National CD Reviews – May 2010

Deathwish Inc.
Street: 04.13
108 = Inside Out + Burn + Trap Them
108 had a strong comeback a few years ago with A New Beat From a Dead Heart. 18.61 marks the next (and possibly final) album in their short reunited tenure (as it has been revealed that vocalist Robert Fish has left the band). Robert Fish has the market cornered on pissed vocals and shred them he does on this release. Musically, 108’s style has always been a little different than their peers, which is part of the draw. The guitar and bass’s interplay is in top form on 18.61 and finds 108 with a more stripped-down sound. The album was recorded analog, which has much to do with the live raw feel overall and proves to be a prudent stylistic choice. Whereas A New Beat from a Dead Heart was a tour de force return for a band that was absent for a decade, 18.61 finds them releasing a 108 record plain and simple. This makes the album less exciting than its predecessor, but a noteworthy entry in 108’s catalog nonetheless.  –Peter Fryer

Nous Reviendrons Immortels
Paragon Records
Street: 03.09
Aldaaron = Aosoth + Vinterland + Otargos + Forteresse
If you call yourself a metal nerd, you probably find yourself loving bands out of specific countries more than others, much like wine collectors or your average pornographer. I really enjoy the aggressive and melodic brand of excellent black metal that Aldaaron, who hail from France, have to offer. Instead of being all about boring ol’ Satan, they have said the art they create is influenced by everything between winter and philosophy. These influences really show in the cold atmosphere presented with melodies that continually intertwine at an almost always tearing pace. This includes several moments of frozen, faint acoustic guitar which never interrupt the ferocity each song has to offer. The grim vocals and some carefully placed mournful chant moments are handled by Ioldar and Voldr, who impressively both perform guitar as well. This is enjoyable all the way through. –Conor Dow

All Leather
When I Grow Up I Wanna Fuck Like a Girl
Dim Mak
Street: 03.16
All Leather = Lords of Acid x the worst teenage garage band you ever heard
Blippy and very hard electronic screamo with old-school punk screaming by Justin Pearson (the Locust, Holy Molar, Head Wound City) and a backing track consisting entirely of Nathan Joyner (Some Girls) and Jung Sing (Maniqui Lazer) jabbing at some drums and guitars and electronics that surely never did anything to deserve this kind of abuse, this new and first complete album by All Leather is certainly not going to be to everyone’s taste. Unfortunately, the band seems to believe that if you do “crazy” things on Jerry Springer’s show and use bad words, fame will follow—songwriting and thought be damned! Claiming to be thrash no-wave noise hardcore whatever doesn’t make it so. Listen to this while picking your nose to annoy your little sister. –Madelyn Boudreaux

Archie Bronson Outfit
Street: 03.01
Archie Bronson Outfit = Jay Munly + The Fall + Jim Morrison + Ennio Morricone
Diving into amped-up hillbilly psychedelia on their third album, this English trio reportedly created some 50 minidiscs of music in a farmhouse basement and then picked the best 11. Produced by Tim Goldsworthy (Death From Above), the songs swing from menacing trance-inducing mindfucks like “Magnetic Warrior” and “Wild Strawberries,” driven by drummer Mark Cleveland’s relentless rhythm and Dorian Hobdoy’s spacey bass, to trippy, stripped-down jangles such as “Chunk” and “Hunt You Down.” With its countrified chugging and howled vox by guitarist and vocalist Sam Windett, the first single, “Shark’s Tooth,” brings to mind David Eugene Edwards. The whole package is risky and drenched in grunge, yet surprisingly poppy and appealing. –Madelyn Boudreaux

Audio Bullys
Higher than the Eiffel
Street: 05.18
Cooking On Vinyl
Audio Bullys = The Streets + Lilly Allen + Pendulum
If the above band equation makes you sick up in your mouth a little, you should stand well clear of one of the UK’s top-charting bands of the moment. Combining the above styles into one may sound messy, but Audio Bully pull it off. I don’t think most Americans will dig this, even really dance-driven fans, or maybe I’m influenced by the fact that I’m not accustomed to the “new way” the pop-Brits are singinglike Brits, replete with accentswhat happened to pandering to American audiences? Maybe America should blitz London so the US can win the hearts, minds and accents from our cousins to the east. –JP

Avi Buffalo
Avi Buffalo
Street: 04.27
Avi Buffalo = MGMT + The Shins
I feel like whomever chose to use “What’s in it for Me?” as the first single for this album was not thinking logically. It certainly isn’t that it’s the catchiest, or most marketable song; it’s most distinguishable quality is how much it sounds like MGMT. The album sounds a lot like the songs on Oracular Spectacular that weren’t so heavy on the synth. That being said, the album has some pretty good songs.  I feel like  “One Last” is the most accessible song on the album (his vocals sound a lot better when he is almost whispering), but it doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the album. The female vocals are good, but should have been used less sparingly. The songwriting and guitar work are great, especially for a 19-year-old kid. –Cody Hudson

The Pusher
Agonia Records
Street: 05.25
Beissert = Neurosis (early) + Nevermore + Goatsnake + Clutch
Welcome, friends, and enter the mystical never-void musical genre black hole that is Germany’s Beissert’s sophomore album The Pusher. There are musical styles that typically don’t play nice together, being melded here in harmonious destructive actions that not only smash down barriers but listeners’ comfort zones of what their preconceived notions of what certain subgenres should entail. One second The Pusher is thrashing it all to hell; the next they’re sludging it out doom and stoner style, and then the oddball heavy-metal actions pop in coupled with classic rockin’ upbeat styles. It all happens in some instances in the blink of an eye, in a non-identity crisis way. One would complain that you can’t have an upbeat song right next to something doomy and scary or violently heavy, but it all fits. It’s epically delicious and contributes something to my ears that’s never been heard before. Give this one listen and you’ll be hooked like a trucker on uppers drinking whiskey. –Bryer Wharton

Black Breath
Heavy Breathing
Southern Lord
Street: 03.30
Black Breath = Entombed + The Accused + Discharge
There really isn’t anything wrong with being bluntly straightforward with what you do. Seattle’s Black Breath aren’t out to reinvent the wheel with Heavy Breathing in any way, shape or form. The album is highly reminiscent of classic Swedish death-metal bands including Entombed, and mixes it up with thrash-metal pacing and a hardcore/punk-tinged core and vocal styles. This, unfortunately, isn’t one of those records you’re going to hate or like; most likely you’ll sit in the middle ground. They come up with some good down-tuned riffing and nicely speedy guitar leads, but I can’t help but come back to Entombed—it sounds really similar to them, just with a more annoying one-style vocalist. Basically, if you enjoy any era of Entombed or like crust with your metal and hardcore, Black Breath’s Heavy Breathing is worth a listen. –Bryer Wharton

Black Francis
Cooking Vinyl
Street: 03.30
Black Francis  = Connells + Jerry Lee Lewis + Social Distortion - Nirvana
Continuing his style of rough-cut gems in solid gold settings, Frank Black (Frank Black and the Catholics, Pixies) croons and whoops through another fantastic solo album which will be released with a film by Beggars Velvet’s Judy Jacob, visual creator for Black’s last tour. In his unlikely falsetto, with a gift guitar doused in red wine (apparently he uses vino for cleaning), Black covers the topic of sex, but of course not in the usual ways. This is exactly what we expect from the Pixies’ frontman: straight-ahead rock n’ roll for thinking punks, with all the emotional rawness and glee that goes along with the world’s most popular activity. The album delivers lush sax-and-violin moments of “Rabbits” and pogo-inspiring rave-ups like “Dead Man’s Curve” and “Six Legged Man,” but there’s nothing crass here—for all of his punk cred, the man is a romantic at heart. –Madelyn Boudreaux

Coheed & Cambria
Year of the Black Rainbow
Street: 04.13
Coheed & Cambria = Rush + 3 + At the Drive In
It was gonna be hard for Coheed & Cambria to top their last album, Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume Two: No World for Tomorrow, but somehow they have, only in a different way. The band has tightened up their writing and structures on Year of the Black Rainbow. This is their first realease with new drummer Chris Pennie, formerly of The Dillinger Escape Plan, and it is a huge improvement from their former drummer. Adding the amazing drumming abilities of Pennie was the last piece that the band needed to bring them up to the energy and complexity that their prog-rock songs deserved. Lyrically, Year of the Black Rainbow is a prequel to their ongoing space-action soap opera known as The Armory Wars. This story is crazy complex, so I won’t get into it. Just know it’s dramatic and that this album is dope. (Murray Theatre: 05.10) – Jon Robertson 

The Crinn
Dreaming Saturn
Nuclear Blast
Street: 04.20
The Crinn = Behold… The Arctopus + The Dillinger Escape Plan + Botch
What does a bunch of worthless, jazzed, math-type guitar doodling and a guy screaming add up to? It’s mathcore! Minnesota’s The Crinn use different musical time signatures equating to dissonant and off-kilt sounding melodies, creating a chaotic yet somehow progressive and textured sound. I have no doubts that the band can play their instruments well, but experimenting around and just coming up with riff after riff and probably thinking to themselves while writing, “this sounds out there let’s try this riff,” is probably what came over The Crinn. This style has been done better, namely by Botch and TDEP, because their songs and albums actually derived an emotional response, whereas Dreaming Saturn is all improvisation and no panache; there’s no musical journey, it’s just a mishmash of dissonant melodies, one after one the other, and no flow of songwriting. Maybe this album would be worth something if the band focused as much on songwriting as they did on playing as technically proficient as they do. –Bryer Wharton

Daniel Lioneye
The End Records
Street: 04.27
Daniel Lioneye = HIM + White Zombie + Acid Bath + Korn + Pantera
I’m not quite sure what this is supposed to be other than god-awful music. Maybe the correct term would be gothcore, I’m not sure. It seems as if Daniel Lioneye is having a huge identity crisis with this record. He mixed way too many styles, ending up in a melting pot of horrible sounds, creating an album that makes you cringe as you listen to it. The band is made up of members of HIM; basically a side project of the band’s keyboardist Burton and guitarist Linde, with Enochian Creccent drummer Bolton. The songs retain really no structure; it has a tossed-together feeling—and not even in a jamming sense, just a chaotic array of guitar riffs, odd keyboards and terrible-sounding vocals. Don’t let the association with HIM fool you when you hear of Daniel Lioneye. While some of the guitar riffing may be inspired (or rejected) from HIM, it’s far from anything nice and melodic or pleasing at all, and not crazy or chaotic enough to be deemed as avant-type cool, either. –Bryer Wharton

Diamond Eyes
Street: 05.04
Deftones = The Smiths + Snapcase
“Heavy,” “tough” and “solid” are three words that describe Diamond Eyes. With longtime bass player Chi Cheng still recovering from a coma, Deftones have pushed forward with former bass replacement Sergio Vega (Quicksand) and written one of the tightest sets of songs of their careers. Right from the beginning tracks, “Diamond Eyes” and “Royal,” you can tell that they came to drop the hammer. During the second half of the album, the band breaks out some dream-pop action on songs “Prince” and “Sextape.” Singer Chino Moreno embraces his inner Robert Smith throughout, with lyrics packed full of visuals and optimistic vocal melodies. For those who still view this band as 90s nü metal, you need to wake up and get down with the intelligent, creative, and sultry sounds of the Deftones. It’ll be the best thing you ever do. –Jon Robertson

The Dø
A Mouthful
Six Degrees Records
Street: 04.06
The Do = the Cardigans + the Ditty Bops - bluegrass
I want to do The Dø.  I really do (though they pronounce it like do-re-mi).  After becoming the first band to hit No. 1 in France with an album sung in English, The Dø are finally giving Americans a shot, and I hope we don’t screw it up.  Simple guitars, head-nodding beats and honest vocals––this isn’t a new formula, but The Dø give each song a fresh approach.  They’ll flirt with a standard pop-song vibe, then Olivia Merilahti’s flair for unexpected notes cements the melody in the head of the listener, especially on “The Bridge is Broken” and “At Last.”  “Queen Dot Kong” feels M.I.A.-inspired, and “Searching Gold” could have been a slow-build song on Portishead’s newest.  From a girl and her ukulele on “Stay (Just a Little Bit More)” to borderline noise rock on “Travel Light,” A Mouthful provides a gratifying earful. –Andrew Roy

Dum Dum Girls
I Will Be
Sub Pop
Street: 03.30
Dum Dum Girls = Vivian Girls + Jesus and Mary Chain + The Shangri Las
In 2008, Dum Dum Girls started out as a solo project comprised of Kristin Gundred (a.k.a. Dee Dee). She recorded and released multiple 7” singles. A year later, she put together a band including former Vivian Girl, Frankie Rose, soon after they signed to Sub Pop. Perfect timing: There’s been a “lo-fi” resurgence as of late—Wavves, Blank Dogs, Crocodiles (featuring Dee Dee’s husband Brandon), even Black Tambourine returned to the studio to record new tracks for another retrospective. On the Dum Dum Girls’ full-length debut (assisted by Blondie and Go-Go’s producer Richard Gottehrer), they manage to encompass all of my favorite musical elements in one record; extreme fuzzy guitar goodness, clever lyrics, 60s girl group melodies and the deep sound of the garage. Every track is fast, exhilarating and just a little bit dangerous. Make sure you stick around for the brilliant Sonny & Cher cover, “Baby Don’t Go.” –Courtney Blair

Elliott Smith
From a Basement on a Hill
Kill Rock Stars
Street: 04.06
Elliott Smith = late Beatles + Autolux
From a Basement on a Hill has been available for over five years now, but a couple of Smith’s albums are being rereleased by Kill Rock Stars (who should really change their name) to complete their Elliott Smith catalogue. Smith was great because he was unpredictable without being unpalatable or overly-quirky. The opener, “Coast to Coast,” is a perfect example of how he could write an addictive sing-along chorus that requires a few listens to memorize. Tracks like “Don’t Go Down” and “Strung Out Again” are debatably shoegaze, filled with overdriven guitars and layered, soft-spoken vocals. Like Daniel Johns, Elliott Smith rejected standard, major melodies. Like Bob Dylan, he had a pleasant, non-singer voice and a cult-like following. There’s no bonus track, no DVD included, and no extended booklet with never-before-seen photographs. But this rerelease should prompt people to re-relisten. –Andrew Roy

Elliott Smith
Roman Candle
Kill Rock Stars
Street: 04.05
Elliott Smith = Alex Chilton + Nick Drake
Posthumous releases by Elliott Smith include a full album, a double LP of B-sides and covers, and about two gigs’ worth of unreleased stuff floating around the Internet. Elliott was prolific in life, even more so in death. When Kill Rock Stars announced that the reissue of Elliott’s debut would improve Roman Candle’s fidelity and tone, I wondered how they could improve on something so raw that it sounds best on a scratchy CD-R through terrible car speakers. But Larry Crane, archivist for Smith, has done something complimentary here. By removing some of the harsher elements of Smith’s debut (guitar squeaks, jarring hard consonants) that existed along with the exquisite melancholy of the content, it allows the tone to be more inviting and warmer. I forgot how much of the squeaks and cracks I had memorized on “Condor Ave” and how much I don’t miss them on this reissue. –Ryan Hall

Fang Island
Fang Island
Sargent House
Street: 02.23
Fang Island = The Fucking Champs + Cougar + Apes & Androids
Do you like those scenes at the ends of movies where the story is happily resolved, the heroes are headed on to their variously bright futures and the soundtrack is that perfect, inspiring, celebratory anthem which unites us together with raised hands like those kids from Captain Planet?  So do the members of Fang Island, but they also like guitars.  Their self-titled release is like a symphony of power metal.  The drums are huge, raucous peals of thunder behind twin shrieking lightening bolts of harmonious shredding.  I’m not kidding, that doesn’t even sound corny as I listen to it.  I’m pumping my fist as I write this, swear to God. The songs blend from one to another so that “Dreamer of Dreams,” “Careful Crossers” and “Daisy” make up the first movement of addictively distorted melodies.  Most of the stuff is instrumental, but add occasional chorus-style vocals and bass so heavy you could float some cinder blocks in it, and you have a pretty good idea of what type of spirit-reinforcing war songs we have here.  I cannot get enough of this release.  “Welcome Wagon” is a particular favorite, erupting from fast power-chords into a progressively more intricate exercise in finger mechanics. This is a must-have for fans of the Fucking Champs, or other more anthemic post-rock. –Rio Connelly

Head First
Mute Records
Street: 03.10
Goldfrapp = Disco Era Donna Summer Fronts Kraftwerk
Head First, or what Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory did next on their musical journey, is joyously listenable and a welcome return after a long, bleak winter.  It is impossible not to listen to these short, irresistibly hook-laden tunes and not feel happy.  I’ve read some odd online reviews for this, their fifth album, and while the pop comparisons to ABBA (Billboard) and personal idol Olivia Newton-John (Entertainment Weekly) seem somewhat inevitable, to me they are actually channeling a disco-era Donna Summer reborn in an early 80s sound bath. The dynamic “Rocket” immediately sets up the album’s glorious synth sound, which continues with “Believer” (“A cupid on the go/No arrow and no bow”) and the heavenly and just-announced second single, “Alive.” By the chorus of the title track, it seems obvious that Alison is in love and this seems to be the duo’s basic blueprint for the album’s nine cuts.  The mysterious pulsations of the stunning “Hunt” and its slightly sinister lyrics reminded me of Shakespear’s Sister’s Run Silent, while the hypnotic “Shiny & Warm” of their own “Satin Chic.”  All is not completely rosy lyrically on “I Wanna Life,” but you’ll be tapping your foot to it just the same.  The album’s ethereal closer, “Voicething,” finds Alison’s lovely voice dubbed experimentally against an equally diverse synth-based backdrop and wraps this short album up nicely. –Dean O Hillis

Plastic Beach
Street: 03.03
Gorillaz = Damon Albarn + VA
They say that those who are perceived as being very intelligent are only moderately so, but surround themselves with other more intelligent folks. Albarn (Blur) does this on Gorillaz’s third. Compton’s Snoop Dogg, Sweden’s Little Dragon, and London’s Mick Jones (The Clash) are just a small slice of the talentedand globetrottingpeople Albarn uses to heavy-up this release and make it more palatable. If you hate Gorillaz, definitely don’t listen, and avoid the radio single. I enjoyed this release the most out of any since the first self-titled album, which is to say, moderately. –JP

Street: 05.06
Growing = I.U.D. + Brian Eno
As Growing jumped labels (as they are wont to do) from The Social Registry to their new digs, they also jumped soundsbut not too much. There is a still-underpinning beat that can’t quite be placed in the spectrum, but is nevertheless welcomed by those tired of more traditional patterns. Junior member Sadie Laska from another former Social Registry project, I.U.D., seems to be influencing the band in a very positive direction on more recent releases. The music is void of vocals, but full of found sounds and effected samples, creating distant universes punctuated by extraterrestrial bleeps and sublime, yet disconcerting, event horizons. –JP

Sensory Records
Street: 03.30
Haken = Porcupine Tree + Dream Theater + Winds + Spheric Universe Experience
I’m no prog-metal geek, but I know what I like and I quite like the UK’s Haken’s debut album, Aquarius. It’s a highly textured musical experience in almost an hour and fifteen minutes that seems to float by effortlessly and magnificently. At times, the songs are calmly serenading with rich backing keyboards and fluid guitar harmonies. Then there are moments of an almost fervent brutality, with some growled vocals popping in briefly and big, thick-sounding grooves. There’s also an off-kilt personality to the record: there are abruptly avant garde and oddball, jazz free-form rhythms and baroque, elegant-sounding piano parts with quirky or just plain jaw-dropping guitar soloing. If ever there was a time to venture into prog-rock land, Aquarius offers a brilliantly diverse set of songs that defy prog-metal stereotypes and genre standards. –Bryer Wharton

Happy Birthday
Street: 03.16
Sub Pop
Happy Birthday = Terri Tarrantula + Andale!
I wish I hated this. I wish I could say that my body was repulsed by this tasty treat. This debut combines some really dainty pop hooks, just enough effects and some surf/garage rock touches to make it undeniably gnoshable. There are some exceptions, like the overindulgent, needlessly orchestrated “Fun.”  Fortunately, songs like “Maxine the Teenage Eskimo” about a girl who “hangs out late with the wolf pack,” are really well done with cutesy lyrics, and they set off the last track’s gloomy, bullshit misanthrope sobfest. Sure, there are some “ringers” on this release, but the rest resonates as true and classic examples of some teenage love, angst and the inevitable evolution into maturity. –JP

Then & Now & Then
Hush Records
Street: 05.11
Hosannas = Tennessee Fire era My Morning Jacket + MV+EE + Graves
Flannel-shirted and bearded, Hosannas play glacial-paced psychedelic rock, subdued by the standard folk trappings of Hush labelmates and a lo-fidelity recording aesthetic (recorded in their parent’s living room) that incorporates field recordings and low-budget special effects to brighten the corners. The brothers’ Law weave their vibrato-heavy voices around meandering folk tunes that range from hushed to bombastic. For as astute as Then & Now & Then is, Hosannas are Portland to the bone, and that may be a point against them. I don’t know if I can separate this album from a city famous for its indie-rock careerism; it just seems too obvious. Portland needs another experimental freak-folk outfit just as much as SLC needs another nü-metal band. P.S The only person who can rhyme “drugs” and “hugs” is 50 Cent. Back off. (Kilby Court: 06.08) ­ –Ryan Hall

Through the Chaos
Narnack Records
Street: 04.10
Hypernova = Ian Curtis’ voice + Interpol
I thought I had put in the wrong CD when I first gave Through the Chaos a spin and the deep, distinctive, Ian Curtis-like voice of lead singer/guitarist Raam announced itself on the album’s first track, “Universal.” The hooky “Viva La Resistance” and “Lost In Space” added to my confusion. Not because they are not great songs—they are—but because I had read and re-read about Hypernova being an Iranian underground band, fleeing that country’s repression (where rock music is banned) for America and yet they sound so ... American. Upon multiple listenings, Raam’s lyrics make very subtle references here and there to this, especially in “American Dream,” where he sings “I know that I’ll never go back home/To the life I had, the life that I had known,” and “Lost In Space.” But this isn’t really a political album, above all, this is a great alt-rock album with many pop flourishes, and its strengths are instantly apparent. Raam is backed by three tight musicians: fellow songwriter Kodi on lead guitar, bassist Jam and drummer Kami. Lead single “Fairy Tales” showcases their talents as a group, with “Monster in Me” and “See The Future” closing the album quite nicely. While it is nearly impossible to not mention their Iranian background when writing about them, Hypernova are clearly in this for the music and their great debut more than delivers that message. –Dean O Hillis

Jen Olive
Warm Robot
Ape House
Street 03.10
Jen Oliver = Jill Sobule + Victoria Williams
New Mexico resident Olive is hard to categorize. Musically, she mainly uses the acoustic guitar to compose, but vocally, she is an acquired taste, which isn’t to imply that she has a bad or unlistenable voice … it just takes a while to appreciate it. Olive is also a bit of a mystery herself, as she claims this isn’t her real name and she has done some self-releases in the past. Described by Andy Partridge’s UK Ape House label as her first “official” album, Warm Robot has as many hits and misses as it does styles and sounds. Part folk, part world, part pop, many parts experimental, Olive made the initial songs in the US, then shared and exchanged them with former XTC leader Partridge in the UK, who enhanced and arranged them. “Robot Boy,” “Boulevard” and “Querquehouse” (I’m assuming the latter is about Albuquerque) are all good, but Olive’s lyrics are simply not very memorable. “Set It on Fire” and “Pieces” are a lot more succinct, but the real exceptions to this are the gorgeous “Waffleson’s Dream” and “Here I Go.” The subtle flourishes that Partridge has added at least makes the music stand out more, but Olive would have been better served by sticking to a more coherent concept instead of engaging in so much meandering. –Dean O Hillis

Jesse Malin & The Saint Marks Social
Love it to Life
Street: 04.27
Jesse Malin = Joe Strummer + Paul Westerberg + Ryan Adams
With Love it to Life, Jesse Malin has created a poppy, energetic collection of songs for grown-up punk fans who can’t live on Replacements albums alone. This album is insanely catchy (à la fellow grown-up punks Ted Leo and The Pharmacists) and the subtly varied songwriting and instrumentation is reminiscent of Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros’ world-y rock at its most restrained—if Strummer were still alive, he’d be kicking himself for not writing “Disco Ghetto” before Malin. There’re also hints of the nostalgia-ridden rock of The Hold Steady as Malin makes multiple reference to the music he loves and growing up in the New York hardcore scene. “Burning the Bowery” and the clever, contemplative “Low Life in a High Rise” are great, but even at only 10 songs, Love it to Life drags a bit at the end. Even if The Saint Marks Social aren’t quite at the level as their fellow elderly punks, Love it to Life is highly listenable. –Ricky Vigil

Karma to Burn
Appalachian Incantation
Napalm Records
Street: 05.11
Karma to Burn = Kyuss + Keelhaul + Fu Manchu
Karma to Burn is a band I haven’t heard of in quite some time—not really since the late 90s, when they were on Roadrunner Records, being forced to use vocals when they didn’t want to. Apparently, the West Virginia-based, mostly instrumental stoner rock crew is still kicking it in 2010. Yeah, it’s been eight years since the band released a full-length, and Karma to Burn approached Appalachian Incantation just like any other record they’ve recorded, and I’m pretty sure that’s what they wanted to do. The record doesn’t shatter any barriers of what stoner rock is: lots of groove and a hearty beat. Basically, shit to jam out to while the listener gets stoned or dreams of being stoned; isn’t that why it’s called stoner rock? Listening to this as a main focus will get fairly dull—the musical themes stay pretty close together—but it’s great background music if you’re just kicking around and being lazy. –Bryer Wharton

Kidz In The Hall
Land of Make Believe
Duck Down Music, Inc.
Street: 03.09
Kidz In The Hall = Kanye West + Gym Class Heroes 
The hype on this album was that it’s supposed to be a massive party record.  Lending a hand to living up that hype is the production and DJ skills of Double O. Through the record he pushes these 80s-style hooks in the beats, which could be cleaned up, but mesh nicely with the style of the record. Unfortunately, that’s all that lives up to the hype. Naledge’s lyrics lacked any substance or story, with constant jabber about that same old living large bling bling kind of lingo. It definitely struck me as an underground friendly version of Kanye West-type shit. “Taking Over the World” featuring Just Blaze was a standout track, along with “JukeBox,” featuring MC Lyte. Both of those songs have clean, fresh style and solid beats. This album will satisfy the college hip-hop scenester, from his neon sunglasses right down to his sagging skinny jeans. –Bethany Fischer

Lacrimas Profundere
The Grandiose Nowhere
Napalm Records
Street: 05.11
Lacrimas Profundere = The 69 Eyes + Sinamore + HIM + Poisonblack
There unfortunately are way too many similarities to HIM and the 69 Eyes on Lacrimas Profundere’s ninth studio album, The Grandiose Nowhere, to ignore. Similarities aside, the album does have its catchy gothic rock qualities, but it also suffers quite a bit throughout the record. It almost feels as if the band tried to cram as many songs on the record as they could. Some songs could’ve been further developed—they have the “ending too short” feel to them. Also, there are blatantly noticeable riffs and vocal parts that sound like they could’ve come directly from HIM or the 69 Eyes. Those moments aside, the album is heavy on the groove and pleasant piano melodies. If you can get past the sort of copycat-ish factors and are a fan of the bands Lacrimas Profundere are copying, The Grandiose Nowhere isn’t a bad album by any means. –Bryer Wharton

The Stormy Petrel
No Idea
Street: 03.23
Leatherface = Hot Water Music + Hüsker Dü + The Bomb
Before it was cool to mix speed and energy with emotion and melody and to have a gravelly voiced singer with a beard of Grizzly Adams-like proportions, Leatherface was doing it 20 years ago in good ol’ Sunderland, England. After a six-year absence, Frankie Stubbs and Co. have delivered their strongest album since reforming in 1998. Predictably, The Stormy Petrol doesn’t feature the blistering speed and Motörhead-inspired licks of previous albums, but this is about as catchy as Leatherface has ever been. Album opener “God Is Dead” features clever lyrics delivered through Stubbs’ raspy whisper, while “Another Dance” and “Never Say Goodbye” are teeming with as much pop sensibility as this kind of punk can have. There’s a lot of good stuff here, but “Diego Garcia” is the standout track as Stubbs’ vocal vitriol builds up to a bit of intense and awesome vocal harmonizing over the album’s fastest track. This isn’t the greatest introduction to Leatherface (that would be Mush), but if you’re already a fan, The Stormy Petrel won’t disappoint. –Ricky Vigil

The Lions Rampant
It’s Fun to Do Bad Things
Deep Elm Records
Street: 04.06
The Lions Rampant = The Dirtbombs + Jay Reatard + Black Keys
Enter roaring vocals, spooky organs and a party fixed in a retro, smoke-filled room. The Lions Rampant is catchy and body-moving. From the infatuations of pretty girls to underground parties filled with thoughts of nasty, it hardly seems original, and yet it’s something new. Though a few songs seem drawn out, the end comes quickly with “Cigs and Gin.” Low bass, chop-and-go, snarky vocals, and lyrics of the smells of sweet affaires are worth a listen. –Jessica Davis

Ludlow Lions
No Stories
Street: 03.10
Ludlow Lions= XTC + The Pixies
When I occasionally delve into the official world of “rock,” I find that I like it a certain way: memorable songs and above all, with vocals that I can understand. I have nothing against loudness and occasional scream-singing per se, as long as the music is melodic and intelligible. Fortunately for my ears, Brooklyn’s excellent Ludlow Lions fits nicely into this criteria. It seems odd that such an accomplished-sounding band isn’t signed to any label, indie or otherwise. Their debut, No Stories, could easily change that. Within just a few lines of opener “Keyboard Teeth,” an undeniable and pleasant pattern emerges with lead singer/guitarist/songwriter Brendan Coon’s vocals: his love of catchy, short songs á la Andy Partridge and Black Francis. He is also a clever lyricist: “I don’t understand history/but I like to go to sleep...alive” he sings on “New Cold War,” further lamenting how he’d like to “Bring the 80s back/Without the fashion.” All the while, the other Lions provide great back up. Speaking of which, one of the nicest surprises comes from their unexpected jabs of noise that often sneak up on you, often within otherwise quiet moments, which reinforce the structure of songs but never overwhelm the melody. –Dean O Hillis

The Human Machine
Pulverised Records
Street: 05.25
Master = Obituary + Death + Death + Suffocation
Unfortunately, there are those bands that fall through the cracks and never really get their due reward. Master are one of the forefathers of extreme metal, yet most of the credit they get is from other bands instead of a healthy large fan following. The Human Machine, the band’s 10th album, is just as worthy to add to any death-metal fan’s collection as any of their past works, and are actually quite more deserving to be added to any discerning metalhead’s collection that may not have heard of the band. Deviously old-school flavored, The Human Machine offers a consistent pummeling with awesomely audible bass tones, giving the tunes a fantastically heavy bottom end. There are plenty of thrashing moments and great riffs to be feasted on here. All that really needs to be said is that old-school death metal is still kicking and Master is a purveyor of such styles. You could’ve told me this record was released in 1988 and I would have believed you. –Bryer Wharton

This Town
HoZac Records
Street: 01.25
This Town = Black Lips + Kurt Vile + Thee Oh Sees
I think we can all agree on the fact that there is a fine line between what distinguishes a good lo-fi band from a bad lo-fi band; this is especially true for those that fall into the category of garage-rock. The influx of artists flooding this genre in the past couple years has made it increasingly harder to discover any worthwhile newcomers. However, Mikey Hyde, who makes music under the moniker Medication, has proven his musical prowess to be worthy of countless devoted listens. This Town, Medication’s debut album, opens with “Your Heart,” a catchy, upbeat track with jangly guitar strumming and reverb-drenched vocals, over which he sings of relationship troubles spawning from the fact that his lady friend’s “heart is dark.” While Mikey’s songwriting isn’t groundbreaking, it is varied and unique. From his howling, somewhat dramatic chorus on “Didn’t Wanna Know” to the hypnotic guitar swirling throughout “Farewell Letter,” you can feel the energy and emotion he spills into each song. In a genre brimming with new musicians, Medication’s debut album sets him apart from the amateurs and puts his music within the ranks of garage-rock’s more memorable acts. –Vanessa Wardy

Monument to Thieves
Street: 03.30
No Sleep Records
Monument to Thieves = Throwdown + Disembodied + Adamantium
Monument to Thieves have been hyping themselves for months, claiming to be the next big political hardcore act, even boasting they took their name from the title of a His Hero is Gone album. As anyone could guess, the hype isn’t totally warranted, but once you get past that, Monument to Thieves’ self-titled album is a good slab of Southern California-style hardcore. Members have all been in some of the bigger acts from SoCal, including Adamantium, 18 Visions, A.18 and Throwdown. If you took those bands’ early output and mixed it with Disembodied, the result would be this album. It’s not so often anymore that bands discuss the politics behind their songs (if they even have a political bent) and Monument to Thieves does this in the liner notes and through a deluge of samples. It’s a refreshing change of pace to hear a downtuned, mosh-heavy song that is about politics such as Proposition 8 instead of the usual hardcore monotony—and truthfully, it is the saving grace of the album. Although the politics are simplistic, they’re passionate. The music is burly and chug-centric, but it’s a riling listen. If you miss 90s metallic hardcore before Gothenburg got mixed in, this is for you. –Peter Fryer

The End
Agonia Records
Street: 05.10
Nefarium = Bestial Warlust + Nargaroth + Funeral Mist
More than 90 percent of Italy’s populace is estimated to be one of the several Christian denominations. Nefarium combats this with 35 minutes of warlike blasphemy, crushing Yahweh’s pitiful temples into a gray dust. With a death metal-style production, energy is conjured through a maelstrom of black-metal guitar riffs that let up for hardly more than a few seconds and drums which beat mercilessly, resulting in a particularly ferocious black-metal album. Track titles such as “Mass Infanticide By The King Of Judea (Herod The Great),” Nefarium hail their heroes by name, and lunge directly at the hearts of their enemies. This direct frontal attack is heard loud and clear, and those who desire the most aggressive black-metal bands will likely find common ground with this extremely hateful release. –Conor Dow

Madness of War
Cruz Del Sur
Street: 04.23
Overmaster = Thunderstone + Symphorce + Mercenary + Nevermore
Italy’s Overmaster fall into a nice realm of nicely mixed melodic power metal and all-out thrashing and grooving heavy madness. To be honest, if you’re not a power-metal fan or even a fan of tradition heavy metal, Overmaster won’t really change your mind, but hell, if you’re a fan, watch out, because Madness of War, the band’s first full-length record, is all sorts of badass with hefty diverse songwriting that leaves you hanging onto each chord, harmony, melody and intoxicating keyboard work. The record is reminiscent of a lot of what some of the staples of the melodic power metal scene in Germany are doing, but the band still own their own sort of identity. To put things simply, if you enjoy epic songs, great guitar riffs and vocals that are actually good singing (not screaming), Overmaster have given the metal world an album worth rocking in a timeless fashion. I know I’ll be returning to this often. –Bryer Wharton

Order of Ennead
An Examination of Being
Earache Records
Street: 04.19
Order of Ennead = Nunslaughter + Arsis + Neuraxis
Have you ever noticed that nearly every national news story that is somehow the most horrible thing you’ve ever read usually comes from Florida? Start paying attention; it’s no bullshit. This is the clever part where I tell you that Order of Ennead is one of these horrors, but in a good way, not an annoying Florida-horror way like Fred Durst. At 40 minutes, this decent record does not overstay its welcome. It does provide a really good example of a fairly young band that doesn’t disappoint the legacy of Florida metal, and frankly, would be a good example to show a budding metal fan looking to branch out into the vast black-metal depths. From start to end, Ennead thrashes their asses off with an excellent marriage of black and death metal. It might not satisfy every extreme metal fan, but this is an Earache release worth looking into. –Conor Dow

Quarantine the Past
Street: 03.09
Pavement= Pixies + Silver Jews
When you only have five full-length albums, your “best of” album will probably have room for more than just the singles. There shouldn’t be too many people pissed about one of their favorites being left out; they did a good job compiling it. If you weren’t familiar with Pavement until recently, it would probably be a good place to start. It includes their more popular songs like “Gold Soundz” and “Cut Your Hair” and other, less popular masterpieces like “Frontwards” and “Box Elder.” It is a good reminder of how Pavement was, even if the album reeks of the nineties. –Cody Hudson

Prizzy Prizzy Please   
Chroma Cannon
Joyful Noise Recordings
Street: 04.20
Prizzy Prizzy Please = Lightning Bolt + Van Halen + Bon Jovi
I don’t quite know how to take this album. From the start, it’s a punch of some crazy keyboard synth noises disguised as shredding guitar, while thunder drums lead the way to some sweet saxophone leads. The vocals take on the idea of an 80s hair band reincarnated, with the distortion of each yell. Then there’s a moment when you think you’ve stepped into the intro of the 90s television series Family Matters. In a weird way, it’s quite amazing, and at best, words can’t describe it. So take a listen. –Jessica Davis

Psalm One
Woman at Work
Street: 04.20
Psalm One = Queen Latifah + Lauryn Hill
Psalm One is definitely a strong-willed lady. Being the first lady of Rhymesayers is one hell of a title to hold. She holds it for a reason, though. Not only is she fearless in her flow, but she’s quite clever in her word play as well. “I got some things on my agenda that I gotta attend to/So I can be the queen, not the girl with potential” is a line from Morning and just goes to show her aim and her drive. Her whole album is chockfull of lyrics hellbent on getting your inner female muscle flex on. The only thing I noticed about Psalm that got to me was her voice itself. It’s slightly monotone and didn’t have a definitive tone that stood out. After listening to it through 10 songs, it got a little boring. Other than that, I recommend you check out the sassy little lady they call Psalm One. –Bethany Fischer

The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band
The Wages
Street: 05.25
Big Damn Band = Reverend Horton Heat + Dirt Daubers + .357 String Band
The finger-pickin’, slide-guitarin’, washboard-scrapin’, pickle-bucket-bashin’ machine that is The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band is back with another batch of frenetic hillbilly blues on The Wages. The production values on the Big Damn Band’s new album have greatly improved, but it’s a mixed blessing—The Rev’s vocals are much clearer and Breezy’s washboard is actually audible in every song now, but the crispness robs a lot of the songs on The Wages of their energy and charm. “Fort Wayne Zoo” is a fun, fast, finger-pickin’ good time, “Born Bred Corn Fed” propagates the band’s proud hillbilly image, and “Sure Feels Like Rain,” propelled by new drummer Cuz, is an incredible fusion of blues and soul, but it’s when the band tries to recreate their live show, as on “Clap Your Hands” and “Two Bottles of Wine,” that the album is weakest. There are some definite keepers on The Wages, but the Big Damn Band is best experienced live. –Ricky Vigil

The Ruins of Beverast
Foulest Semen of a Sheltered Elite
Street: 05.25
The Ruins of Beverast  = Lurker of Chalice +  Blut Aus Nord + Paysage d’hiver
Ván, a small German label, hosts an impressive roster of black and doom metal. Many of which are adept in exploring new boundaries, standing out from the horde. The leader may be the deserving one-man project, The Ruins of Beverast. Thematically, Alexander von Meilenwald explores atypical topics such as science and religious history, which results in many head-turning moments on each album. “Foulest Semen” is no exception, and each song is varied with seamless, organic transitions for almost a full 80 minutes. The madness is spellbinding, and separated by a handful of eerie interlude tracks. A large portion of the album relies heavily on choral vocals, including the first track, which sounds like they were performed at a sinister coven. Meilenwald continues to refine his craft without embarrassing outbursts of elitism or absurd social statements, which is to be commended, and he continues to remain at the apex with few comparable peers. –Conor Dow

El Deth
Street: 04.13
Senryu = Maps & Atlases + The Shins + Frightened Rabbit
Senryu is all over the place. Their jams jump around from quirky pop to electronic melodrama with sections of songs all juxtaposed up on each other and sweating out. It’s like Fantômas snuck up on your high school glee club and gangbanged them. Inkling contains crazy songs with all kinds of flavor, but are soft and flakey like a sweet piece of dumpleberry pie. I would love to see what the band members’ bedrooms look like. I bet they are messy as shit. Also, if they would let me see their rooms, I might get to catch a glimpse of the Fantômas gangbang. –Jon Robertson

Spanish Gamble
It’s All Coming Down
Paper + Plastick Records
Street: 04.13
Spanish Gamble = Hot Water Music + Hüsker Dü + Saves The Day + Against ME! + None More Black + American Steel
At first listen, Spanish Gamble comes off as a confusing, eclectic mix of punk styles—the gruff, quasi-melodic vocals seem out of place against the band’s wistful guitar leads. But once you reach the title track, they somehow adopt you into their energetic reverie and you “get it.” Each musician’s respective hooks stand out from one another, yet harmonize in a way that produces cathartic dynamics akin to Saves The Day. Colin Shane’s vocals resonate with a hollow rancor and dirty melodiousness. His shifts from screaming to singing and the gang choruses, such as in “We Are The Restless,” resemble Against ME!’s early work. Spanish Gamble struggles with songs like “Science Can’t Explain Magic,” where Shane falls into awkward vocal lilts, but with little damage. Most tracks—especially “The Art Of Settling”—offer themes that demand contemplation, yet hammer on with a punching momentum. –Alexander Ortega

Concerto for the Undead
Pivotal Recordings
Street: 05.04
Stigma = The Black Dahlia Murder + The Red Chord + The Modern Age Slavery
While Italy’s Stigma second full-length album is better than your overpopulated scene of chugga-chugga, death-grunt, roar-type deathcore albums, they’re still in the realm of deathcore, and personally, I have a gripe with the “core.” What’s the rule that officially adds a metal type band into the “core” realm? Hardcore chants and breakdowns and Stigma has both. Gripes aside, the album isn’t bad for what it is—melodic deathcore—but it isn’t great, either. The guitar leads and soloing can either inspire you, or make you rather bored most of the time. It must have been sheer boredom propelling mostly weak songwriting and cookie-cutter vocal scowling. In the end, the few decent tracks include album opener, “Cut his Head Off!” and “What About a Terror Ride,” but they can’t save the album from being completely forgettable. However, Stigma do make it worthy for deathcore fans that want something with raw melodies instead of breakdown after breakdown. –Bryer Wharton

Subhumans (Canada)
Same Thoughts Different Day
Alternative Tentacles
Street: 04.13
Subhumans = D.O.A. + The Weirdos + Youth Brigade
Subhumans have done something that I wish more old-school bands would do: remake their seminal 80s album with their current sound and feel. Same Thoughts Different Day reiterates Subhumans’ songs on their 1981 release, Incorrect Thoughts, with a thicker, clearer sound quality and more controlled vocals—think Clit 45’s remakes from Tales From The Clit in 2, 4, 6, 8… You’ll find yourself singing along to “Firing Squad” because you may already know it, and a new song, “War In The Head,” because it’s easy to access and sing. Subhumans’ less-abrasive take on these songs suggests that the guys are aging and aren’t really belting out corrosive hardcore, which de-characterizes slower songs like “Model Of Stupidity”—but that is expected. Even if you like the original tracks better, it’s still interesting to hear Subhumans’ retelling of a bygone era in the form of recording. –Alexander Ortega

The End
Street: 05.11
Sweethead = Yeah Yeah Yeahs + HIM
Sweethead is the new project from Troy Van Leeuwen, former guitar player of A Perfect Circle and Queens of the Stone Age. The band is a kind of a B-List supergroup, consisting of members from the Mark Lanegan Band and Handsome. Imagine if Josh Homme had a sex change and continued to front QOTSA and you would pretty much have a good idea of what Sweethead sounds like. Vocals are provided by Serrina, who provides some sassafras sauciness to the band. So for those of you out there who are into sex changes and sauciness like me, you’ll definitely dig this record. –Jon Robertson

The Syllable Section
Linear Views
Street: 01.2010
The Syllable Section = early Of Montreal + early Animal Collective + early Akron/Family
Linear Views is an intense, experimental and, somewhat psychedelic, pop-rock album. Whether that description intrigues or appalls you, you should know that this album—from artwork to song structure, both vocally and instrumentally—made me cringe. Matt Marquardt’s vocals sound similar to Kevin Barnes of Of Montreal, but much less enjoyable, although I’m not sure it’s his fault. Marquardt’s shaky, slightly whiney voice, combined with Linear Views’ constantly shifting tempo, intensity and loudness, makes it all a bit much to absorb, not to mention that I can hardly understand a single word he says. Listening to this album is like walking through a haunted house—one moment the music is quiet, even peaceful, with melodic, wordless choruses and washed-out guitar. Then, next thing you know, it’s in your face—loud and assaulting, actually scaring you. While I can appreciate their non-traditional approach to music, this album was too much for me. If you loved earlier Animal Collective and Akron/Family, when they were very experimental and not as accessible, then I highly recommend you give this album a listen. –Vanessa Wardy

The Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt
Luaka Bop
Street: 06.11
The Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt = Dan Deacon + Architecture in Helsinki + Tilly and the Wall
The Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt was formed at the über-snotty performance art conservatory SUNY at Purchase, New York, in the ashes of a rock opera. TPDR combine the 8-bit, about-to-trip-a-breaker electronic overload of Dan Deacon and his Wham City! compatriots with swirling woodwind compositions. Unfettered, optimistic and profane epithets of gang-shouted, street-punk choruses about snow days and being awesome often overcrowd Neil Fridd’s froggy croon. From what you have read, you probably already hate this band. But wait! In what other way could pure, wide-eyed rejection of pessimism and real-world responsibilities be expressed than in the adolescent fantasies of post-collegiates facing a grim economic future? In this way, I love you, TPDR, for being a great escapist vehicle. I share the same concerns, I just lack the face paint, glitter, and choruses to face it with the same optimism. –Ryan Hall

World Destruction
Regain Records
Street: 04.06
Trident = Old Man’s Child + Dissection + Necrophobic + Grief of Emerald
Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t. Well, sometimes you feel like some finely produced, nicely heavy, generic black metal with nicely subtle hints at melodies. Yes, I may sound like a broken record saying things like “Oh well, I’ve heard this style before,” but it’s pretty true-to-form for Sweden’s Trident. One may expect more from members of Dissection, Necrophobic, and Grief of Emerald, but it’s not really a surprise here. If you’re a fan of the bands in the equation or bands that these members are a part of, well, you’re going to dig Trident’s debut, World Destruction. Production makes each instrument pristinely clear, and damn, does it do an outstanding job of pushing the semi-catchy, epically heavy songwriting of Trident to above-average in the vast realm of extreme metal. I really don’t care that I’ve heard this before; Trident has dished out a set of supremely heavy and memorable tracks worth repeated spins. –Bryer Wharton

Street:  05.11
Univox = The Hold Steady + David Bowie + Jay Reatard + White Denim
Univox’s self-titled debut is full of infectious pop-rock songs with sarcastic undertones, catchy hooks, and a seemingly never-ending energy propelling them forward.  However, it took me more than a few listens to take Univox seriously and appreciate their art, which I finally did end up doing.  My initial impression of the band was that they were a bunch of obnoxious dudes making borderline obnoxious music.  When asked about the future for the band, one member was quoted saying he hopes the band will be “fucking Brooke Shields and being rich as shit.”  Midway through the album, one track titled “All This Blood Came From My Heart,” is ridiculously silly with spoken words and over the top harmonies- blurring the line between stupidity and hilarity.  But with every following listen, Univox grew on me.  I realized part of their appeal is their sardonic and playful attitudes that seep into each track through their vocals, lyrics and instrumentation.  Ultimately, Univox somehow manages to blend four males harmonizing with quirky songwriting and refreshing bursts of punk inflected, pop-infused rock and not come off as talentless idiots, but rather clever and skilled musicians who, lucky for us, are just out to make music and have fun—even though it may take you a few listens to realize this. –Vanessa Wardy

The Vision Bleak
Set Sail to Mystery
Street: 05.04
The Vision Bleak = Samael + Paradise Lost + Rammstein + Candlemass
Germany’s The Vision Bleak have been delving into a different type of gothic metal for 10 years now and it’s quite refreshing. As bands with time either grow stale or progress, Set Sail to Mystery is not only filled with some gothic metal standards, they also bring some brilliant juxtapositions of doom and heavy moments that give way to some epic head-banging. The singer strangely sounds like what the Rammstein singer would sound like without a German accent; his range and diversity only propels the diverse amount of sounds going on with this the bands fourth full-length. Yes, Set Sail to Mystery may hold some of the genre standards of gothic metal, but they also go so far beyond that standard realm that it leaves this record in a distinctive league of its own. Once you’ve heard it, you won’t forget it, and will always welcome returning to its grandiose adventure. –Bryer Wharton