piano and harmonica-driven track, The Lonely Traveler, Mason weaves a difficult path of contemplative and meaningful music and does it with ease and better than most. Jeremy C. Wilkins

Rachel Taylor Brown
Half Hours With The Lower Creatures
Cutthroat Pop
Street: 05.06
Regina Spektor + The Beatles (White Album) + Kate Bush = Rachel Taylor Brown
Rachel Taylor Brown starts you off with the assurance, "You're alright/This will only hurt a bit," and then proceeds to take your senses for one helluva ride. This album features everything from a mini rock-opera (Abraham and Isaac), to Hemocult: seven minutes of white noise taken from a mall, layered together with ethereal vocals and toy piano accompaniment. Light and bouncy melodies and haunting ballads offset strikingly political and spiritual lyrics so that the album is never weighed down or comes across as preachy. Brown has put together a bold, highly intelligent album that no one, musician or poet, should miss. Kat Kellermeyer

Ready Fire Aim
This Changes Nothing
Expansion Team Records
Street: 05.27
Ready Fire Aim = Old-school Depeche Mode + New-school Depeche Mode + Fischerspooner
"Is this Depeche Mode with a new singer?" I thought a few minutes into This Changes Nothing. The similarities are all there: heavy electronic effects, drum machines and reverberating synthesizers up the ass. Even chimes/pipe-clanging make appearances in some songs. Ready Fire Aim happen to add more computerized trickery and slicker production tools than some bands from that era, which changes it up in a very good way. Ready Fire Aim's last few tracks infuse the album with darker elements and lyrics to match. "My will to be entertained is stronger than my will to survive" is one of singer Sage Rader's observations that juxtapose modern life with "natural man" (a disappointing paradox I find myself in occasionally): a sentiment the band slyly, and competently, invoke over pulsing bass and Asian string samples for a satisfying concoction. jon "jp" paxton

Warner Brothers
Street: 03.29
R.E.M. = Monster + New Adventures in Hi Fi
R.E.M.'s last effort, Around the Sun, was one good song ("Leaving New York") and a bunch of garbage. If the And I Fell Fine collection of their first decade hadn't slotted in between then and now, it would have been easy to forget that there was a time when R.E.M. were exciting. Accelerate is a return to form; less introspective, more distorted, pushed on by ex-Ministry drummer Bill Rieflin and the addition of guitarist Scott McCaughey. It has an immediacy the band has lacked for years. ryan michael painter

Decaying Heads of the Holy
Street: 05.06
Saetith = Cryptopsy + Deicide
Every now and then, you come across one of those undiscovered gems in lifeas far as death metal goes, Saetith is one of those gemsnot shiny and bright though, clouded, dirty, scratched and scathed. These guys are definitely label-worthy, taking sheer technicality of old Cryptopsy and then just killing everything with a brutal pounding in its most literal sense. Yeah, they may play on musical themes that have been done before; Satanism in the lyrics, blastbeats galore, death growls and hallowed screams. But if you can do something right, you might as well damn do it. The five songs on this band's debut full-length should leave any death-metal connoisseur drooling blood. The technicality portion of Saetith is astounding alone; they could have done the record brimming with all that fun, great guitar stuff, but they also threw in some demolition-style grooves and a touch of atmosphere to just give it that brutal l mode feeling. For an unsigned band, production here is stellar; instruments are heard clearly but the lo-fi feeling fits. I'd much rather listen to something murky-sounding, like it came from the abyss than a Pro Tools, drum-triggered multi-tracked record. Put on your evil hat and do the death metal dance because Saetith has released a record that is as technical as it is fun in its death-metal appetites. Bryer Wharton

Kill Twee Pop!
Slumberland Records
Street: 04.22
Sarandon = Indie pop indie pop
With their goal being stated as "to save indie from wetness, knee-jerk twee posturing and careless cardigan-wearing," this British trio sure does have a lot to live up to. At first listen, these guys may come across as embodying everything that they seem to hate, but that all wears off after these great tunes start to digest. What we have here is a solid post-punk/indie album, teeming with all-around epic instrumentation that shies away from as many tired clichs as you can think of. Their lyrics are not only creative, but comically angry (in a good way) and consistently enjoyable. To top that all off, all of the songs are varied, short and sweet, allowing Sarandon to fit as much twee-hating angriness as possible into such a great little listen. Ross Solomon

Shy Child
Noise Won't Stop
Kll Rock Stars
Street: 05.05
Shy Child = Japanther + Denim and Diamonds + Experimental Dental School
Shy Child justifies their existence with an outstanding debut following extensive world tours with Muse, Klaxons, and Hot Chip. The spazzy electro carries a very punk attitude, but unlike the Maeshi or other more abrasive acts, the sound is actually polished and decidedly repetitive, almost chant-like in repetition. Although the vocals are couched comfortably behind the array of electro arpeggios and house beats, the simplistic lyrics resonate as a perfect fit for the light-spirited genuine fun of the album. SpankRock makes a vocal appearance on "Kick Drum" to bring even more cred to this already universally supported album. That being said, don't go looking for club hits on this release (with maybe the exception of "Astronaut"), the avante-rock vibe is decidedly focused towards a more scattered experience; however, I wouldn't be surprised to see some excellent remixes come from this album. Ryan Powers

West Texas
Doghouse Records
Street: 04.22
Sleepercar = Wilco + Old 97's + alt-country/rock/Americana
It's always interesting to consider the genealogy of a band or artist. In the case of Sleepercar, it is as follows: At The Drive-In shows up in or around 1993, breaks up in 2001, the prominent members go on from there to form prog-rock juggernauts The Mars Volta and indie-rock champions Sparta, and from Sparta, Jim Ward's side project Sleepercar is born. Though Sparta is still actively releasing albums and touring, Ward has found an outlet for all his alt-country and Americana musings to be released through. Though fans of ATDI and Sparta might not appreciate these tunes as much as say, fans of bands similar to Wilco, Sleepercar is a solid band with talent that deserves to be taken seriously. Part country, part rock, part Americana, there is something for everybody and true fans of music will see West Texas for what it is: a good album. Jeremy C. Wilkins

Snoop Dogg
Ego Trippin'
Doggystyle/ Geffen Records
Street: 03.11
Snoop Dogg= Old Snoop +synthesizers + Da Sticky Icky
Calvin Broadus (a.k.a. Snoop Dogg) is back for his ninth studio album and let me tell you, it's just like your drug dealer; he's got your highs, mediums and lows. Ego Trippin' is a mix of techno-type dance songs laced with gang-related lyrics. At first I wasn't very fond of the record, but the more I listened to it, the more I started to appreciate the music. It's hard to believe that he has only cut 9 records in his 16-year-long career, but I guess it's quality, not quantity, that matters most to the Dogg. I especially enjoy the song entitled "Sexual Eruption" for the mere fact that he was able to name a song after the blood rush/sexual experience more commonly known as an orgasm. Snoop, as always, has a fresh outlook on his record, saying, "It's just me doing me." So if you have a few extra bucks in your pocket and have enjoyed his last few releases, you might want to roll up a blunt and sit back and enjoy Snoop's cool, classy lyrical genius at work. adam dorobiala

Songs in A&E
Street: 05.27
Spiritualized = Southern Gospel + Acoustic Space Rock + Atmospheric Interludes
Songs in A&E could polarize critics and fans alike. Inspired by the sound of a vintage guitar and delayed by life-threatening sickness, the latest adventure from Jason Spaceman is a departure, but only slightly: even a stripped-back Spiritualized album sounds like a sermon from space. Some will complain about the sparse arrangements, a lack of overwhelming feedback and the instrumentals that drift in between. Others will praise it simply because of the epic, heart-tugging story it took to come out. Songs in A&E is not Spiritualized's best album, but it is far from a disappointment. It is passionate, honest and often as frightening as it is beautiful and bares all the promise of a great live show, just like a Spiritualized album should. ryan michael painter

Promo 2008
Street: 05.06
Soulitary = Iron Maiden + Kreator
Brazil's Soulitary have unleashed their newest material for the world with this four-track promo. With it comes promise of a stellar band playing a unique brand of progressive thrash metal. Finely produced in every aspect, with each instrument including vocals playing an important role in these select four tracks. The speed is a bonus to the well-crafted songwritingeach song is unique in its melodies and diverse vocal nature. There are sung and screamed vocals; the style itself is highly unique and infectious as a cold, meaning like it or not, once you hear these songs, you're sick with envy and an attitude that can only mean raising your devil horns high. It's impossible to ignore great guitarwork when you hear it. If it were humanly possible, I'd roll around in the great guitar solos all day just to get their potency on me and make my ear for music better. All in all, fan of thrash or progressive metal, ready your hails to Brazil and bang your head to Soulitary's mighty offering to the metal gods. Bryer Wharton

Promo 2008
Street: 04.22
Splattercraft = Impaled + Exhumed
This self-released three-track promo/demo serves as one way to preview upcoming material from Splattercraft's upcoming full-length from Aural Offerings Records. The promo itself is a release on its own. The three songs displayed here only show promise for the realm of gore/grind and death metal. At its very heart, there is an early Carcass influence, but they stem off from that, using styles that bands like Impaled and Exhumed had had success from. While there is nothing groundbreaking in these three songs, there is huge solace and supreme metal brutality. The band is heavy on the groove factor, with few solos or leads on some songs, then some in others. "Zombiegrade" is by far the best cut of the three, utilizing some thrash style and ultimately showing the best direction as far as the band standing out from the rest of the gore-metal pack. Wrapping up the grooving and thrashy guitar package are some deep, guttural growls with some higher-pitched scowling both infused well together and seamlessly playing off each other. Enjoy the preview from Splattercraft because I'm sure there's a lot more fun brutality to follow. Bryer Wharton

The Sump Pumps
Revenge of the Sump Pumps
8 Bit Records
Street: 05.13
The Sump Pumps = The Adolescents + Devo + The Epoxies - Roxy Epoxy
Imagine eating something from McDonald's on gourmet bread. The outsides are exceptional, and the inside is nothing special. Revenge of the Sump Pumps, which starts off with "Space Camp," one of the best punk-rock songs I've heard since I was very young, fizzles out with a string of forgettable tracks, then finishes up with two more outstanding tracks: "Shortest Fuse," which sounds like they plugged their Kid Icarus cart into their amp, and "Project Celebrity." These guys are original, but this album is frustrating because it could have been one that people remembered forever. Imagine a sound like Devo, except mixed with early hardcore. It is an interesting sound, but the songs aren't diverse enough to keep this album fresh. Still, I feel like I can recommend this, because the standout tracks are really great. "Space Camp" is worth the price of admission alone. Aaron Day

Sun Plexus 2
En souvenir de l'horreur
Street: 02.01
Sun Plexus 2 = Metal Urbain + Naked City
A new hypothesis: Any band that shows you their dicks on their press release is bound to be awesome, and these guys are no exception. Self-styled purveyors of "anal core," this French trip make terrifyingly exciting noise, smartly balancing pummeling riffs and negative space to create a massive, lurching beast of a record. Much like the oceanic whirlpool that adorns the gatefold case, Sun Plexus 2 come off as a force of nature as mesmerizing as it is destructive. I only wonder why they aren't more well known Stateside. Fans of all things noisy, heavy and wrong have a new favorite record here. Jona Gerlach

Into the Trees
Absolutely Kosher
Street: 05.20
Sybris = pretty much any indie-pop band from the 90s
From the first chiming chord of "Oh Man!" you'll feel right at home with this record. Sybris traffics in familiarity without being terribly specific. Sure, the vocals sound like Joanna Newsom, but the music itself is suggestive of pretty much every jangly early to mid-90s indie-rock group. Its virtue lies in how comfortable the sound is; unfortunately, it's also the downside. Into the Trees is just too comfortable, leading to listener complacency. Sybris, like the local bar band that is omnipresent but will never leave their zip code, is best as background music: It doesn't really impress but it doesn't piss you off, either. Jona Gerlach

The T4 Project
Story-Based Concept Album
Mental Records
Street: 05.13
The T4 Project = Strung Out + Bad Religion + Pennywise
Featuring members of bands as diverse as The Buzzcocks, The Circle Jerks and Subhumans, the T4 Project is a punk-rock supergroup dedicated to unifying past and present generations by creating a community based on rebellion. The actual story behind Story-Based Concept Album is a bit lame (some punks falls in love, people oppress them, the girl dies, the guy dies), but the music is pretty good. Jason Cruz of Strung Out handles the vocals, so the songs tend to sound pretty similar to that band's output, but backing vocals by Kirsten Patches of Naked Aggression and newcomer Shannon Saint Ryan give the T4 Project a unique edge. Fake commercials interspersed between songs and cool illustrations in the CD booklet round out the package, creating a world behind the album. The T4 Project may not be the groundbreaking, revolutionary force that they hope it to be, but they're pretty damn good. Ricky Vigil

Thomas Function
Alive Records
Street 03.11
Thomas Function = The Hives + The Willowz
There is no better way to title this album, since it is indeed, quite the celebration. What a relief to hear artists enjoying life and not making music about how much high school sucks. Thomas Function automatically hypnotizes you into shaking your feet all around, and I'm not talking about doing the Hokey Pokey. I still can't figure out if it makes me want to square dance or put some groove in my step. It's easily decided once I ask myself "What would Will Sartain do?" since Celebration is an album quite similar to The Future of the Ghost. I believe Will would want me to dance like mad and maybe rip open my shirt and cut my hair. I'm not that brave yet, but I'll start practicing. Lyuba Basin

The Alchemy Index: Vols. III & IV Earth & Air
Vagrant Records
Street: 04.15
Thrice = folk + rock + experimental
In 2002 or early 2003, when I was first introduced to Thrice, I never thought I'd be using the word "folk," to describe their sound. But alas, here I am in 2008 and the metamorphosis of Thrice is at its most advanced phase. The second half of Thrice's Alchemy Index, compromised of the Earth & Air discs, shows almost no resemblance to the band I fell in love with, coming closer to guitarist/vocalist Dustin Kensrue's solo material on Please Come Home from early 2007. While Air is something of a blend of all four EPs without any of the screaming found on Fire, Earth is totally stripped down (even recorded mostly in an empty wood-floored room) and most similar to Kensrue's solo work. Thrice have proved they are accomplished and talented musicians that can do it all, but now the hardest part comes: What will they do next? Jeremy C. Wilkins

Total Chaos
Avoid All Sides
Punk Core Records
Street: 03.11
Total Chaos = GBH + The Virus + The Unseen
Although the new Total Chaos release is far from original, it accomplishes what a good punk album should. It's fast paced and by its close it's very clear that the band is pissed off by the current state of politics and the world we live in. The album is anti-authority, anti-Iraq war and anti-conservative politics, but is also typically unintelligently delivered. Like their previous albums, Avoid All Sides is chockful of aggressive sing-alongs with choruses simple enough that any wasted young punk can easily scream along with them. Total Chaos has mastered the punk-rock formula, and while this album is far from groundbreaking, it is sure to please their fans. Jeanette Moses

Various Artists
Soundtrack to Oblivion
Kaiser Records
Street: 5.2006
Soundtrack to Oblivion = what's right and appealing about psychobilly
The liner notes included in this album contain an extremely lofty claim: That Soundtrack to Oblivion is the Hell's Bent on Rockin' of the new millennium. After I finished scoffing and actually gave this thing a listen, I could see that they were well justified to make such a claim. Nearly every track on this thing is ace, not to mention that many were previously unreleased or alternate versions. Evil Devil's "Way of Damnation" is an outstanding track, as is The Nightstalkers' "Catch of the Day." Cosmic Voodoo rounds this collection out with an unreleased version of "Vertigo" that's on par with all of their other material in terms of quality. My favorite track is The Blazers' "Rubber Girl." The fact that there is even a Blazers song on this thing is proof that the people who call the shots at Kaiser Records have a deep love for and understanding of psychobilly. Kaiser has a reputation for being very discerning when it comes to what they put out. This release demonstrates that fact. Kaiser is the best psychobilly label on the planet. Period. Trust me; you can afford to drop a five-spot on this one. Aaron Day

Walter Meego
Almost Gold Recordings
Street: 05.27
Walter Meego = Mika + I Monster + Justice
After Mika blew my ears out with his happiness, I knew I was never going to be the same. However, after a few hours, I was sick of floating on the clouds with the Care Bears. What Mika happened to lack is edge and that is where Walter Meego steps in and puts his foot in the door. It is a miracle love child conceived by Mika and Ratatat, throwing in sugar and spice. Voyager comes out at the perfect time. It's like the album is going to be able to sprinkle down some magic dust and make the flowers bloom, even defying the bipolar weather patterns we experience in Utah. I know we're all ready to start dancing again and Walter Meego is the perfect candidate to help us put our dancing shoes back on, or in my case ... boots. (Urban lounge: 6.26) Lyuba Basin

Warrel Dane
Praises to the War Machine
Century Media
Street: 05.13
Warrel Dane = Nevermore + Sanctuary
Warrel Dane has fronted three bands throughout his career with success in all of them, but notably, Nevermore is the longest-running act of the three. It is in Nevermore where Dane gained his respect as a vocalist and developed a huge following of fans. Like all great metal vocalists, it's only natural to at least try a solo act even if your current band is at the top of its game. With Praises to the War Machine, Dane's voice is showcased in all its splendor and ability. The range he uses is massive and, while typically rooted in traditional metal, he has a unique style that puts forth his message lyrically with this album and emotionally like many vocalists only wish they could. Dane's vocals are pronounced in two themes: a sinister part and a very harmonious range, with little stylistic differences within those themes. This debut solo record showcases every bit of his past range, but also brings forth new styles that not only traditional metalheads but other metal fans will appreciate. And for hell's sake, please don't count out his backing band for this record. It has slight Nevermore moments, but it mostly takes on its own shape, all played with conviction, skill and amazing creativity. So what do you get when you mix great vocals with great music? Well, obviously, a hell of a great album. Bryer Wharton

You.May.Die.In.The.Desert & Gifts From Enola
Harmonic Motion - Volume I
Differential Records
Street: 03.18
Both bands = Explosions in the Sky + Mogwai + 65daysofstatic + etc.
The album art on this little split is absolutely TERRIBLE. The music inside is entirely the opposite, and probably one of the nicest surprises I've had all month. I still didn't know what to expect even after reading the press release, but from the moment I put the album in my car CD player, I don't think it was removed for nearly a week. We have two bands here, You.May.Die.In.The.Desert and Gifts From Enola, the former from Washington, performing instrumental rock reminiscent of Explosions in the Sky and Minus the Bear, the latter from Virginia, with a bit of a darker, heavier take on things, not unlike 65daysofstatic or even ISIS. The split is just under an hour in length and will likely please fans of any of the bands I've mentioned above. Extra credit goes to YMDITD for including a Mystery Science Theater 3000 reference as one of their song titles. Fantastic. Conor Dow