National CD Reviews – November 2008

Abigail Williams
In the Shadow of a Thousand Suns
Candlelight Records
Street: 10.28
Abigail Williams = Cradle of Filth + Behemoth
My experience with Abigail Williams actually stems back about four years ago, when they sent me a friend request on this little website called MySpace, and I’ve checked in on them occasionally ever since. Finally, they’re signed to a reputable label, and here we are today. Unfortunately for me, the production is a bit too cleanly processed, but it’s a snag I’ve been able to mostly ignore. Aside from a useless interlude keyboard track and a few symphonic song interludes which overstay their welcome, the music doesn’t really let up from the relentless pummeling that I do so enjoy taking. Did I say pummeling? The drumming on this album is ferociously ridiculous. There are several good moments here, giving the album some decent replay value. I am pleasantly surprised at what is offered here. I only hope they try to push the boundaries a bit further on the next album. –Conor Dow

Cities of Glass
Skin Graft Records
Street: 09.16
AIDS Wolf = CromTech + Black Dice
AIDS Wolf has a distinct Gravity Records noise feel to it: The combination of stark musical expressions, traditional “rock” instrumentation and shit-tons of feedback is reminiscent of groups such as CombatWoundedVeteran, CromTech, and early Black Dice. What AIDS Wolf brings to the table that other West Coast 90s retro noise-violence bands don’t are haunting vocals and stunning song composition—the ability to piece together atonal sounds and dissonance into an edible work of art that is as expressive as it is genuine. Gone are the sensationalist noise tendencies to be louder and as aurally overloading as possible; instead the group cleverly develops these sound into a unique palette of sound—leaving plenty of white space—a skill many “noise” artists quickly forget. –Ryan Powers

Street: 09.29
Amadan = Mxpx + The Corrs + Gaelic Storm + U2
What a piece of shit. After listening to this record, I had a dream that Ken Casey and Al Barr of the Dropkick Murphys, Shane McGowan of the Pogues, and Dave King of Flogging Molly got together and after pints of Guinness and shots of Jamison, all tracked down this band Amadan and just beat the bloody piss out of them for creating this watered-down version of the real music the guys and their bands have been creating. As you may have guessed, this six-piece band tries to fuse pop rock with Irish folk elements, but to a really terrible outcome. There just doesn’t seem to be anything real about them; they’re as honest as a fucking Old Navy commercial. Basically it comes down to the fact that real folk music is not pop music and once you try to force that, you’ve gone too far. –James Orme

Amon Amarth
Twilight of the Thunder God
Metal Blade
Street: 09.30
Amon Amarth = God Dethroned + Gardenian + Capharnaum + Viking tales
The always-epic Amon Amarth has always been just in my radar, but never enough to call myself a hardcore fan. For me, the replay factor on the more recent records With Oden on Our Side and Fate of Norns was low, great records in their own right, but for some strange nagging reason, I’d listen to them and move on with the exception of the fantastic Versus the World album. Twilight Of the Thunder God’s replay value, on the other hand, has become a new addition to music I regularly listen to. The song craft on this record is exceptionally well done, the groove in the main rhythm guitar keeps momentum pumping and the melodies the band has become known for, well, they stand out more than usual on this new effort, � l� the band’s Versus the World album. While the entire record is solid, I find myself going back to certain tracks, “Free Will Sacrifice,” “The Hero,” and “Live for the Kill,” in which the main riff, along with some string accompaniment, is a bit of a deviation from the standard Amon sound. –Bryer Wharton

Helmet Room Recordings
Street 07.01
Antenne = Portishead + Orinda Fink + Eluvium
Meandering along like Air's Moon Safari, Antenne's #3 (their third full-length album) is sure to be as much as a cult favorite. Antenne is more widely known throughout Europe, as Kim G. Hansen (Denmark) was a founder of the experimental noise-rock band Grind. Grind transitioned into Armstrong, playing trip-hop, which resonates over to this album with “Long to Kiss” and “Blue Light.” Electronic keyboards and static programming are quantified by blocks of acoustic guitar. These tracks are two of the few with sultry, harmonious vocals slowly sung by Marie-Louise Munck. The majority of tracks need no vocals over fuzzied tempos, gorgeously sequenced among soundscapes of nature walks. I love “Ttreaa 7,” just as well-crafted and timed as any Kid A song. And I would love this on vinyl, please. –Jennifer Nielsen

Moribund Records
Street: 09.10
Arckanum = Craft + (early) Darkthrone
A well-respected if little-heard entity, Arckanum made a name for themselves in the 1990s, their notoriety due in part to the bizarre masked appearance of singer and sole member Shamaatae. Known for shambling, lo-fidelity demos, Antikosmos presents a departure from their crackly, historic sound. Although fully realized, Antikosmos doesn't reveal its superb nature on first listen. Several sessions are required before its poison truly adheres to your skin. For the patient listener, Arckanum presents a finely-constructed slab of black metal performed in the traditional Northern style. Untouched by current trends, Antikosmos swarms with ragged, trebly guitar, supported by the Shamaatae's hoarse croaking. This is an album devoid of gimmicks. Even the headscratching ambient track "Blota Loka" doesn't shake the solid architecture that surrounds it. In a marketplace flooded with third-rate Darkthrone clones, Arckanum presents an introspective, memorable album directly linked to the principles that spawned the genre. –Ben West

Axel Rudi Pell
Tales of the Crown
Street: 11.04
Axel Rudi Pell = Scorpions + Whitesnake
In frustration and honesty, the only other album I’ve heard from this renowned German guitarist was last year’s cover album, Diamonds Unlocked. I enjoyed the album for what it was, but it didn’t drive me to start riffling through the guitarist’s catalogue. The music actually reminds me a hell of a lot of 80s-era Scorpions. It has that whole pleasing-to-listen to attitude with big emphasis on melodies. Pell is with no question a fine guitarist and his sound has delighted many rockers since 1989; the band has put out 18 studio releases, including Tales of the Crown. There are moments I find myself enjoying the solos from Pell, but in the end, I get this feeling of dissatisfaction, like I just listened to a heavy-metal easy-listening record. The sound is pleasing, but nothing stands out, and the far-too-many ballad songs get quite annoying. –Bryer Wharton

Curb Appeal Records
Street: 07.25
Barcelona= The Midway State + John Ondrasik
Terrorists have struck in the northwest United States by adding ativan to the municipal water supply in Seattle. And this band has been drinking a lot of it. It’s not a terribly heinous act, though, as you might imagine. The rougher sound of the newer “indie” melodic rock has been coalescing into more shiny pop rock as evidenced in this album’s production. The template is set and these guys fit the mold with some uncomfortably catchy hooks. “Lesser Things” (track four) has been popping into my head at inappropriate times, so good luck getting it out of your head, too. See if modern rock can push new boundaries in you with Barcelona’s almost eight-minute song, “You Will Pull Through”⎯ replete with John Ondrasik piano plinkings, echoing vox, and de rigueur backing strings. Note: Do not confuse this Seattle band with the Virginia band of the same name. –JP

The Last Alliance
Napalm Records
Street: 10.07
Battlelore = Tristania + Trail of Tears + Sirenia
Battlelore is one of those bands I’ve followed since the beginning of their career. Their fantasy/gothic metal style reminiscent of Tristania was easily accessible and catchy, focused lyrically on The Lord of the Rings saga, and mixed modern sounds with classical elements. Photos of band members in the liner notes are always hilarious, since they dress up like elves, orcs, even trees (the ents). Ever since last year’s Evernight album, the catchiness has faded. With The Last Alliance it is more of the same; it’s not really that the music is bad, just mediocre and full of redundant melodies with the same vocal patterns again and again. Both the male and female vocals lack emotion and run into monotone-sounding territory, more so on the part of the female vocals. It’s sad that a band that once crafted some massively epic songs that stuck in your head long after listening have taken the turn towards mediocrity. –Bryer Wharton

Ezkaton EP
Metal Blade
Street: 11.11
Behemoth = Vader + Decapitated + Zyklon
Behemoth are apt to appease hungry fans with their EP releases, which in the band’s more recent history, have traditionally followed the same formula, containing a new song, cover tracks and live tracks. It’s the same with Ezkaton, the band’s official Metal Blade records debut. You have a preview of the band’s upcoming 2009 album, with brand new track “Qadosh,” which sees the band treading into a bit more raw territory than the last effort, The Apostasy. Some of the cover tracks flop horribly, like the band’s cover of NIN’s “Wish.” They got the formula down for this 7-track EP with Master’s Hammer’s “Jama Pekel,” and a shreddingly spiffy version of the Ramones “I’m Not Jesus.” The EP succeeds more then previous EPs as far as content, and does the job to keep the band in the eyes of the metal masses and satisfy eager fans. –Bryer Wharton

Bison (B.C.)
Quiet Earth
Metal Blade
Street: 09.30.08
Bison = Mastodon + High on Fire + Discharge
It took me awhile to actually feel this album. Initially, what seemed like a pretty straightforward Mastodon/High on Fire ripoff actually morphed into its very own animal. Sure, there’s a definite Mastodon vibe here, but Bison (B.C.) pull off the same kind of intensity and heaviness that Mastodon do without the musical “showing off,” so to speak. Factually, Bison (B.C.) seem to owe more than a small debt to early UK D-beat and crust-punk bands, which is an extremely welcome change from most of the rest of the bands of this ilk worshipping early US punk. The songwriting and structure is catchy, and the sheer heaviness of the guitars is actually recorded and mixed well without turning into mud at higher volumes. The one distraction was the kick drum: all attack and no low-end, which is a shame considering the rest of the instruments shine through perfectly. I’m destined to find more about this that I like the more I listen to it. You might feel the same way. –Gavin Hoffman

Black President
Cobra Music
Street: 09.16
Black President = The Bronx + One Hit Wonder + The Cancer Bats
Slated by many people as a “Punk-rock supergroup,” consisting (currently) of members from Dee Dee Ramone, Goldfinger, etc. and being formed by Bad Religion guitarist Greg Hetson and Goldfinger guitarist Charlie Paulson, Black President has their work cut out for them to live up to what the media are portraying them as. Personally, I tire of hearing about the new supergroups pushed on kids by the industry. Half the time, the only reason anyone listens to them is because of a members’ primary band and not even because their new side project has any talent. However, this is not the case with Black President (whose name came before Barack Obama announced his run for president). The exhausting power that emanates from the 12 tracks on this self-titled release will surprise and impress a good many people. This record/band is worth a serious listen. –Jeremy C. Wilkins

Boo and Boo Too
No Tempo
Ironpaw / Chomp Records
Street: 10.14
Boo and Boo Too = 764-HERO + Girls Against Boys
Boo and Boo Too hail from Lawrence, Kansas, a town just like Sugarhouse, where everyone is wearing tight jeans, flaunting stupid haircuts, smoking shitty Oklahoma weed and starting a band. Instead of wasting our time, Boo and Boo Too should hock the instruments bought with daddy’s tuition money and get to learning. The entire album has the same lame effect, which sounds like a long empty hallway with a depressed drunk on one end and a drummer on the other. Throw in some uninspiring guitar and bass and it’ll make you wish it was 1996 and you were listening to Seven Mary Three. –Cinnamon Brown

Brent Amaker and the Rodeo
Howdy Do
Grave Wax
Street: 11.08
Bret Amaker and the Rodeo = Dead Bolt + Johnny Cash + Dale Watson
Brent Amaker and the Rodeo have been trying to show country music something different for awhile now. Their last self-titled record was straight-ahead like a steady train bearing down on you—not wild and out of control, but you definitely know it’s coming. Unfortunately, their most recent effort falls way short of the masterful country record that preceded it. The few gems on Howdy Do show what can be done in the mostly lifeless genre of country, like the opening track “Welcome to the Rodeo,” with Brent’s usual vocal stylings, which are still enough to make any Cash fan reminisce. The hoops and hollers backing him make his voice sound even deeper and steadier than it already is. These few bright spots, however, are not enough to save this release, which includes repetitive dreary tunes that become almost silly, and make it hard to even get through the record. I do hope Brent and the Gang can find the dynamic that made their self-titled album so damn intriguing. –James Orme

Casiotone For The Painfully Alone
Town Topic EP
Street: 09.23
Casiotone For The Painfully Alone= Handsome Furs + The Postal Service
Town Topic EP is Owen Ashworth’s soundtrack for Laurel Nakadates’s debut feature film, Stay The Same Never Change. It consists of 13 old CFTPA songs reworked and stripped of vocals, which are sandwiched between two shiny new songs (the only two on the EP with vocals). It is kind of odd listening to these extremely familiar songs without Owen Ashworth’s sad lyrics being sung over them in a somewhat monotone voice. However, the production values on these reworks is much higher than the originals, and they all have an extremely dreamlike feel to them, while the new songs are the same CFTPA we all love. Mix this EP together with some Album Leaf and you will have something nice to sleep to. –Cody Hudson

The Thrush
Obey your Brain
Street Date: 10.14
Chandeliers = Chromeo + Jab Mica Och El
Throw away the guitars and distortion, and while you’re at it, ditch the effect pedals—part funk-electro, part world-beat, part Itali-disco, part psychedelic, Chandeliers defy categorization. What is noticeably absent is subpar recording and atonal sounds—this is all gloss—listening to this album is like wearing satin pants. Every sound is perfectly accentuated and deliberate. A perfect soundtrack for a 1970s futurism party aboard a space yacht, The Thrush is pre-disco electro lounge at its best. Chandeliers’ loose membership lineup allows the group to incorporate a wide variety of influences and musicians, and while the group themselves reference Kraftwerk, I find the sound much less angular and electro. –Ryan Powers

The Chemical Brothers
Street: 09.02
The Chemical Brothers = New Order + Grandmaster Flash
How much would you, dear fan, pay for two new songs from your favorite band? Does $22 sound right? Unfortunately, that is the going price of this Greatest Hits, a collection containing even fewer tracks than 2003’s Singles 93-03. Billed as “DJ only, 10 ultra-rare Electronic Battle Weapon tracks,” the bonus disc seems promising until you put it in and find that the majority are demo mixes of previously released material such as “It Doesn’t Matter,” “Under the Influence,” “It Began in Afrika,” etc.—and they all sound fundamentally the same as the original versions! In defense of this disc, the new tracks are really good, particularly “Keep My Composure,” a collaboration of the Chem’s sexy, soul-tearing bass, arpeggiated arcade synths and MC Spank “Can Do No Wrong” Rock. However, unless your hard drive and physical copies recently melted, this collection is for people who think that fancy CD packaging will get them laid. –Dave Madden

Crystal Antlers
Touch and Go
Street 10.07
Crystal Antlers = The Black Heart Procession + the Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound + 80s hardcore
It is hard to know what to think about a band when their percussionist has assumed the moniker Sexual Chocolate. But, if he is half as sexy as he sounds while ripping along on this six-song EP, then he must have girl troubles like no other. The standing percussion is what stands out the most and gives a seriously hard sound to this noisy, blatantly hardcore psych record. At times, Crystal Antlers sound otherworldly, like you’re listening to the radio with the dial not quite on one station. Jonny Bell’s surprisingly graceful voice skirts the line between howling and singing, sometimes sounding like they were recorded in different rooms—but this only adds to the uniqueness of the disc. And while it is hard to excuse an EP being titled something as unimaginative as EP, the caustic organ hum, the double assault of two drummers and tornadic mix of bass and two guitars seem to tilt this band into the win column. Cheers to Touch and Go for looking hard enough to find this So-Cal psych troupe. –James Bennett

Dancer vs. Politician
A City Half-Lost
Sanni Baumgartner Release
Street: 11.04
Dancer vs. Politician = Broadcast + Nico + Jarboe without spookiness
My German usage may be poor, but this album is not. A native of Germany now living in Athens, Georgia, singer-songwriter Sanni Baumgartner slings her husky voice most often auf Deutsch; only four of 10 tracks are in English. Her style and craft is constant with simple supplements (like hand claps or musical saw), giving the electronic tinkerings (by Andy Baker, producer of Azure Ray) a folksy-cabin lounge sense � l� Goldfrapp’s Felt Mountain. The real gem on this album is the final track, “Homeless Mind:” a Leonard Cohen-esque, heartbroken ballad for the wandering soul. A more obvious influence for Baumgartner is songwriter Nikki Sudden (Swell Maps, Jacobites), who passed away two years ago. Baumgartner contributed to a tribute album, covering his song “Ratcliffe Highway,” which also appears on this album. Recorded in Berlin and Athens with members of Phosphorescent and The Olivia Tremor Control performing varied harmonic instrumentals, this album is poetic enough to be enjoyed in any country. –Jennifer Nielsen

Dead Heart Bloom
Oh Mercy
KEI Records
Street: 07.16
Dead Heart Bloom= The Gutter Twins + David Bowie
We live in extremely challenging times all around, but no one may be feeling it more than musicians trying to break into the mainstream through the regular formula. Thankfully, rock artists are on the crest of the tsunami that has been the death knell of the big labels. Dead Heart Bloom is one such group now offering their music catalogue online for free at so you can hear their latest EP without shelling out to some bloated fat cat at one of the majors, and good riddance, I say. Oh Mercy is as good as DHB’s last EP, yet even more likable for the final track, “Hymn,” a fully orchestrated song so gloomy someone asked me to turn it off when I was listening to it. Score another one for this group. The rest of the 5-song set delivers in the style I’ve come to enjoy from this outfit: varied, enlivening rock for the usually bored listener. –JP

The Dead Trees
King of Rosa
Milan Records
Street: 11.11
The Dead Trees = Spoon + The Vandas + Belles Will Ring
King of Rosa is walking-down-the-street music. Every song had me picturing a musical street scene, tripped out with a happy singing sun and the synchronized dancing of 1960 cartoon characters. Yet The Dead Trees are hiding something, or holding back. They play to the point of bursting lights, and then they dim and set a casual mood. The song “Shelter” has strong vocals, while “Killer in Me” was heavy on instrumentals. I expected to hear more of these elements throughout the album, and didn’t. The majority of this CD is set for smiles, head bobbing and a bit of disappointment. The Dead Trees are talented, but only leaked out a little of it in this album. –Jessica Davis

Offend Maggie
Kill Rock Stars
Street: 10.07
Deerhoof= Fiery Furnaces + Peter Bjorn and John
There hasn’t been an album for a while that has made me want to be an art-school snob this badly. With guitar sounds similar to Clinic’s latest release, and Satomi Matsuzaki’s familiar little voice, this album continues with the sound Deerhoof has perfected. It’s hard to hold this album up to the others because Deerhoof hasn’t released a bad album in like, seven years. It’s crazy that such a prolific band (pretty much a new album every year) can be so consistent. I just hope that they play an all-ages venue here soon so I can see that tiny Japanese woman go crazy on stage before I am legal –Cody Hudson

Northern Avenger
Sudden Death
Street: 09.22
D.O.A. = Anti Nowhere League + Dead Boys + Ramones
How is it even possible that after 30 years, D.O.A can put out a record this good? Northern Avenger is their 12th studio release and this is one of the best. The Canadian punk-rock godfathers have packed one hell of a wallop into this record. Starting off with the song “Human Bomb,” the message is that a person can be way more dangerous than any manmade weapon. This record also shows the band getting down and dirty with some ska tracks like “Poor Poor Boy,” but it’s D.O.A ska and it’s still pretty much merciless by ska standards. My favorite tunes are “Donnybrook” and old-time hockey brawl song (did I mention they’re Canadian?) “We Came to Play Old-Time Hockey, but They Started Acting Like Fucking Rocky.” Only in a D.O.A song does that really come together. Song after song and this punk-rock band of punk-rock bands keeps getting better. There’s nothing else to say except that this what punk rock is all about; just ask D.O.A lead singer Joey Shithead. Or wait, don’t ask him—after 30 years of hardcore punk rock, he don’t have to answer to anybody. –James Orme

Early Man
Beware the Circling Fin
The End Records
Street: 10.14.08
Early Man = Judas Priest + (early) Metallica + Kreator
I am admittedly a picky bastard when it comes to most music, but there are a few genres that I am an insanely picky bastard with: thrash metal is one of those. I grew up with early Bay Area/European thrash being played through shitty headphones on an almost daily basis, so the thrash revival of the last few years is both sweet and sour for me, which brings me to Early Man. While they do a decent enough job following a pretty standard thrash template on this EP, they are at the same time able to add elements of NWOBHM that don’t make them sound like complete morons, but they’re also unable to actually seal the deal and make me a believer. However you look at it, bands like Early Man are a dime a dozen, and it takes more than a few scattered falsetto vocal shrieks and solid riffing to make your band stand out amongst a sea of thrash revivalists. –Gavin Hoffman

Live at Roadburn
Tee Pee Records
Street: 10.07.08
Earthless = Black Sabbath + Nebula + Lynyrd Skynyrd
I love this stuff. Stoned-out instrumental groove complete with nonstop wang-doodling guitars just reeking of resin can always put a smile on my face. The one and only problem with Earthless is that they tend to go on for-fucking-ever, which is no small feat in the world of, ahem, “stoner rock” (does anyone hate this term as much as I do?). This double-disc was, as the title suggests, recorded live at this past year’s Roadburn Festival, and I can totally picture the throngs of long-haired stoners grooving the night away during their set … come to think of it, the picture in my head of the crowd during their set resembles all that old Woodstock footage, minus the moronic dancing and being indoors as opposed to being outside in a field that would have been better suited for growing the Mary Jane than for a bunch of smelly hippies smoking it whilst flailing about and deciding on “far out” names for their poor children. Ah, fuck it. It’s a worthwhile release, even if it is a bit long winded. –Gavin Hoffman

East of the Wall
Farmer’s Almanac
Forgotten Empire
Street: 11.18
East of the Wall = Circa Survive + Black Sabbath + Laundry - vocals
East of the Wall is honestly some of the best instrumental music I have heard. It’s about as intelligent and heavy as you can get. At no point on this 8-song CD does the power trio fall into the tempting abyss of fiddling with their instruments for musical vindication. The band consists of Brett Bamberger (Postman Syndrome) on bass, Mike Somers (Postman Syndrome) on drums and Jeff Speidell (Delft) on guitar. Every song makes me feel like I am losing my virginity to the old hairy gods of instrumental prog metal; it makes me cry, yet I feel so sophisticated. If a less annoying Dysrhythmia and a talented Russian Circles conceived a three-headed dog beast, it would be named East of the Wall. –Jon Robertson

Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate)
Year of the Rabbit EP
Count Your Lucky Stars/Strictly No Capital Letters
Street: 02.15
Empire! Empire! = The Microphones + Sunny Day Real Estate + Fog
The colorful, simple line drawing for the 7" vinyl led me to believe this would be a preppy, poppy-indie band. As the record started, I read in the liner notes (yes, some still have them) that Year of the Rabbit was recorded in Michigan (headquarters to the CYLS label) and mastered in Seattle. Just like the weather-persons of these regions would predict, this album is gloomy with a chance at greatness. Atmospheric and creative (as most music & art from colder northern regions are), Empire! Empire! interpret confusion and languished loves into sweet, melodic notes. Vocalist Keith (so independent! no need for a last name) softly sings while double vocalist Rich cries out from behind his drums. Third vocalist and other guitarist Cathy keeps the songs mellow without the drama. The bass is simple and down-played—used for emphasis more than as a main feature. Chiming percussions keep it luscious and layered. If you want your head above the clouds, give this group a try. —Jennifer Nielsen

Nuclear Blast
Street: 10.29
Enslaved = Akercocke + Borknagar + Woods of Ypres
Norway’s Enslaved have undergone many metamorphoses throughout their 17-year career. They started out when bands like Satyricon and Dark Funeral were starting, giving the band that raw harsh sound, and lyrically, subjects like Viking lore, nature and not really going into religion. The band changed up the raw sound and quickly challenged what the scene is about, adding melodies and clean singing as well as keyboards. With Vertebrae, you can hardly call the band black metal anymore; the band’s highly progressive style is apparent; the record, dare I say, has more chill melodic moments than sheer black-metal riffing and screaming. As the band constantly changes, Vertebrae sees the artists exploring new territory in harmony with their roots. The song-craft is dark at its core and a highly fulfilling listen, full of unique layers and sounds that take the term post-black metal to challenging new realms. –Bryer Wharton

Escape Mechanism
(Emphasis Added)
Street: 10.29
Escape Mechanism = Girl Talk + The Books - magic
Audio collage has seen better days. In the mid 90s, it was new and refreshing because technology had finally caught up with the mixing of ideologies. Ten years later, it still sounds 10 years old. It is tiring to try and catch any of the references. Oblique messages drift in and out, and the methods of compiling the material are very transparent. Escape Mechanism taps into recent indie dance trends just enough to make the album groovy and entrancing on the track “What’s Happening,” but fail to reach out to any other genres meaningfully. Tracks like “Details” are a little too related to not-so-distant hip-hop and is somewhat drab. This is music that would be best enjoyed under the influence of a substance and possibly at no other time. –Andrew Glassett

Expo ’70
Black Ohms
Street: 09.13
Expo ’70 = Phil Niblock + Cluster
For every master of the field of so-called drone music, there are 1000 more that try and don’t seem to get it. You can’t just turn on a machine and hope to come up with interesting textures (if you can, God bless you), a compelling use of or ignorance to harmony, development/stasis and, most importantly, a unique personality that sets you apart from the imitators. When Justin Wright, a.k.a. Expo ’70, is on, he’s totally on, as is evident on “Emerald Fanged Dancer,” a “something old, something new” Arp-like sequence of delayed microtones, clicking pulses and studio hum guided by consonant and dissonant reactions. However, the second Wright picks up an electric guitar and plucks along with a delay pedal, his music turns into cinematic filler. Sadly, Black Ohms is equal parts of these two elements; the moments of beauty and expertise overshadowed by dithered cliche (you have a skip button, though). – Dave Madden

The Reckoning
OarFin Distro
Street: 08.19
F5 = Drowning Pool with a prog-metal vocalist and guitar solos
I am somewhat perplexed here. F5 gets the genre tag of being power/thrash metal, but, while I can see the influence of those genres in F5 (especially in the superior debut offering, A Drug for All Seasons), The Reckoning sounds terrible and the songs are totally forgettable, and I can’t see what fanbase F5 is reaching for. As bad as this album is, I’m not really knocking Dave Ellefson, Megadeth’s founding bassist, who left in 2002, since he isn’t the sole writer of the material that F5 produces, and in all honesty, his bass-playing on the album doesn’t really stand out much to begin with. Maybe it’s just an outlet for him to keep playing music; he got tired of thrash or who knows what, but the music of F5 nowhere near matches the greatness of early Megadeth albums. –Bryer Wharton

Anthology 1997-1998
Dischord Records
Street: 07.28
Faraquet = Medications + the idea that there are enough people wanting their anthology
This was awkward. Most times when you see an anthology, it’s a multi-platinum, been-around-forever, you-probably-live-under-a-rock- if-you-don’t-know-who-they-are type of band. When a band like this releases their anthology, let alone one that only covers ’97-’98, you’d think they must have been pretty epic in some circles somewhere and that you just weren’t cool enough to have followed them. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. It’s a high dose of mediocre rock with nothing that makes them stand out against the crowd. Fans might decide they need this, but if you haven’t heard them yet, you aren’t missing much. Here’s hoping they don’t have anthologies to cover the 10-year gap that follows. –Kat Kellermeyer

Frank Turner
Love Ire & Song
Xtra Mile/Arbor
Street 10.07
Frank Turner = Million Dead + Billy Bragg + Counting Crows
Playing forgettable punk music 20 years after the genre got its start hardly qualifies someone to play folk rock. But this is exactly what has happened with former Million Dead guitarist Frank Turner. After having played pedestrian British punk for a couple of years, Turner decided to return to the music of his youth—Counting Crows, Weezer and Johnny Cash (can you say child abuse?). On Love Ire & Song, Turner moves on from simply country-fying Million Dead songs and works his acoustic folk mojo on a handful of new songs. There is an obvious wink and nod to the Billy Bragg school of Brit-pop-punk protest songs, but without much protest and without a whole lot of punk. And where Turner’s attempts to walk on the same ground currently trodden by the likes of Fake Problems or even Flogging Molly, his efforts are trivial and end up sounding more along the lines of Jack Johnson. And God knows the last thing this world needs is more musicians that sound like Jack Johnson. Come on, Mr. Turner, plug it back in and leave this weak shit behind. –James Bennett

Gang Gang Dance
Saint Dymphna
The Social Registry
Street: 10.21
Gang Gang Dance = Sigur Ros + This Heat + MIA + Antarctica + FCS North
Channeling the genius of no-wave artists such as DNA and This Heat, Gang Gang Dance’s ethereal Saint Dymphna is a complex, layered work of electronic and Eastern sounds. Markedly different from other neo-no-wave artists such as The Rapture or Liars, Gang Gang Dance focuses on texture and atmosphere rather than jagged sounds and dance punk, more along of the lines of Sigur Ros or Radiohead than !!!. Additionally, the eastern instruments add a particularly welcome flair, and the group avoids the pitfalls of sounding like a generic world-beat album by sparingly scattering the “ethnic” sounds over walls of reverb and desperate vocals echoing from an abandoned subway tunnel—not to mention the SpankRock cameo! The album is a marvelous composition of ethereal noise and orchestral development, a milestone in underground music. –Ryan Powers

Street: 11.04
Girlschool = Motorhead + Heart
The U.K.’s Girlschool started out in 1978; fittingly, Legacy’s release is celebrating the band’s 30th anniversary, so obviously, there is quite of bit of history involved. The album includes a plethora of guest appearances from friends the band has made throughout their career, including the obvious pick, Motorhead man Lemmy (whom the band has collaborated with) singing, playing bass and triangle on “Don’t Talk to Me,” and a bonus mix of “I Spy,” that features Dio and Tony Iommi. As for Legacy, well I can’t compare it to previous efforts (because I haven’t heard any); it’s 15 songs of classic heavy metal. Think of a female version of Motorhead with slightly more rock n’ roll. The vocals come from Kim McAuliffe and Enid Williams, creating a dual attack that plays nicely. End result: We have a classic-sounding, fun-as-hell, upbeat rocking record—how can you go wrong with that? –Bryer Wharton

At The Edge of the World
Driven Music
Street: 11.25
Godhead = Static –X + King’s X
Godhead brings just the right amount of creepiness and soulful balladry to the musical table. It’s an emotional rollercoaster with these guys. It’s like dating all the members of Stabbing Westward, but they are all bipolar. One minute they’re sulking in the corner about how you never loved them and the next minute they are standing on the front of the Titanic all inspirational-like, declaring how amazing your love is. It’s draining. This band would be much better off if they would embrace the creepiness and experiment within the context of their sound, instead of reverting to big, wide Scott Stapp-type choruses. The grandiose choruses in every song weaken the band’s sound; they’re cheap and contrived. Godhead is just not worth all the drama. –Jon Robertson

Golden Animals
Free Your Mind and Win a Pony
HappyParts Recordings
Street 08.25
Golden Animals = Black Mountain + The Velvet Underground + The Concretes
Listen to this album and you won't guess the couple is from Maryland & Sweden, nor that it was recorded only last year, not in 1970. You might correctly guess Free Your Mind and Win a Pony was recorded in a desert where temperatures often exceed 110 degrees. To be exact, it was conceived near Salton Sea in California, "a place that naturally transpires when nature thinks no one is looking.” Inspirations were also found in the house they tended for five months, isolated from the modern world. Landlord & alternative lifestyle author Gordon Kennedy allowed them use of his massive collection of 60s rock & blues records. From the first moment the guitar sounds, you can hear the 60s strutting back towards today, and in more true form than the "freak folk" scene. While song themes don't have the tendency towards the sadder lyrics of blues, they’re echoed in The White Stripes or The Rolling Stones. Every song evokes the feeling of carefree summer living. Tommy Eisner's fresh, youthful vocals often channel Jim Morrison with Linda Beecroft breaking it up with cymbal-heavy drumming. If you want a new classic-rock album, search no longer. –Jennifer Nielsen

Grampall Jookabox
Asthmatic Kitty Records
Street: 11.04
Grampall Jookabox= Man Man + Panda Bear + Leadbelly
This is incredibly dense, eccentric sounds with an emotional depth that Animal Collective just can’t deliver. David Adamson stumbled upon an interesting sound, mixing loop pedals, freak-folk and the blues. However, even though I can appreciate a sense of humor, certain elements of his eccentricity seemed contrived. A good example of this is “You Will Love My Boom.” OK, I get it, you like mushrooms, I feel like I could have gathered that on my own without you coming out and telling me. Even with all the silliness, this album is pretty compelling. –Cody Hudson

This Grand Show
Vendlus Records
Street: 11.11
Grayceon = Winds + Apocalyptica + neo-classical inspiration
The sound that San Francisco-based Grayceon displays on their follow-up to their self-titled debut is not what you’d normally expect from the area, although two of the band’s three members contribute to thrash-act Walken. The artist’s approach to progressive metal on This Grand Show is brilliantly displayed on the record’s five tracks; the 21-minute “Sleep” is a great example of all of the different layers and moods that the band brings to the table. The sound of the electric cello, well, it’s hard to avoid comparisons to Apocalyptica; it adds a huge richness and underlying thickness to the sound—to say the least, this album would not be what it is without the strings. “Still in the Desert” brings some of the record’s fastest and intriguing moments. The only complaint I have is with the vocals; they are out of place for the music, and tend to throw off the emotions that the music is putting forth. –Bryer Wharton

Waiting For the Rapture
Street: 07.23
Gruk = Blatz + Wendol + I Object + Nausea
Waiting For the Rapture descends like a full frontal attack, but it’s over before you know it. This release contains 17 songs that assault in under 20 minutes. Most of the lyrics are totally undistinguishable, which is where the liner notes come in handy. Gruk’s songs focus on raising social awareness, the fucked corporate world and feminism. They’re pissed off, no doubt about that. Lead singer Rachel Lovele$$ sounds a bit like the ladies from Blatz when she’s singing and not screaming. And when she’s screaming, like a combination of Amy Miret (Nausea) and Barb (I Object). Either option is a good one, though. – Jeanette Moses

I Love You
Drone, Drugs and Harmony
Street: 11.11
I Love You = Super Black Market - the emotional seduction + an American Balaton - all that innovation and creativity
Drone, Drugs and Harmony is, well, interesting, to say the least. The album is coarse and abrasive, but not in that raw-genius-Tom Waits kind of way. I might call this duo a couple of punk rockers, except that their music has too much of a repetitive, electronic sound to be classified as punk rock, and I’m not going to give it some “electro-punk” type of classification. You know that Joey Ramone would have been pissed if he heard people saying, “This band sounds like a mix between The Ramones and Shiny Toy Guns.” Buried beneath those chaotic rants there’s an obvious gleam of aptitude and talent. And sometimes, when the instrumentals are more settled, like in the introduction of “Myth of Gold” or the conclusion of “Bloodletting in the Ancient World,” everything comes together rather well. But other times it’s too layered and doesn’t know where it’s going or why it’s going there. –Erin Kelleher

I Set My Friends on Fire
You Can’t Spell Slaughter without Laughter
Street: 10.07
ISMFOF=The Number Twelve Looks Like You + Fall Out Boy + Panic At The Disco
With track names like, “Reeses’s Pieces, I Don’t Know Who John Cleese Is”? and “Beauty Is In The Eyes Of The Beerholder,” it is obvious that ISMFOF do not take themselves or their music seriously. There are some small exceptions where this works for bands, but this is not—in any way—one of those exceptions. This duo, which prides itself on being revolutionary for their experimental electro-grindcore garbage, have successfully made an album that will go down in history as one of the worst records ever made. Are they a hardcore band? A grindcore band? An electro/synth band? A punk band? A boy band? The polls are still out on those questions, but one thing is for sure: If you enjoy the feeling of metal-spiked soccer cleats being repeatedly kicked into your head, then you’ll love this. –Jeremy C. Wilkins

The End Records
Street: 10.14
Jarboe = Swans – Michael Gira + Phil Anselmo + Attila Csihar
OK, so my equation really only applies to this Jarboe record, and I’ll be buggered if it isn’t one hell of a Jarboe record. Fresh off her collaboration with Justin Broadrick, Jarboe’s latest full-length effort is an excellent listen from start to finish, although the mix is a bit suspect in certain areas. Most noticeably, her vocals are mixed far too loudly and are almost uncomfortably separated from the instruments on a few of the pieces. However, knowing Jarboe, this is most likely intentional. Taking her past musical catalog, both with Swans and on her own, as well as the countless other collaborations she has taken part in, into account, it actually comes as no surprise to see Mayhem’s Attila Csihar perform guest vocals on “The Soul Continues,” an excellent drone-laden dirge, and Down’s Phil Anselmo lay down the law on “Overthrown,” which is an acoustic piece that will not win over any Pantera fans. Minimalistic, beautiful, and spine-chilling, MahaKali (the album is named after the mythical Indian goddess of destruction) is a must for anyone wanting something a little off the beaten path. –Gavin Hoffman

Juana Molina
Un Dia
Street: 10.07
Dominic Recording
Juana Molina = Bebe + Camping Shaabi – techno + tango and Latin drums
This Argentinean comedian-turned-musician proves that not all celebrities-turned-musicians are doomed to failure. While Hilton is churning out mediocre pop tracks, Molina’s approach is considerably different. Her style is a melting pot of world trends, yet situated comfortably in the realm of the distinctly South American. Think less Ricky Martin and more Jose Cachao if he was raised in this generation. The lyrics are poetic and amazing, but the tunes are so gorgeous, you don’t have to understand her to fall in love with her. –Kat Kellermeyer

Excuse Me
Syntax Records
Street: 10.14
Kaboose= Braille + Definit + RedCloud
When he was in high school, Kaboose suffered a mild heart attack while playing basketball. His dreams of playing Division Three basketball seemed unattainable after his episode of poor health. So he played B-ball at a small Christian college for a few years. He had been a hip-hop fan since he was in the seventh grade, but didn’t produce and push his own music until he embraced Christianity shortly after his near-death experience. The lyrical content of this debut album resonate religion while the beats and scratching holler hip-hop. In the song “Two Sides,” Kaboose examines the challenges of having mixed-race parents when he raps about his European and Native American ancestors and the many racial conflicts of early America. The most impressive song on the album is “Goin’ Outta Control” featuring Royce Da 5’9”. Kaboose offers lyrics that will lift the spirits of any Christian B-boy, but might not impress the majority of hip-hop fans. –SUPeRB

Napalm Records
Street: 10.08
Kampfar = Taake + Moonsorrow + Windir
With a respectable amount of quality music under their belts, Norway’s Kampfar has drummed up quite the little following in the past years. What strikes me about this band is their blackened Viking style is very no-nonsense and boldly delivered without any fluff. The guitar riffs and song progressions are so close to traditional Norwegian folk that the band could almost get away with being classified as something other than metal if the black-meta-style vocals were not consistently present. My only qualm is that I wish Kampfar would branch out and deviate from consistency with maybe some acoustic layering, or mighty choral vocals. Yes, these have been done amazingly by Viking bands both old (Bathory) and new (Dark Forest), but with Kampfar’s talent, I would be excited to hear their take on it. Despite my incessant whining, if you enjoy the past material, you won’t be disappointed with this, either. –Conor Dow

Hundre a Gammal
Street: 09.02
Khold = (later) Satyricon + (later) Immortal + Dimebag's ghost
Looking like X-Files action figures and sounding like a groove-based version of Satyricon or Immortal, Khold might be the perfect black-metal gateway drug for the wallet-chain crowd. Think black metal's production values are shit? Khold are loud, brassy and crisply defined. Think black metal lacks hooks and the songs have no definition? Hundre a Gammal (which translates into Hundred Years Old) practically splits its seams with riffs designed for air-guitar flourishes. True, Khold's spooky grooming and cleaned-up sound make this cynical listener suspect they're casting nets at the Marilyn Manson/Rammstein crowd. But with Khold's all-Norewegian lyrics and basic faithfulness to black metal structures, I doubt they'll successfully wrangle fans from those polluted waters. If your tastes run towards the lo-fi grimness of Striborg and Xasthur, you'll be wise to sidestep this offering. But if you've been giving yourself brain-aids with nu-metal and lacy emo-neo-goth, then pull the pin on this grenade and see how much better music can sound. –Ben West

Larkin Grimm
Young God Records
Street: 10.28
Larkin Grimm = Ex Reverie + Devendra Banhart
Steady guitar-picking and female vocals that sound like they are coming out of an elfin princess never made me want to hug a tree and practice yoga so bad. Larkin Grimm’s Parplar is an album of fairy tales from around the world. Indian-inspired tracks like “Mina Minou” will bring out the Buddha in any of us. It’s easy to tell that Grimm has traveled all over and gained experience with different musical styles as well as mystic stories, which come out in song. –Lyuba Basin

Legendary Pink Dots
Plutonium Blonde
Street: 10.07
Legendary Pink Dots = Psychic TV + The Tear Garden + Doubting Thomas
It’s damn near impossible to consider Edward Ka-Spel’s voice as anything other than “unmistakable,” and his band of Legendary Pink Dots is equally difficult to confuse for any other group. LPD has always been an interesting band to attempt to wrap one’s head around, and their latest offering, Plutonium Blonde, is no exception. Varying between the minimal and the magical, and throwing in a dash of downright creepy just for good measure, LPD have once again created a work for the ages. If a dreary saxophone reminiscent of a back-alley jazzman isn’t sneaking up on you, or the reverb-heavy synth isn’t attempting to hypnotize you, then EKS is singing you a lullaby to have nightmares from. Definitely not for everyone, Plutonium Blonde is a perfect late-night-in-the-dark release for those wanting an insane drug trip without actually having to stomach anything bought from a dealer. –Gavin Hoffman

Like a Fox
Where’s My Golden Arm?
Transit of Venus
Street: 10.14
Like A Fox = Death Cab For Cutie +/- Pinback
It only takes Like a Fox eight seconds to rip off “Happiness is a Warm Gun” and “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1.” Eight seconds and I was already done with this album, but I couldn’t give up. As a SLUG reviewer, I’ve pledged an oath on one of the only surviving copies of the Necronomicon to listen to an album three times before passing judgment. So 120 minutes later, I’ve started hating falsetto singers so much that I even hate half of Wayne Coyne’s songs. What the world doesn’t need now is another Ben Gibbard, with his whining, mellow, dramatic style of singing clear, hear, queer, beer, gear, steer, and dear. –Cinnamon Brown

Lord Belial
The Black Curse
Regain Records
Street Date: 09.26
Lord Belial = Marduk + Dimmu Borgir
This eighth full-length by Swedish horde Lord Belial begins with a savage fist to the throat, starting strong with the martial dirge of “Pazuzu—Lord of Fevers and Plague.” This song, an homage to the Babylonian demon most famously referenced in The Exorcist, represents a perfect merging of melody, traditional metal-riffing, and black metal wrath, and displays a rare and restrained tension-building that I wish had been carried throughout the album. Unfortunately, the remainder of the album wallows in a morass of third-tier cliches and borrowed ideas. For a band eight albums into their career, you'd think they'd have developed a stronger and more unique identity, but unfortunately, they seem content to glide on a lukewarm foam of Slayer riffs, swirling gothic keyboard interludes, and distracting chants and spoken-word samples. Skip this one, and hope to hear the lead track on a podcast someday. –Ben West

Madlib The Beat Konducta
WLIB AM: King of the Wigflip
Street: 09.30
Madlib= Jay Dee + Kan Kick + The Beat Junkies + RZA
The Barely Breaking Even (BBE) label has marked this album as the grand finale to their Beat Generation series. Who better to conclude a run of great hip-hop albums honoring the best producers than the multi-instrumentalist Madlib? He has been a leading underground hip-hop producer/MC/DJ out of Oxnard, Calif., since his group, the Lootpack, formed in 1990. Madlib’s latest album features several members of the Stones Throw family, Defari from the Likwit Crew and drummer/producer/MC Karriem Riggins. Madlib’s weeded interludes layered with obscure samples and a bundle of dynamic instrumentals display his Beat Konducta side, while some tracks’ featured artists complement Madlib’s hip-hop intuition. Some featured artists make this album more boastful in comparison to his earlier projects, but Madlib’s ability to create diverse music results in masterpieces like “Ratrace,” an 808-heavy beat that sets the pace for Murs to speculate on chasing women. This album is an accurate representation of Madlib, only lacking aspects of his jazz projects, Yesterdays New Quintet and Sound Directions. Madlib is still at the top of the crate-diggin’ game. –SUPeRB

Marty Friedman
Exhibit A: Live in Europe
Mascot Records
Street: 08.19
Marty Friedman = 90s-era Megadeth + 2000-era Dream Theater – the vocals
As far as live recordings go, this is a fine effort at giving the listener the feeling of being at the show. Headphones give the best experience because at times you can actually tell what side of the stage the player is on. Crowd noise comes in clear; Friedman has some stage banter, but not enough to piss you off. I hadn’t heard any of Friedman’s solo work ever and apparently, since this release, he has a new studio offering, Future Addict. Not surprising, because this album was originally released in 2007. Friedman’s efforts are definitely an acquired taste even for seasoned instrumental music listeners. The songs come off as just a bunch of noodling that doesn’t flow at all and easily loses listener’s attention; that is, unless you are a dedicated fan and know the songs well. Just for reference’s sake, Friedman played in Megadeth from 1990-1991. –Bryer Wharton

Master Slash Slave
Free News
Street: 11.18
Master Slash Slave= The Killers + Say Anything + (Black Out-era) The Good Life
I honestly forget sometimes that there is a market for certain sounds. I thought that people were done with shitty Casio-assisted acoustic rock. This band probably makes high-school girls weak at the knees, with their whiny vocals, and lyrics straight out of a senior-year love letter. One nice thing about this album, though; sometimes singer Matt Jones sounds a bit like Tim Kasher. When he is not too busy writing B-sides for The Killers, that is. –Cody Hudson

The Matthew Herbert Big Band
There’s Me and There’s You
Street 10.28
The M.H.B.B. = Glen Miller + Lawrence Welk + protest songs + electronic samples
They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. This is also true when it comes to the road of mediocre big-band music. A dozen songs which aim to underscore political and social issues quickly make clear that “preachy” and “horn section” do not really work in unison. Still, Matthew Herbert is successful in his attempts to craft complex, soulful and subversive compositions. Sadly, though, the product of his efforts is not very listenable. It is interesting, though—especially when one considers the outlandish depth of the samples used throughout the record. From beeping hospital respirators to the sounds of doors closing in important British government buildings, Herbert slyly inserts dozens of symbolic sound clips. Again, this rather optimistic attempt to add meaning to his music is interesting, but it does little to make the album any better. A classic case of a collection of songs that add up to be LESS than the sum of their parts. –James Bennett

Mercury Rev
Snowflake Midnight
Yep Rock
Street: 09.30
Mercury Rev = The Velvet Underground + Yo La Tengo + Lift era Love and Rockets
Over the last two decades, Mercury Rev has gone from exciting us with their heroin brand of psychedelic rock to putting us to sleep with their “Dad Rock.” The last two albums haven’t held a candle to their earlier work; rehab sucked the creative juices out of them or maybe they’re just getting older. Snowflake Midnight isn’t anywhere near as good as Yerself is Steam and it pales in comparison to Deserter’s Songs, but it is a step in the right direction. For the first time this century, longtime fans are getting a little bit of the spacey 90s while remaining grounded with the delicate sounds of the 2000s. –Cinnamon Brown

Death Magnetic
Warner Brothers
Street: 09.12
Metallica = a sober James Hetfield + a sometimes creative Kirk Hammet + the same old Lars Ulrich + an unheard Rob Trujillo + overrated producer Rick Rubin
Death Magnetic is with no question the best album of original material from Metallica since Load. Yes, my friends, Load is just as good, although the record is basically a mix of the Load era with St. Anger and a tiny bit of And Justice for All seeping in. There are hints at the classic Metallica thrashing sound on Death Magnetic; the bulk of the songs have sped up enormously and there are some truly fantastic guitar solos from Kirk Hammet. James Hetfield’s vocals at times return to his screaming angry drunken days, though the record production tends to tone him out most of the time. The songs do run much longer than needed and end up being redundant after a while, leaving listeners with the feeling of boredom rather than, damn, I want to go back and hear that again. There are two songs that actually stick in my memory: “The Day That Never Comes,” and “All Nightmare Long”; everything else lumps together. But Death Magnetic ain’t no Master of Puppets and it’s not supposed to be. –Bryer Wharton

Michael Zapruder
Dragon Chinese Cocktail Horoscope
SideCho Records
Street: 11.18
Michael Zapruder = Jeff Buckley + Charles Manson + a dreamier Decemberists
It’s mystical and mysterious, amorphous and adept, sort of like a really easygoing acid trip. The first thing you’ll notice when listening to the album is the lulling voice of Zapruder. It’s similar to that of Patrick Wolf but without the belting wildness. In some songs there are overlays of background vocals that present the feeling of dreams, remembrances, and deja vu. It somehow seems familiar, but you can’t quite place your finger on it. Although it’s airy, it carries something weighty that makes you want to look beneath the surface. At times that weight makes it a little hard to listen to because of the nostalgia it presents and produces. It’s an album you can listen to anytime you’re in the mood for something nice and calm, but it seems the most fitting on a cold, rainy day; the best kinds of days for dreaming. –Erin Kelleher

Your Demons—Their Angels
Street: 10.28
Miseration = Darkane + Scar Symmetry + Hate Eternal Sweden’s Miseration actually released Your Demons—Their Angels in 2006, but the generally unstable Lifeforce records decided to bring it to the world. The entire band is comprised of members with a laundry list of bands they’ve been a part of, most notably Scar Symmetry vocalist Christian Alvestam. The summation of the band’s sound is just Scar Symmetry, a modern melodic death metal with emphasis on the melodic; in reverse, Miseration finds a heavier sound relying more upon groove/thrash/death metal elements than your standard melodic death metal. The death growls are actually fairly decent, and when the heavy, fast riffing is going, things sound decent. The key word here is decent. After a few listens, like so many other albums, the lines between songs are blurred and it winds up in one big lump. The guys should’ve just done straight death metal as well because the melodic guitar work and clean singing is oh so bland. –Bryer Wharton

Murs for President
Warner Brothers
Street: 10.30
Murs= Zion-I & The Grouch + Aesop Rock + Visionaries
Don’t be fooled by the major label; he’s still the Murs we know and love from the Southern California underground crew the Living Legends. He grabs your attention with the horn-heavy “Lookin’ Fly” featuring Will I AM, sure to frequent local radio stations. Aside from the track “Time Is Now” featuring Snoop Dogg, the album is true to Murs’ underground roots. The album also features Latoya Williams, 9th Wonder and DJ Quik. Underground hip-hop fans should focus on “The Science,” an accurate recollection of the history of hip-hop and African American culture. This song begins with a criticism of the new generation of hip-hop, who Murs proclaims is lost. Murs is straight-droppin’ knowledge on all those that slept or just neglected to study hip-hop’s origin. Murs is finally on a major label, but he contests that it’s the only way he can create any change in the constantly deteriorating intellectual quality of popular hip-hop music. –SUPeRB

The Notwist
The Devil, You + Me
Domino Records
Street: 06.17
The Notwist = Belle and Sebastian + Thom Yorke
This gloomy psychedelic concoction could make even the biggest recluse feel good about being lonely. The album is dreamy, romantic, and mysterious. The Notwist has taken a different turn since their last album in 2002. Six years has refined, calmed and cleaned the markings outside the lines. Although they now have a more serious sound, it is obvious they have not stopped thinking “outside the box.” The record stays hypnotizing through the end. Even the more acoustic tracks, like “Gone Gone Gone,” will capture the listener into a trance. The Devil, You + Me can cool your jets better than a cup of tea. –Lyuba Basin

October Falls
The Womb of Primordial Nature
Moribund Records
Street: 09.09
October Falls = early Opeth + early Katatonia + Drudkh
What originally had started out as a one-man acoustic/ambient project from Finland has mutated into a fairly adept folk-metal outing. With two session musicians (notably Moonsorrow's Marko Tarvonen on drums), there's finally a consistent sense of direction with this album, in contrast to past efforts. With a total of four tracks, all in the range of 10 minutes, The Womb of Primordial Nature certainly deviates from the early ambient roots, as you can tell by the equation above. For several reasons, this certainly will please those who appreciate a digestible amount of folk in their metal, as each song is garnished with some basic, but effective, acoustic passages. While October Falls has a handful of past metal material under their belt, I'll still consider this a demo of the direction in which they're headed. I am always interested in bands who are constantly working to avoid pigeonholing themselves ... so far, so good. –Conor Dow

Devils in My Details
Street: 10.21
ohGr = Skinny Puppy – Cevin Key + Mark Walk
It takes a lot of gumption to survive 26 years in the music business, but Ohgr seems to know what it takes: one foot in what you know and one nervously poking at the unknown. “Shhh” stomps like Berlioz on meth, fusing a skittish orchestra with the bang of Nine Inch Nails’s “Wish” (possibly getting Mr. Reznor back for comping his style?). “Eyecandy” follows with ohGr’s trademarked synthetic growl, the man yelling about God-knows-what under swelling, bit-shifted electronics. As the disc progresses, it is evident that ohGr still enjoys the shock of the unexpected, particularly on the back-packer hip-hop-meets-cabaret of “Feelin’ Chicken” and “Pepper.” Billed as a concept with nods to Genesis and The Alan Parsons Project, Devils in the Details is a splendid genre-defying notch in ohGr’s trilogy of solo albums as he continues to move forward and piss off the Philistines who beg for another “Dig It” and hated Last Rights. –Dave Madden

Omnium Gatherum
The Red Shift
Street: 10.28
Omnium Gatherum = Dark Tranquillity + Mors Principium Est
With the first spin of Finland’s Omnium Gatherum’s The Red Shift, the anticipation of a meaningful melodic death-metal release was upon me. However, for some mysterious reason, I found the sound flat and uncomfortable. But then it was as if some magical fairy dust got sprinkled on my head; I spun it again and blamo, it hit me, fantastic melody after another. There aren’t many layers to dissect with the album, though there is great complexity lying in wait. Emphasis on the lead guitar is huge; when the speedy death-style riffing is going, there isn’t much breathing room in between notes, which normally is a bad thing, but it’s highly enjoyable to just follow the momentum of the riffing. The breaks between notes come into play when the intricate-as-hell but not-too-complex soloing enters the picture. Keyboards are tactfully placed; complementary to the music, never overbearing. Vocal range is better than previous efforts; the death-growl is generic, but the deep-sung vocals give the record a push into greater emotions. –Bryer Wharton

Parenthetical Girls
Street: 09.09
Parenthetical Girls = Patrick Wolf + Lightspeed Champion + a woebegone Sparks
A euphonic and unique wonder, Entanglements is indeed a combination of pleasant sound concordances. This Seattle-based band almost disappeared altogether—only one member of the band, Zac Pennington, has remained since the beginning. However, the band recovered with a bang from its progressive breakdown and acquired three new members, including The Dead Science's Jherek Bischoff and Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart. This project is of a much dreamier and congenial nature than the music produced by the aforementioned bands, and the outcome could not be further from the band's previous near-failure. Piano, violins, bells, and xylophones make for a mystical, harkening musical journey. Entanglements could be the soundtrack for a 19th-century traveling circus or for Tim Burton's Big Fish. Harmonious and elegant, this release is a fresh burst of enlivening creativity. –Erin Kelleher

Parts & Labor
Jagjaguwar Records
Street: 10.21
Parts & Labor = Deerhoof + The Mae Shi + a rougher My Bloody Valentine with more disjointed noise
I was convinced that wind-tunnel music had made its marvelous and final exit from modern music when My Bloody Valentine released their last album, but Parts & Labor has proven me wonderfully wrong. The dynamics of this album are complex and volatile and at times are reminiscent of such earlier feats as, dare I say, Brian Eno and Echo & the Bunnymen. It’s a marvelous amalgam that’s blended so well that even when the songs have a more discordant feel, the overall effect remains sonorous. Vocalist Dan Friel has a voice so powerful that it’s almost hypnotizing and guitarist Sarah Lipstate could probably compete with MBV’s Belinda Butcher. The album’s title reflects its lyrical content, which presents the frightened reactions that people have (or should have) to rapid industrial innovation. If this album could manipulate nature and become a book, it might take the form of George Orwell’s 1984 or Cormac McCarthy’s apocalyptic novel The Road. Sometimes it’s bleak, sometimes it’s buoyant, but Satellites is consistently innovative and always influential. –Erin Kelleher

Pas Chic Chic
Au Contraire
Semprini Records
Street: 11.11
Pas Chic Chic = The Curse of Company + Duchess Says - the repetitive electro beats + a modern Charles Trenet with a kick
Seductive and synthesized, psychedelic and palatable, Au Contraire is like a sweet French kiss that you don’t ever want to pull away from. Sometimes it clamorously screams, other times it hums softly. There’s a haunting quality that floats throughout the album, which makes its ambience all the more luminous. Pas Chic Chic has found the ideal balance between experimental pop and elating shoegaze. Picture 18th-century France with its silk capes and billowing dresses intertwined with the France of the swinging 60s, with its libertine attitudes and cultural revolutions. These are the images that come to mind when rendezvousing with this French-Canadian ensemble whose lineup includes former members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Fly Pan Am. Favoriser, baby. –Erin Kelleher

Nuclear Blast
Street: 10.14
Psycroptic = Soilent Green + Meshuggah
Fans of chug n’ bark bro-core rejoice! Tasmanians Psycroptic have released an album crammed with technical riffs, buckin’-bronco tempo changes, and insanely robotic drumming. The problem is, advanced studio trickery has robbed it of its juice. This album will make you want to throw on an oversized hoodie and do some bedroom-moshing, but two minutes into the second track, you’ll find yourself winded, sweaty and unsatisfied. Ob(servant) has plenty of flash and action, but never quite slides an icepick into your ear in the way that death metal should. If you judge strictly on technicality and are a fan of Meshuggah or Necrophagist, Ob(servant) might rev your engine. But it left me thinking I should break out Obscura by Gorguts, Sewn Mouth Secrets by Soilent Green or Necroholocaust by Disgorge. –Ben West

Acid or Blood
Southern Records
Street: 08.08
Racebannon = Melvins + Mr. Bungle + Cherubs
We’ve all heard the bands that try their hardest to be Mr. Bungle and fail miserably. Racebannon, however, is a rare breed of band that sounds like they’re trying to be Mr. Bungle even though they’re really not, and they don’t fail miserably. Come to think of it, they don’t fail at all. Super-thick production and one of the dirtiest bass sounds I’ve ever heard on a rock record combined with utterly chaotic song arrangements that at different times remind one of bands as diverse as Crash Worship and Integrity make Acid or Blood a compelling listen, albeit a listen that could ultimately be passed over by anyone not knowing what to expect. This won’t be getting an “Album of the Year” nod from your humble narrator, but I can safely say it won’t be relegated to the “Utter Crap I’ve Had to Review” pile anytime in the near future. –Gavin Hoffman

Revolting Cocks
Sex-O Olympic-O
Thirteenth Planet/Megaforce
Street: 10.10
Revolting Cocks = Ministry + White Zombie + Marilyn Manson
I recently read that Al Jourgensen considers this latest Revolting Cocks release to be the best album he’s done. He’s fucking crazy. Sure, it might be a big hit in semi-goth clubs across the world, where roofies are standard and chubby goth chicks hope they’re on the receiving end of said nasty drugging, but this doesn’t hold a candle to Al’s past catalogue. Trying to compare this to the majority of Ministry’s releases, not to mention the insanely underrated and amazing Lard and Pailhead, is like comparing ghetto-blaster recordings of 15-year-old kids to The Dark Side of the Moon. While I’m glad he decided to shelve Ministry, I wish he would have shelved it in favor of a better project than Revolting Cocks. –Gavin Hoffman

Rise Against
Appeal to Reason
Street: 10.07
Rise Against = Major-label-era Bad Religion + Major-label-era Anti-Flag I’d always maintained that Rise Against were immune to the major-label curse that seems to plague most mainstream punk bands, but Appeal to Reason has proven me wrong. While there’s nothing hugely wrong with the album, it really doesn’t have anything going for it, either. The songs lack the passion and intensity of Rise Against’s earlier material and the whole album comes across more as a contractual obligation than an artistic expression. A few of the songs aren’t bad—opener “Collapse” maintains Rise Against’s tradition of strong first tracks and the poppy “The Dirt Whispered” hearkens back to the band’s Fat Wreck days—but most of the songs seem tired and contrived. Mosh-jocks and teenage girls who think Nickelback are the punkest band around will dig Appeal to Reason, but everyone else should probably steer clear. Quoth vocalist Tim McIlrath in “Audience of One:” “Maybe we've outgrown all the things that we once loved.” (Saltair: 11.11) –Ricky Vigil

Ruby Isle
Night Shot
Kindercore Records
Street: 09.16
Ruby Isle = Mark Mallman + I am the World Trade Center (literally)
While not a surprise for a Kindercore Records release, I expected more from the combination of Mark Mallman and Dan Gueller (from I am the World Trade Center). Ruby Isle fails to channel the Queen-esque glory of Mallman as well as the indie dance of I am the World Trade Center. To their credit, it is exceedingly difficult to write an arena-pop record, and this feat proved too great—Night Shot comes off as an easily forgettable blob of cutesy mediocrity. At times, I thought I was listening to a soundtrack to a Disney TV movie. If that is what they were going for, then power to them. The pre-teen market would eat this shit up. But hey, maybe they can score a High School Musical cameo? –Ryan Powers

Science Faxtion
Living On Another Frequency
Street: 11.11
Science Faxtion = DJ QBert + Primus + Parliament Funkadelic + Nine Inch Nails
The first and possibly the only album released by the super collaboration group known as Science Faxtion has so many guest stars it’s like looking up at the universe. The album features the talents of Bootsy Collins, Buckethead, Brain Mantua, Greg Hampton, Bernie Worrell, and Chuck D. Apparently, all these fancy-pants dudes have invented a new genre of music known as space-age metalloid funk This genre of music is bound to be hugely popular; who can resist funkified industrialized turntablism? Soon every man, woman and child will be listening to space-age metalloid funk. So you better get on the A-Train and get on down to Science Faxtion. I’ll be riding in the caboose. –Jon Robertson

Sharks and Sailors
Builds Brand New
Street: 08.01
Sharks and Sailors = Minus the Bear + The Appleseed Cast + The Smashing Pumpkins in their early years
It's not that I don’t like this album; it's just that I'm not sure I understand all of the musical choices Sharks and Sailors made. I was surprised by the heavy guitar riffs on some songs, when other songs seem calm and contemplative. On the heavier songs, the instrumentals are more varied, but I almost like the repetitive dissonance that's found on the quieter songs better than the weighty guitar intricacies. It seems as though the band was trying to step out of their comfort zone and create a new sound while still holding onto more familiar territory, but I don’t think this mix between indie and head-banging rock is such a good idea for Sharks and Sailors. The result appears amateur and unsettled and leaves the listener with a sense of confusion. The songs that are more tranquil and lean more towards the indie side seem more confident, which results in a stronger captivation for the listener. Builds Brand New really does try to build something new, and I've got to give them points for that, but the music is better when they stick to what they're good at. –Erin Kelleher

Shawn Lee & Clutchy Hopkins
Clutch Of The Tiger
Ubiquity Records
Street: 10.21
Shawn Lee & Clutchy Hopkins= El Michels Affair + DJ Shadow + Tommy Guerrero
This assortment of mellowed-out beats emit jazz, hip-hop, funk and soul. Shawn Lee and the Mojave Desert man of mystery, Clutchy Hopkins, have come together to create a soulful journey full of crisp drums and a variety of samples from around the world. The funky drums and cuts in “Full Moon,” set the mysterious tone. The uncertainty surrounding the identity of Clutchy Hopkins strangely permeates through changing drum patterns and looming piano and flute samples. Fans of jazz and instrumental music will enjoy “Bill Blows It,” a calm yet funky concoction served with a splash of Gillespie-ish trumpet samples. Later on, “Dollar Short” hits us with some heavy drum breaks and funky piano loops. The drums pick up again for “Across The Pond,” this time backed by the sounds of a Koto or zither-like instrument. The two conclude the album with the beautiful sounds of a sitar in “Indian Burn,” giving the listener one final feeling of displacement. –SUPeRB

Sonic Syndicate
Love and Other Disasters
Nuclear Blast
Street: 10.14
Sonic Syndicate = Soilwork + Mnemic + Threat Signal + Silent Civilian
Sonic Syndicate started out strong with their debut, Eden Fire, a highly infectious album, playing tunes in the vein of what Soilwork morphed their thrash-inspired melodic death metal style into. Since the trend started, this sort of modern melodic death metal has bred like rabbits and is very different from the traditional melodic death metal, which for the most part, is dead. Love and Other Disasters is pop-rock inspired and includes some straight-up emo ballad-type tracks, including “My Escape,” and “Contradiction.” I’m by no means a metal purist, although I wouldn’t consider what Sonic Syndicate has ever done really all that metal; it’s kind of like pop melodic metalcore. After a few listens to this third offering from Sonic Syndicate, you’ll be ready for something with more bite and passion to it and something that isn’t afraid to deviate from the same formula, i.e., happy melody there, angry scream there, all becoming very rhythmically pleasing, yes, but in the end, as annoying as a fly repeatedly landing on your face when you’re trying to sleep. –Bryer Wharton

De Oppresso Liber
Street: 09.02
Sothis = Dimmu Borgir + (later) Emperor
There is a delicate balance to orchestral black metal. Too many sweeping washes of keyboard and the music ceases to be moving and is merely ornate. Sothis, unfortunately, fall into this latter circle of hell. There are a number of warning flags, but they can be forgiven. I don't dislike this debut merely because it is "available at all Hot Topic stores." I can overlook the "yikes & spikes" promo photos that display the garters and corsets of bosomy, corpse-painted keyboardist Asperia (since even the best black metal is admittedly ridiculously image-oriented). The truth is, I dislike De Oppresso Liber because it isn't an enjoyable listen. The hyperkinetic and overproduced songs uncurl like an inhumanly wound music box. Everything is too accented, with too many fills, bridges, raspy vocal peaks, wailing solos, and above all, too much synthesizer burying everything under layer upon layer of sonic tinsel. The effect is like staring at a Christmas tree through a beaded gypsy curtain. If your taste leans toward the stage-storming polished black metal of Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth, you might be impressed with Sothis. I, however, will continue creeping through the undergrowth with Arckanum. –Ben West

The Soulshake Express
Heavy Music
Beatville Records
Street: 11.06.2007
The Soulshake Express = Drive By Truckers + The Helicopters + MC5
This is dirty. Dirty Southern rock, but prettier and more polished than a lot of bands playing the states because they aren't from the U.S. They're from Sweden, and with Heavy Music, they've done right by the South. I didn't like this album the first time I played it; too much funk and not enough fuck. Listening again, I realized they know exactly how to play soul-quakin' and ass-shakin'. Wailing guitars, rhythmic bass, deep drums, tambourine and harmonica rip through every song. A little bit of blues lyrics about trying to leave your troubled past or loosen the "Devil's Twist" proves it. Singer David Eriksson even has an authentic gruffy drawl, singing about a "Gyspy Daughter" who wrecked his life before the band rolls into a minute of throbbing, boot-stomping rock. This is true rock 'n roll—a heavy dose of it. You won't need a spoonful of sugar to make this go down. Just put on your hat, shit-kickers and leather jacket and turn up the volume. –Jennifer Nielsen

From Now to Okay
Independent Project Records
Street: 10.2008
Springhouse = Archers of Loaf + The Boo Radleys
The first song must be skipped over. It's annoying. I listened many times to see if I could figure out why, but decided I'd rather torture myself with Bare Naked Ladies. I'm pretty sure it's the noise of second vocalist Jack Rabid. (Dude, working for a rad music mag [he's editor of The Big Takeover] does not automatically lend itself to good singing. You're good at the drums, keep playing!) Rabid's voice sounds like a whiny kid from the mid-90s. It could belong to other vocalist (and guitarist/keyboardist) Mitch Friedland. Doesn't matter; knowing that voice belongs to a grown man is irritating. Also, "Pomegranate" was misspelled on the album case. You might want to correct that, too. These irritations are all a pity, as production on From Now to Ok was accomplished by Blue Man Group's music director/co-composer Larry Heinemann. He's done a great job orchestrating the music and giving it a Broadway-lounge timing. A few songs have a good rhythm, like James; clean, but more sparse. And there is nothing wrong with that. —Jennifer Nielsen

Street: 09.23
Starfucker = The Unicorns + Blonde Redhead
This Portland trio has dropped what could possibly be one of the best pop albums of the year; the only thing holding them back is the media’s fear of their cute name. Every song has a unique, addicting beat and has “hit potential” written all over it. Starfucker’s pop music will easily become favorites of any Flaming Lips, of Montreal, or Apples in Stereo fan, if given the chance. In the history of Kilby Court, I’ve never seen kids dancing to anything until I saw Starfucker play on Oct. 9th. With a mass of gear that included tape players, synthesizers, turntables, a drum machine, all the usual instruments, and a spider web of pedals and effects, they hand-clapped their way into everyone’s hearts. –Cinnamon Brown

Star Fucking Hipsters
Until We’re Dead
Fat Wreck Chords
Street: 09.30
Star Fucking Hipsters = Leftover Crack + Choking Victim + Slackers
What an amazing album … part crack-rock steady, a dash of ska and some straight-up punk rock, making for some great mixtures, in this case. The band was started as a side project by LoC drummer Brandon Chevalier-Kolling and lead singer Sturgeon back in 2004, but was put on hold indefinitely only a few months later due to Kolling’s untimely death. I’m happy that the remaining members were able to patch the pieces back together, though, because Until We’re Dead is damned near perfect. The female vocals (compliments of Nico de Gaillo of Another Dying Democracy) featured in this project are a perfect complement to the ska-influenced breakdowns and Sturgeon’s legendary raspy scream. Imagine if Leftover Crack and Choking Victim had a bit cleaner sound and female vocals––orgasmic sounding, right? Every song on this album is amazing, but I found myself playing “Snitch to the Suture,” “Two Cups of Tea” and “Zombie Christ” most often. This disc is one that definitely won’t disappoint. –Jeanette Moses

Get It Together
Street: 11.25
Supersuckers = Backyard Babies + AC/DC + Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (little bit) + Zeke
What’s so wrong with being just a rock n’ roll band; does everybody gotta be punk this, metal that, or some kinda alternative to the alternative? It’s ridiculous. The Supersuckers have forgone the bullshit of these genres, always just playing their brand of balls-out rock n’ roll. To put it simply, Get it Together captures the band at its absolute best. The step-up in game (not to say that previous efforts were lacking in the rockin’ department) is a result of two new elements: The addition of drumming virtuoso Scott Churilla, formerly of Reverend Horton Heat, which explains the boost in power; and the fact that studio wizard Billy Jow Bowers was able to take the Supersuckers sound to the next level. This band ain’t going nowhere, they’re always going to be there for the people that just aren’t satisfied with anything but some genuine rock n’ roll. –James Orme

When Time Fades…
Street: 09.30
Suspyre = Winds + Opeth (the mellow portions) + originality
Jersey-based band Suspyre deliver the goods on their third full-length, When Time Fades… with over an hour’s worth of massively diverse progressive symphonic metal. Everything contained is an exploration of epic proportions, from songs that run into the 11-minute plus range. Aside from glorious guitar work within its rhythms, solos and main riffing you will find subtle tidbits with every listen. The keyboard orchestration here is gigantic and the definite highlight of the record. Suspyre reminds progressive metal fans of the fact that much of metal is rooted and influenced by classical music. With vocal ranges from the high falsetto to low sinister-sounding, and female vocals included, any prog or open-minded music fan could easily fall in love with this album. –Bryer Wharton

Chrome’s On It
Street: 10.14
Telepathe = Bjork + Godspeed You! Black Emperor + Sigur Ros
Telepathe’s newest EP provides a sampling of a new type of minimalist electro, a droning singer-songwriter anthem with hypnotic and Icelandic overtones. The sound is polished and a perfect balance between repetition and atmosphere, creating a soundscape as grandiose as Godspeed You! Black Emperor, without all the instruments. Besides the original tracks, Mad Decent, The Mae Shi, Frankmusik, Free Blood, and Bobby Evans provide some respectable remixes, each approaching the sound from a completely distinct vantage point and yielding excitingly different results. Like all remix albums, due to the varied nature of the album, I’d recommend picking only a few of the remixes: The Mae Shi and Mad Decent mixes. However, unlike most remix albums, the original is surprisingly resilient, and should not be overlooked. Hopefully, the debut album, Dance Mother, continues on in the same fashion and doesn’t simply depend on these two excellent tracks to carry the entire album. –Ryan Powers

Forever Crossing the Line—5 Years in the Making
Trustkill Records
Street: 09.09
Terror = Madball + Buried Alive + Hatebreed
Apparently, being around for six years and releasing a few albums warrants a greatest-hits collection these days. Terror is a heavyweight in the hardcore game, no doubt, but this seems more like Trustkill cashing in on Terror’s recent move to Century Media than it does an honest show of support for a band that many consider to be one of the most important in hardcore. Forever Crossing the Line collects songs from Terror’s three Trustkill releases, Lowest of the Low, One with the Underdogs and Always the Hard Way. There are also two live tracks tacked onto the end, which are the only things that are new in this package. Terror is Terror, and most people know what they’re in for when they buy a Terror album: fast, in-you-face brutal hardcore. If you are just getting into Terror and want some history to fill in the gaps prior to their current release, this is a good place to start, but otherwise, this is non-crucial listening if you’re already into them. –Peter Fryer

These United States
United Interests
Street: 09.23
These United States = The Soggy Bottom Boys + Delta Spirit
I don’t know if These United States researched my likes before writing the tracks on this album or if this is some creepy coincidence, but somehow, each song refers to at least one of the following: mustaches, Old West outlaws and Indians. Oh, and they also give a shoutout to Salt Lake City in “Six Fast Bullets (Five Complaints)”. It may or may not be fate, but either way, the album is a killer combo of modern rock and old country tradition. Jesse Elliot’s vocals are strained and bluesy, fitting flawlessly with the saloon-style piano and banjo in the background. Crimes is a nostalgic interpretation of the mischief of the early 20th century. –Lyuba Basin

Fucked Up Friends
Street: 10.14
Tobacco = Boards of Canada + Dan the Automator + Air
I could easily say “my favorite album of the year” and “if Tobacco is a cult, where do I offer my first blood sacrifice?” but you probably want details, right? The subtle difference between Tobacco’s day gig, Black Moth Super Rainbow, and this disc is the synthetic, dusty-beat, neck-snapping rhythms and vocals courtesy of Aesop Rock on “Dirt” (a heavenly union, I might add), pandering to hip-hoppers more than Flaming Lips fans—but, again, the discord is marginal. Otherwise, Tobacco drenches the tracks in his signature vocoded vocals/vintage analog synths/trash-pit drum machinery sound, a stylized niche resembling something between the cracks of Boards of Canada’s Music Has a Right to and Geogaddi. Attacking all your faculties at once, Tobacco’s million-mile aesthetic will have you both staring at the sun and uncontrollably nodding your head like a crazed toddler during a The Wiggles taping, your hand slamming the repeat button again and again. –Dave Madden

Travel Now, Journey Infinitely
Indie Recordings
Street: 04.14
Trinacria = Enslaved + Neurosis + God (the band, not the deity)
I’ve been waiting to hear this since I heard about their initial one-off concert some time back. Two-thirds of Nordic metal heavyweights Enslaved combining with members of Fe-Mail and Emmerhoff to do their best Neurosis impersonation without actually sounding like Neurosis … who wouldn’t be excited? Rhetorical questions aside, Trinacria don’t even come close to disappointing. Super-heavy riffs that could easily have been used for Enslaved material combined with a pounding and monotonous backbeat that, although played by an actual drummer on an acoustic kit, would make Justin Broadrick jealous, the album opener, “Turn-Away,” is a no-holds-barred drone assault. From there, Trinacria venture into more Enslaved-like territory, blast-beating their way through the next two tracks before finally combining the drone and blast elements for the final cuts on the album. An absolute must for any Enslaved worshipper. –Gavin Hoffman

TV On The Radio
Dear Science
Street: 09.23
TVOTR = Celebration + Pere Ubu + Parliament/Funkadelic
After finding critical acclaim and mainstream success with 2006’s Return to Cookie Mountain, TV On The Radio have returned with something completely different. Much of Dear Science isn’t just easily accessible, it’s damn near danceable. In place of the dense, dark sound TVOTR is known for is a definite funkiness, most notably on “Crying” (which features funky guitar licks) and the horn-heavy “Red Dress.” The band still isn’t afraid to push the boundaries of their sound, though, as evidenced by vocalist Tunde Adebimpe’s rapid-fire, battle-rap delivery on “Dancing Choose” and the kinda dark/kinda sunny “Stork and Owl” and “Lover’s Day.” With the production scaled back, the vocals of Adebimpe and Kyp Malone take center stage, proving that TVOTR are ahead of the pack not only musically, but also lyrically. Dear Science isn’t what a lot of people will be expecting, but it’s a solid album that shows another amazing aspect of TVOTR. –Ricky Vigil

The March
Metal Blade Records
Street: 10.14.08
Unearth = As I Lay Dying + At the Gates + In Flames
Unearth is back with their fourth studio album and this one’s a solid release. I was a huge fan of Stings of Conscience, but then lost interest in following years. The March has brought me back again. The music is tight on this release, with plenty of metal solos to keep headbangers happy plus some genre-required brootal breakdowns. Metalcore doesn’t have to devolve into a puddle of mediocrity and Unearth is showing that there is still something to be said in an otherwise disposable genre. Unearth are more metal than anything these days, but they still maintain aspects of their hardcore roots. These guys are living up to their potential on this Adam Dutkiewicz-produced release and should satisfy the clean-cut hardcore crowd and long-haired rockers alike. See you in the pit. –Peter Fryer

Various Artists
All Aboard: A Tribute to Johnny Cash
Anchorless Records
Street: 10.21
All Aboard = Johnny Cash + Fat Wreck Chords + No Idea
With the recent influx of folk and Americana influence in the world of punk rock, a tribute to Johnny Cash featuring the likes of Chuck Ragan and The Gaslight Anthem seems like a no-brainer. Of course, no one can compare to the Man in Black, but this tribute album holds up better than most. A wide range of songs are covered, from Cash’s first single (“Cry, Cry, Cry” covered surprisingly well by The Flatliners) to his later material, including a great version of “Let the Train Blow the Whistle” by Joe McMahon of Smoke or Fire. As with any tribute album, though, there are some duds: The Loved Ones, who seem like a perfect fit for a project like this, deliver an atrocious version of “Cocaine Blues” and MXPX’s version of “Hey Porter” is just plain flat. By and large, though, this is an enjoyable tribute to a man whose influence spreads from country to punk and far beyond. –Ricky Vigil

Various Artists
Keep Singing!
Exotic Fever Records
Street 07.01.08
Keep Singing! = James Miska + Earth Crisis @ Sage's Cafe
In her introductory letter, Katy Otto of Exotic Fever Records reminisces about the wealth of inviting information about veganism/animal rights available at hardcore and punk shows back when she first started going. I remember those days ... many years ago ... . Many venue changes & participants later, hardcore & punk have once again diversified: "screamo" and "folk-punk,” respectively, shine forth on this album. From a new-er roster come contributors for this Benefit Compilation for Compassion over Killing: Gina Young, Attrition, Sinoloa, The Vonneguts. A few ol'-schoolers like Strike Anywhere brighten the album a bit more All 15 bands donated a vegan recipe as well as their time and talent. Each song touches on the issues of animal rights ethics or policies—even current politics in sub-culture. The effort and quality of this compilation proves that vegans don't have bad taste—in food or music. –Jennifer Nielsen

Various Artists
We Wish you a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year
Armoury Records
Street: 10.14
WWMX = a metal bastardization of X-mas songs
I have honestly never been a fan of albums that stick artists together from other bands to perform certain tracks. In many instances the songs are recorded in segments, i.e., one artist records his portion, passes it along to another, they add their part and so on and so forth. It’s a quick writing technique for the case, and in my opinion, for these types of records, it never works. So this record has that going for it and the fact that metal and hard rock and Christmas songs don’t go together at all. There are a few exceptional tracks on this compilation of artists, such as the one with Lemmy, Billy F. Gibbons, and Dave Grohl (the most star-studded track on the comp) performing “Run Rudolph Run.” Alice Cooper makes an appearance with “Santa Claws is coming to Town,” which, like most of the cuts, seems hastily done and rushed, meaning this concept with proper foresight could have been great. Another fun track is Chuck Billy of Testament screaming “Silent Night,” with his death growl that no doubt will offend just about any religious traditional person. The best of the best is Dio with Tony Iommi performing “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”; Black Sabbath does X-mas! In any right, the record is campy and fun, and when X-mas time comes closer, kids can annoy or unite their families with it, or just get a laugh out of rockers and metalheads everywhere. –Bryer Wharton

Kiss It Better
Eskimo Records
Street: 10.15
Velouria = Guided by Voices + Elvis Costello + Husker Do
From the opening track of Kiss It Better, it’s rather simple to see, that Velouria still own a house over on 90s guitar-driven indie-rock avenue. Returning from a long hiatus, it’s unfortunate that the band couldn’t put together a better album, despite their other band, The Black Watch, putting out consistently pleasant music. As the first chords ring out and the simple song structures are laid down, one recalls an earlier Guided by Voices with a vocalist sounding similar to a younger Elvis Costello. The tracks eased their way in and out of my ears, and as such, were just as easily forgotten. The catches and hooks are positioned properly; however, this album didn’t hook me. The length of the album leaves something to be desired, and it’s obvious how this band was overlooked even during their heyday in the 90s. Oh well. –Ryan Sanford

Walls of Jericho
The American Dream
Trustkill Records
Street: 07.29
Walls of Jericho = Terror + Martyr AD + First Blood
Poor Walls of Jericho. As Rodney Dangerfield used to say, “I just can’t get no respect.” This is Walls’ fifth album, which follows an all-acoustic EP (which I admittedly have not heard) released earlier this year that received less-than-favorable reviews. In many people’s eyes, this was a chance for redemption from that misguided attempt at nu-metal fan appeal. So, how does The American Dream hold up? Well, it’s generic, middle-of-the-road, non-committal metalcore. The songwriting on this is pretty lazy and lacks any kind of punch. Some bands get caught up in the overly technical side of music and lose aspects of good songwriting; Walls, unfortunately, has neither the technical chops nor the good songwriting. Each song is standard thrashy guitar riff, breakdown, generic screamed lyrics, repeat. There’s nothing egregiously bad about The American Dream, but nothing praiseworthy, either. –Peter Fryer

The Week That Was
Memphis Industries
Street: 07.08
The Week That Was = Field House / 2
The Week That Was is the result of Peter and David Brewis of Field House fame congenially deciding to part ways for a time. Peter began living without his television, cutting himself off from all current events. He used this experience to inspire his lyrical meditations on happiness, media, and Big Brother in today’s world. With nine credited band members, The Week That Was’ sound is lots of noises all put together, but the sound is surprisingly clear for it. When I try to locate the sound, I come up with a category called “melodramatic British progressive indie pop rock,” which I think might fit nicely, but there’re still other elements which this name doesn’t include. The sound is crisp and clean, with violins and numerous percussive elements. I liked almost every track on the first listen-through, which is rare for me. Go check it out, and if you’re in the Portland area on Nov. 28, be sure to catch these guys at Doug Fir. –Jesse Hawlish

White Denim
Transmission Entertainment
Street: 10.03
White Denim= MC5 + The White Stripes + The Stooges
An acid trip at a dance party sounds like a terrible idea, right? Well, White Denim makes it sound like a blast. This album plays like a sales pitch for the most glorified of decades, the 60s. This is the kind of music I like to pretend my parents were cool enough to listen to when they were young. It feels like the aftermath of a successful protest. If you are into hallucinogens, I think this might be up your alley. –Cody Hudson

The Wood Box Gang
Drunk as Dragons
Alternative Tentacles
Street: 10.14
The Wood Box Gang = Devil Makes 3 + Slim Cessna’s Auto Club + Pine Hill Haints
It’s funny to think about the fact that if the mainstream media were handed this record they’d probably call it “alt-country,” when we all know that this stuff is closer to the real deal than any of the pop stuff. The Wood Box Gang play a dark sort of roots music mostly involving country and bluegrass, and are not afraid to throw in off-the-wall elements such as a didgeridoo, or even some reggae rhythms to make things interesting. Songs of lost love, junkies, religion, and everything in between take the listener on a journey through the backwoods of Appalachia, where strange sights of moonshiners and lost souls are still found. The Wood Box Gang use so many roots-music elements that you never know from one song to the next what you’re going to get, but I’ll guarantee one thing—you won’t get bored with this record. –James Orme

Ten Stones
Sound Familyre
Street: 09.09
Wovenhand = 16 Horsepower + Gutter Twins + Swans
I had heard of Wovenhand for quite some time, but never given them a passing thought due to David Eugene Edwards’ being somewhat of a religious nut. I’ll be the first to admit that one of the first things that automatically turns me off to a band is if they’re some retarded preachy Christian outfit, and I have personal issues with that type of shit. Personal preferences aside, however, Wovenhand’s Ten Stones is amazing when it’s all said and done. Excellently written and performed dark rock n’ roll. Mark Lanegan and Greg Dulli’s Gutter Twins, the twangy guitars, perfectly utilized keyboards and superbly conducted rhythm section make Ten Stones an addicting affair from beginning to end. While it doesn’t contain anything new or challenging, it showcases itself appropriately and actually comes across as anything but pretentious, which is the exact opposite of what I expected. –Gavin Hoffman

Written In Flesh
Street: 11.11
Wunderbugg = a happy Richard D. James + Chemical Brothers + Orbital
This is really amazing, creative electronic music combined with a horrible band name. If you took ecstasy every time it rained, hung out in your basement all day tinkering with drum machines and samplers and began to compile a list of the doofiest possible names for your techno band, then when the sun finally came out and you emerged from your electronic euphoric trance and decided to share your music with the rest of the world, everybody loved your fresh and creative new take on electronica until you told them the name of your band and they all laughed at you and made you cry, then you understand firsthand what the members of Wunderbugg’s lives are like. –Jon Robertson