"Mike's Reviews"

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Siebenburgen • Delictum

Napalm America
Taking their name from the European name of what we Americans know as Transylvania, Siebenburgen is a Gothic death metal band that has an obvious love of vampirism. On their musically impeccable 10 track disc, these German Goths combine brutal thrash metal with atmospheric ambiance to create a truly mystical and magical listening experience ("Storms"). Goth rock never sounded so brutally beautiful. Imagine a chorus of angels singing over churning riffs, and that basically describes this outfit. Not for everyone, but if you're a little curious, check it out.

Sinner • The End of Sanctuary

Nuclear Blast
Sinner returns with a fully charged battery on their latest release. With two new members in tow, these metal mavens continue to churn out the formulaic but oh-so-tasty heavy riff ("The Prophecy") meets catchy chorus ("Heavy Duty") meets mind bending guitar solo song ("Blood Relations"). They even go so far as to branch out a bit and give a bit of orchestration in their arsenal ("Destiny"). It’s nice that in a world that changes on the drop of a dime that some things remain the same and maintain their value as well. Sinner fits that bill quite nicely for those who are about to rock. Salute at your dispose.

Mental Home • Upon the Shores of Inner Seas

Century Media Records
>From Russia with love? Not if you’re Mental Home, a dark, brooding band from the former Soviet Union. Taking pages from Moonspell and Type O Negative sans the Gothic outlook ("Late To Revise"), this quintet is no Gorky Park, folks. They have great musical talent and show this on their eight track disc. Combining classical compositions with snippets of Mr. Bungle meets new wave weirdness ("Eternal Moon," "Amidst The Waves"), Mental Home is worth the spin -- if not for their musical prowess, then at least for the musical boundaries they break.

Until the End • Until the End

Equal Vision, P.O. Box 14, Hudson, NY 12534
Until The End is a straight edge hardcore band, and they’re damn proud of it. On their five song release, the double lead vocalists take this quintet through an introductory course through anger and frustration 101 ("Running In Circles") as the music keeps the feel thick and thrashy, a la Madball and Hatebreed ("As Friends Fall"). Straight edged messages with a metalcore background is what UTE is all about, and they take the tough guy route to express their style. Definitely something for those that may need a wakeup call, but overall, a solid musical offering that leaves you thrashing all the way.

The August Prophecy • Five Endeavors in Self Murder

OHEV Records, P.O. Box 772121, Coral Springs, FL 33077
The August Prophecy is another one of those metal bands that mixes a little bit of everything heavy into their mix and makes those disjointed, dissonant jams that have 27 changes and border on senseless noise half the time. The other half, they’re snapping necks and breaking heads with some slamming riffs and demonic screams that’d make Linda Blair proud. So, dear listener, this one is a toss-up. If you dig the Relapse Records style, pick this up; otherwise, steer clear of something that may be a little too far left of center for ya.

Disturbed • The Sickness

Giant Records
The Windy City brings us Disturbed, an electronic metal quartet that shares as much in common with White Zombie as they do Godsmack. Their 12 track disc sizzles with power and bubbles over with emotion, thanks to the vocal gymnastics of their singer David Draiman. Riding the whole Static X/electronic metal wave, these Chi-town metalheads have got all of the elements to be the next big band; big hooks ("Stupify"), twisted vocals that, at times, don’t even seem human ("Down With The Sickness"), and overall the ability to command a familiar sound while still being able to place their own stamp on it ("Numb"). They even do a really cool cover of Tears For Fears’ "Shout." If you like the sounds of new metal, then Disturbed is a must-have in your collection. Check them out on this summer’s Ozzfest, and see for yourself what the hoopla is all about.

Dreadnaught • Down to Zero

The Music Cartel, P.O. Box 629, Port Washington, NY 11050
Dreadnaught is based out of Australia, and they don’t sound like Silverchair!!! That alone gives them a head start, but there are more reasons than that to like these guys. For starters, their 10 track disc rocks from start to finish with a lot of different vibes going on. There’s a good thick groove that reels ya in, followed by a hard rock sensibility and a tad of stoner rock strewn in. The early comparison could point to fellow Aussie rockers Grinspoon, but there are hints of Sabbath, Bush and Therapy in there, as well. This down under quartet really brings home the rock and can mix it up from face-ripping fist pumpers ("Scumbag," "Game") to emotionally charged mood pieces ("Blue"). A very solid hybrid, Dreadnaught is worth a spin for the post-Gen-X’er in you.

Power From the North

Digital Dimension Records
The Swedish metal community gets together and pays homage to their Swedish roots and gives props to the bands that inspired them on this 15-band compilation. Highlights include the mighty Meshuggah’s cover of a Whimzy tune and the brutal Entombed and their cover of Stillborn’s "Albino Flogged In Black." If you’d like to hear how these bands got to sound how they did, or if you just dig the "Garage Inc." concept of the whole project, then seek this puppy out.

Nevermore • Dead Images in a Dead World

Century Media Records
Nevermore is an epic metal band from Seattle whose latest release is 11 tracks full of rock and roll majesty. Imagine Queensryche jamming with Pantera, and that basically sums up what this Northwestern quartet sounds like. There’s a lot of classic metal influences (Priest, Maiden) seeping through here ("The Heart Collector"), yet at the same time, there’s a lot of what’s going on today mixed into Nevermore’s mix as well ("We Disintegrate"). Bonus points go to the boys for their ultra heavy cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s "The Sound Of Silence." If you’re looking for the best mix of traditional and modern metal, check out Nevermore’s latest, and you’ll be happy you did.

Strung Out • The Element of Sonic Defiance

Fat Wreck Chords
The new release from So Cal punksters Strung Out hits hard and fast, just like a NYHC band ("Razorblade"), yet this grizzled quintet somehow maintain their California bounce, too. Imagine Offspring jamming with Sick Of It All ("Savant") and you may get an idea of what their latest sounds like. Very melodic, but driving and chock full of candy coated choruses that you’ll be singing all day long ("Mephisto"). Some intense stuff here, folks. If you dig a little bit of everything in your punk rock, from the catchy to the cacophonic, then check these guys out.

Night In Gales • Nailwork

Nuclear Blast
The German quintet Night In Gales have a strong hold on what metal is supposed to sound like. On their latest 11 track release, they mesh pounding rhythms and screams from the depths ("Down The Throat") with melodic guitar lines ("Nailwork") and relatively catchy choruses. In turn, they create a truly well-rounded metal album that blends melody and brutality in an artful way. Imagine Megadeth meets Obituary ("All Scissors Smile"). And their cover of Alannah Myles’ "Black Velvet" is a must-hear, if not solely for the kitsch value, then at least for the mere attempt of making a semi-lame song somewhat listenable.

Boy Sets Fire • After the Eulogy

Victory Records
Boy Sets Fire is a Delaware quintet of epic proportions. These guys take the raw emotion of hardcore and add thick layers of indie rock, country and metal to the mix to create a truly powerful music machine. Imagine John Mellencamp jamming with Metallica, or even COC and CCR getting together for a session with a hardcore undercurrent and punk sensibilities. What follows is nothing but 13 lyrically brilliant, sonically satisfying tunes sure to grab you by the balls and the brain. Albeit the messages and politics of the band sometimes distract from the sheer power they wield, BSF show on After the Eulogy that they’re ready for the big time. This heavy music juggernaut is poised and ready to take their social justice 101 lesson meets hardcore punk metal consciousness to the next level.

NOTE: Due to space constraints, the following reviews were not included in the print edition of Geoff Wilbur's Renegade Newsletter.  These reviews are only available here in the online edition.

Papa Roach • Infest

Dreamworks Records
Papa Roach is the newest band from the "pissed off from California" line that some factory in Silicon Valley is seemingly pumping out these days. Keeping up with the dissonance of Staind ("Between Angels and Insects") or the bounciness of Offspring ("Last Resort") isn’t easy, yet PR does both commendably. Definitely devoid of substance, PR makes up for their lackluster lyrical subject matter on their 11 track debut by rocking. And rocking hard ("Dead Cell"), with a B-boy, Korn meets Limp vibe with chunks of funkified metal guitar riffs and driving rhythms that’s sure to sound good to every high school junior attending the Warped Tour this summer. Papa Roach brings to us a hip hop hardcore hybrid of rock without any message, which in reality, isn’t really a bad thing. If you’re under 18, these guys will speak to you in volumes, but if you’re over 18, turn your brain off and rock out!

Shelter • When 20 Summers Pass

Victory Records
Ray Cappo and company return with Shelter’s latest release, a 12 song jaunt through thought provoking positive hardcore. While their politics and religious beliefs remain a major focus of the band, it doesn’t stop Shelter from making some moving music. Their bouncy, near pop version of hardcore is a refreshing change from the tough guy metalcore that the scene has been saturated with as of late. Their melodic styling ("Look Away," "When 20 Summers Pass") are sure to have you tapping your foot and bopping your head. If you dig the punk/hardcore hybrid and if you can get past the lyrical heaviness, then pick up the latest from Shelter.

Soul Reaper • Written In Blood

Nuclear Blast
>From the heavy metal haven known as Sweden comes a band that seems to sit at the right hand of Lucifer himself. Soul Reaper is their name, and this quintet’s seven track release is reminiscent of Morbid Angel in both lyrical content and musical extremity ("Ungodly"). Brutally heavy and tinged with just the right amount of blast beat drums, break neck riffs and glass eschewed vocals, Soul Reaper is the kind of band that’ll have you sacrificing chickens in the nearest municipal wooded area in no time. If you have an upside down cross anywhere on the walls of your room, this CD is for you.

Stuck Mojo • Declaration Of a Headhunter

Century Media Records
Stuck Mojo has been a staple in the underground heavy music scene for some time now. On their fourth studio release, the Atlanta quartet mixes headbanging ditties with a dash of Southern hospitality to create 14 tracks of new metal madness. Sounding somewhere between Pantera and Sevendust musically, they become a bit more harsh in their lyrical content this time out, tackling both social and political problems that plague the US ("Give War A Chance"). Are they slowly turning into a Rage Against The Machine type outfit? Hell no, they still will rip your face off ("Hatebreed"), but now they have a social conscience. Consider Declaration a heavy metal US History lesson. Class dismissed.

Incantation • The Infernal Storm

Relapse Records
Incantation is truly a band that encompasses all that is evil, both musically, but more importantly, lyrically. With lyrics that sound as if they’ve been taken straight out of a Satanic hymn book ("Apocalyptic Destroyer of Angels"), these guys are the real thing for sure. On their latest eight track release, the boys also bludgeon the listener with an aural assault that comes complete with chunks of distorted guitars and blast beat drums. However, Incantation shows us that at times, they can be thick and sludgy as well ("Heaven Departed"). Incantation goes that extra mile to cover all styles of extreme hard music on The Infernal Storm. If you’re looking for a death metal band that knows how to mix it up and still remain heavy, look no further.

Raise Hell • Not Dead Yet

Nuclear Blast
Raise Hell is a throwback band of sorts. On their nine track disc, they relive classic moments of both late '80s thrash metal and NWOBHM guitardom with some success ("User Of Poison," "Not Dead Yet"). Despite their sophomoric lyrics and their cheesy delivery, these Swedes know how to rock in a very arena rock kind of way, a style that goes against their normal brethren bands’ prototype. If you’d like to hear some young and hungry musicians paying homage and rocking out to the old school ways of metal, then check this disc out.

River City Rebels • Racism, Religion and War

Victory Records
The River City Rebels throw down 14 tracks on their latest Victory release that take the ska-punk meets hardcore route musically and a solid political stance lyrically. These Massachusetts young guns sound like a supercharged Sex Pistols complete with horns ("Here Or To Go") and a delivery that's loaded with attitude and insight ("The System"). Reminiscent of fellow Beantown brawlers Dropkick Murphy's, this seven piece tower of power's music is contagiously danceable ("Country Is Doomed"), somewhat moshable ("He She It") and downright lovable ("Stars N Stripes"), if you can wade through their anti-establishment warbling. If you like to turn it up and be a rebel, the RCRs are the perfect band to accompany your latest revolution. Pick it up and f*ck the system, man! 

Mayhem • Grand Declaration Of War

Necropolis Records, Box 14815, Fremont, CA 94539
Norwegian Black Metal forefathers Mayhem return with their latest release, a 13 track disc that uses electronica and technology to further this legendary band's audio assault. While the usual trademarked (and infringed upon hundred fold) Mayhem tricks remain up their sleeve like blast beats and lightning fast guitar riffs, Mayhem shows that they can up the ante and remain just as relevant and in some instances, more powerful, by using technological advances as part of their doomy metal backdrop. If you're a fan of the whole black metal movement, check this out to see how a founding father band can still get the job done.

Eidolon • Nightmare World

Metal Blade Records
Eidolon is a progressive metal quartet that shows no variation from early Queensryche and (mainly) Fates Warning ("Eye of Illusion"). While the performances are top notch and the riffs are pretty driving, the music seems a bit dated, as if it were 1987 all over again. How many times can you hear a falsetto metal singer over grinding rhythms before it gets played out? This release may be genre specific, so for those who aren't into the whole prog metal thing, stay clear.

Scene Report

Triple Crown, 331 West 57th Street, PMB 472, New York, NY 10019
The hardcore scene is regarded as being the tightest knit in the whole rock community, especially in NY. So it's no surprise that a hardcore compilation comes along to stress this unity and celebrate each bands individuality through coming together. On Scene Report, 21 bands represent from across the East Coast, showing off their skills and putting out their varied influences and styles to share with the scene. From the NYHC grooves of No Redeeming Social Value and Billy Club Sandwich to the metalcore madness of Irate and One For One to the California hardcore of The Hoods, all facets of the scene are present and accounted for. If you're into the hardcore scene and want to be on the pulse of what the latest sounds are, then this release is essential.

Vader • Litany

Metal Blade Records
Poland's pride and powerful Vader return with a new release chock full of the metal madness that you'd come to expect from this long standing death metal troupe. Taking the old school style metal a la Slayer ("The One Made of Dreams") and adding on a keen sense of blast beat death metal mayhem, Vader shows us why they're still around with a powerful 11 track disc that will have you raising horned hands in the air and banging your head with childhood abandonment ("Xeper," "A World Of Hurt"). For the metal maven in you.

Nickelback • The State

Roadrunner Records
Before the cries of "generic" ring out, let's get one thing straight about this Canadian quartet named Nickelback. While their radio friendly riffs reek of Bush, STP and the ilk ("Not Leavin' Yet"), these guys do have a sense of rocktitude that buries all their Matchbox 20 and Creed knock off brethren ("One Last Run"). Imagine an angrier Collective Soul ("Diggin' This") with a strong sense of hooky choruses and some kick ass guitar work and you may just have a new radio darling in the works. So what if singer Chad sounds exactly like Gavin from Bush; at least Nickelback keeps it heavy, sans any crappy techno remixing. If you like your rock sanitized with aspirations of becoming a big hit, then Nickelback is for you. 

Sanctus • Aeon Sky

Metal Blade Records
This six piece California outfit is not your average Cali band. While their location has spawned such diverse musical entities as Deftones, Offspring and Motley Crue, Sanctus opts to go the death/black metal route on their eight track debut disc, with startling success. Their blend of Eastern European metal is no California sunshine, for sure ("November"). Crushingly dark and angry, and instrumentally unmatched ("Thy Desolation"), Sanctus is a metal machine that gives their European peers a run for their money. If you like the imported stuff, try something domestic for a pleasant surprise.

Brainstorm • Ambiguity

Metal Blade Records
Is there a factory nestled deep in the Netherlands somewhere that churns out metal bands to supply the world? If you were to look in an almanac, metal music has got to be that region of the world's number one export. Such is the case with Brainstorm, a 5 piece band that takes from the Savatage/Iron Maiden schools of metal and add their own versions of metallic guitar wizardry ("Arena") and comments on the world's ills from operatic vocals. Not bad, but not overabundantly well done, Brainstorm is one of those bands that may lie in heavy metal limbo, playing outdoor festivals and keeping the flame of classic metal alive and well for years to come. 

King Diamond • House Of God

Metal Blade Records
All hail the King! The mighty purveyor of evil himself and every PMRC members worst nightmare returns with a new concept album. King Diamond has toned down a great deal since his early days, yet the Andy La Rocque guitar assault and the trademark metal falsetto remain intact ("Black Devil," "Help"). While the King's spiel may be considered laughable in this time of "reality based entertainment," perhaps he could supplement his act out by taking it on the road as a play/musical rather than a mere concert experience. Imagine it now: King Diamond Live on Broadway. Hell, if Sebastian Bach can play there, why not. In any event, those that remain loyal to Diamond should dig this album a lot, and even if you're in a campy mood, this may be the type of thing to get your rocks off to.

Earth Crisis • Slither

Victory Records
Everyone's favorite hardcore vegans Earth Crisis return with a barnburning 13 track album that may have some long time fans crying "sellout". While it can't be denied that EC has gone down a Metallica-esque route in terms of songwriting, the boys have never sounded as well rounded and overall heavy. Slither is chock full of powerful songs that stray from the usual Earth Crisis pound you over the head formula. Instead, they opt to slow it down a bit and give it a little more groove ("Killing Brain Cells," "Slither") a la Pro Pain with strong results. Produced by aggro rock production king Steve Evetts, this is the most comprehensive and accessible release Earth Crisis has put out ("Provoke"), complete with thought provoking lyrics and thunderous rhythms and a twin guitar attack that is second to none. OK, so now they don't sound like every other hardcore band; is that so bad? Not really, because Karl and company have gone through an evolution that's only going to award them the accolades and success that they deserve. 

The Crown • Deathrace King

Metal Blade Records
The Crown is a metal band in every sense of the word. This Swedish quintet definitely brushed up on their early Metallica and Sepultura while writing this 11 track metal maelstrom. Swirling guitars, pounding drums and vocals from the depths of hell are what these guys are all about ("Deathexplosion") and when it comes to true old school '80s thrash metal, these guys deliver the goods. From breakneck speed riffages ("Devil Gate Ride") to slow and grinding bottom end madness ("Dead Man's Song"), The Crown is a band that brings the metal with no compromise and no remorse. Truly a breath of fresh air for all of you who have awaited a second coming of the metal days of yore. Check these guys out if you yearn for the glory days of Testament, Obituary and Slayer.

Queens Of the Stone Age • Rated R

Interscope Records
Want a band to worship and adore? Want to know what band just may save rock and roll? Look no further than the quirky Queens Of The Stone Age. Consisting of ex-Kyuss members Josh Homme and Nick Olivieri, QOTSA brings their second release Rated R to our hungry ears. The results will blow your mind in oh so many ways. For starters, the guest star power on this 11 track gem includes Mark Lanegan and Rob Halford. From there, QOTSA break all the unwritten laws of rock; they have more than 2 lead singers, they switch up their instruments on each song and they never stay put in a style long enough to be pigeonholed. From the Nirvana-esque angst of "Tension Head" to the laid back groove of "Autopilot", Queens pull off the amazing feat of maintaining a level of intensity by switching styles. There's something for everyone on this album from guitar instrumentals ("Lightning Song") to musical cacophony ("I Think I Lost My Headache") to balls out rawk and roll tunes ("Feel Good Hit Of The Summer," "Quick And To The Pointless") to satisfy all rock fans. These self professed drug addicts have given us 43 minutes of their best trips on CD. Please tune in and burn out with them on this potential album of the year.

Destruction • All Hell Breaks Loose

Nuclear Blast
Destruction is one of metal's true grizzled veteran bands, and on their latest 12 track release, they show why they've experienced such staying power. From their precision thrash metal riffs ("The Butcher Strikes Back") to the locked and fully loaded rhythm section, this German metal outfit brings new meaning to the phrase power trio ("Machinery of Lies"). While the '80s are (thankfully) long gone, Destruction shows us what made the metal music great by not changing a thing about themselves throughout their 15 plus year career. If you're a metal maniac, you'll be sure to appreciate this album.

Vanderhoof • Vanderhoof

Nuclear Blast
What exactly would you expect from a project spearheaded by Metal Church axe man Kurdt Vanderhoof? Probably some third rate masturbatory guitar album, right? Think again, boys and girls, because this 13 track disc smokes from beginning to end in a '70s retro prog rock kind of way. Think along the lines of Yes meets Deep Purple (even going as far as pounding out a banging cover of DP's "Burn"). but with more metal overtones. In short, it's a solid album that isn't as much a solo project as it is a side project. If you yearn for the days when rock bands jammed and spent more time on bridges and choruses than they do with their image, then you should check out Vanderhoof and reaffirm your faith in rock and roll.

Nativity in Black 2

Divine Records, PO Box 2590 Los Angeles CA 90078
The ever-influential and groundbreaking Black Sabbath have guided and shaped so much of the metal and hard rock of the past 30 years. This time, on Volume 2 of the tribute, more bands, especially those of the nu metal regime, pay homage to the Godfathers of Metal. Everyone from the mighty (Pantera, Slayer) to the wannabes (Godsmack) get in on this 12 track collection. While some versions remain loyal to the originals, many of the bands put a unique twist on their choice to provide an interesting listen. The techno beat of Static X's version of "Beyond the Wall of Sleep" works well, while System of A Down's composition changing "Snowblind" dawns new light on a stellar Sabbath fave. Monster Magnet's expectedly trippy "Into The Void" is just what the doctor ordered, while Hed PE's rap infused "Sabra Cadabra" takes the grooves to a whole different dimension. In all, this is a solid tribute to a legendary band that has made its mark in the rock world. If your a fan of any of the newer metal bands, you'll appreciate this disc and even if you're a diehard Sabbath fanatic, there's a lot here that will have you pumping your fists in the air as well. A must have for the summer season.

Ultraspank • Progress

Epic Records
The techno metal outfit Ultraspank returns with a mind bending sophomore effort with Progress. This 12 track jewel contains deep chunks of hard edged programmed rock that never lets you forget that they still are primarily a metal band. The stellar guitar work and super tight bass and drums complement all of the beats and noises in the background to create a true future rock masterpiece ("Crumble"). Heavy on the riffs as they are the samples, Ultraspank comes out of the gate raging, picking up stellar songwriting techniques that make their songs a virtual roller coaster ride, not unlike fellow robot rock peers Tool ("Stuck," "Smile," "Click"). These guys are on the verge of blowing up, so pick this album up so you can say that you knew them back when.

Doro • Calling the Wild

Doro Pesch is back, and it’s with a vengeance on her latest 14 track disc.  And she’s brought along some friends, as Lemmy, Slash and Megadeth’s new axeman Al Pitrelli pitch their talents in to help out the original metal vixen’s vision.  Stomping rhythms and hooky choruses are all over this disc ("Now Or Never"), as Doro restakes her claim as the Queen of the Metal ("I
Gave My Blood", "Pain").  Her cover of Billy Idol’s "White Wedding" gives a nice twist on a rocking tune, and the overall impression of the former Warlock lead singer’s latest is as impressive as how good Doro still looks today.  A welcomed return from a true metal veteran.

One Minute Silence • Buy Now, Save Later

V2 Records
One Minute Silence seems to be Ireland’s answer to Rage Against The Machine, and on their sophomore effort, this European media darling quartet rise to the task at hand and produce 14 tracks of jagged edged, socially conscious power rock.  While One Minute Silence’s latest isn’t as jarring as Rage, they manage to sound forceful without their style appearing forced.  OMS’s middle class anthems are soundtracked with thumping basslines dripping with funk ("200 Dog Years," "It’s Only A Ride"), booming drums that hold the ultra tight rhythms down ("If I Can Change") and a steady stream of distorted guitars ("1845," "Roof Of The World").  Insert the power of Downset with the deep groove of Orange 9MM ("Holy Man") and what you get is the rap rock fusion outfit who can outrock most of their American counterparts.  So, if you’re currently mourning the latest rock and roll casualty, turn your attention to the other side of the pond for an ample substitute.

Sick Of It All • Yours Truly

Fat Wreck Chords
NYC hardcore stalwarts Sick Of It All return with a new album that may surprise many of their most diehard fans.  While Yours Truly contains many standard SOIA anthems that will no doubt further propel these Queens, NY natives to the hardcore legend status that they richly deserve ("Blown Away," "District," "Cry For Help"), they also branch out like never before and decide to go some adventurous musical routes.  Take "Souvenir," for instance, a song that has more in common with Rancid and mainstream melodic punk than the usual slash and burn style that SOIA delivers.  Another song which strays from their norm is "America", a bouncy number that has a hooky guitar coda that could have come straight out of a Bad Religion album, yet the brothers Koller, Armand and Craig Ahead play it off and mark it as theirs.  Yours Truly is definitely a pivotal album for Sick Of It All, as it really captures the band at their best, even when they take a side step from their roots and go off on a tangent.  It may disappoint the ardent NYHC pit monger, yet if you’re a SOIA fan, you’ll see how much they’ve grown as musicians and how all of the styles that they have been influenced by through the years have seeped through on this release.  Definitively daring, and quite possibly their best work to date,  Sick Of It All cover all bases and go out on a limb on this disc, all with tremendous results.  One of the best in 2001 for sure.

Soilwork • A Predator's Portrait

Nuclear Blast
Soilwork’s latest release contains 10 tracks of meaty metal assault, yet there’s so much more here than pure aggression ("Needlefeast").  This Swedish six pack go above and beyond the call of duty and summon every musical outlet they know on their latest.  A Predator's Portrait has shades of prog, death and traditional metal, as well as some of the most endearing current metal sound audible today.  With their style well versed in Swedish metal mode ("Neurotica Rampage"), Soilwork build an enthralling array of soundscapes around the basic Gothenburg sound ("Grand Failure Anthem") to create something that many bands are bound to duplicate.  If you like your metal bonecrushingly heavy, yet with a lot of different facets that when formed, feel natural together, then all of Soilwork’s albums are a must-have for you.

The Worldwide Tribute to the Real Oi

Triple Crown Records
Leave it to two of the most influential and daresay legendary members of the hardcore community to take us on a journey back to its roots.  Roger Miret and Ono Cro-Mag are the tour guides, and The Worldwide Tribute to the Real Oi is the vehicle and this is one mean machine.  Containing 27 tracks of classic oi played by some of the most recognizable hardcore bands (Sick Of It All, Agnostic Front, Blood For Blood, Ryker’s) worldwide, this compilation lives up to the all killer-no filler moniker that many compilation fail to live up to.  Supercharged with hardcore chunk and containing more sing along choruses than a Raffi album, any good hardcore fan should have this CD handy for those old school nostalgic moments updated for our 21st century ears.

Dracula 2000

Columbia Records
Hmmm, what seems to be the latest trend in horror movies these days -- more gore and slash or a testosterone filled soundtrack CD?  If you picked the latter, then you get the big old can of Turtle Wax for your educated guess, as the latest compilation of B-sides and advances from metal’s top tier comes out with a Dracula 2000 wrapper.  Do these songs even fit the movie?  Kind of, as some of metal’s heavy hitters come out with some nasty sounds in honor of Nosferatu.  Pantera, for one, take the general theme and break out a monster track in the process ("Avoid The Light"), as does the mighty Slayer, proving once again that they can masterfully juxtapose their trademarked speed with Sabbath-esque grind ("Bloodline").  As for the rest of the disc, well there’s some hits, like that unavoidable rap-rock anthem from Linkin Park and the ultra trippy new one from Monster Magnet.  There’s also some misses too, such as another tepid attempt at nepotism by Powerman 5000 ("Ultra Mega"), a  well as a live track from The Union Underground that even crowd noise can’t save from being boring ("Bitter").  Add on some of nu
metal’s rookies for a little flavor (Taproot, Saliva, Endo) and yet another mediocre movie soundtrack is what you’ve got. 

Into Eternity • Into Eternity

Canadian quintet Into Eternity proves that they are no strangers to heavy metal on their self-titled nine track release.  Using a bevy of metal genre mixing, Into Eternity showcase the band’s versatility in the language of heavy music.  Able to create a huge soundscape complete with riffs that knock the wind right out of you ("Sorrow"), these guys show that they are true metal technicians. In fact, our Canadian chums balance between unpretentious progressive metal and Pantera-esque intensity quite well ("Behind The Disguise").  If you dig any type of metal, there’s something here for you, from the shred head to the melody monger.  Solid stuff from the Great White North.

Smokin' Joe Denson • Invites You Into the Madness

Smokin’ Joe Denson is a solo guitarist whose nine track disc is the stuff that guitar heroes are made of.  Denson lives up to his namesake as he literally smokes on the six string shooter, taking bits of Stevie, Jimmy and Eddie and melding them into his own bluesy hard rock ("A Ray Of Hope").  While Joe shines, the rest of the music isn’t as appealing as the fretwork, which detracts from the overall feel.  Nonetheless, Denson is not only a skillful guitar player, but also a good songwriter who can successfully mix a hook with some gritty guitar work ("I Stand Alone").

Cock Sparrer • Live

TKO Records, 4104 24th Street #103 San Francisco CA 94114
It’s hard to believe that Cock Sparrer’s first US tour only happened last year, but it was a heads up choice to record and release it as a live album.  The show, recorded in San Francisco and containing 19 of their most anthemic punk and oi tunes captures a raw punk energy that’s so barren from what passes by as punk today.  Lace up your boots and brace yourself for this one, kids, it’s long overdue and well worth the wait.

Starlight Mints • The Dream That Stuff Was Made Of

See Thru
For those who don’t know, Starlight Mints are a very strong candy that are as syrupy as they are sweet.  It also aptly titles this project.  Drawing from The Beatles both pre and post psychedelica ("Cracker Jack"), as well as quirk rock like Weezer and Violent Femmes ("The Bandit"), this 11 track disc is an acid flashback for the geek rocker.  Trippy and poppy, mainstay Allan Vest and company succeed at being both little tongue in cheek and cheeky ("Valerie Flames") with their dissonant riffs and outstanding use of instrumentation.  It’s not at all angry or aggressive, yet it takes that indie rock attitude and twists it into a late ’60s edition of American Bandstand -- The Lost Episodes.  If you’re not high while listening to this, chances are you will
be after hearing it.  Check it out for the change of pace.

Drastic Action • Sacrifice

California quartet Drastic Action take the punk route on their debut six song EP.  Bouncy and slightly upset, these guys take the energy of punk and create a whirl of sound that’s bound to start a pit.  They’ve also got the anthemic chorus parts down to a science, keeping the music moving and the refrains screamable ("Let ‘Em Bleed") to many a skater’s chagrin.  A welcomed sign that not all new punk bands are influenced by Offspring, Drastic Action’s disc is a good start.

Kickability • 3 Song Sampler

Hip-hop rock is pretty big these days, and Kickability is one of the better bands on the block that take the style and run with it.  These New York natives borrow from another set of NY Boys named Beastie to create their suped up, guitar driven rhymin’ and stealin’ ("Killers & Millionaires").  With the kicker box and the flow in place, Kickability is on their way to rap rock stardom.

Afflitus • Afflitus

Afllitus is a Bronx, NY based band that sound as if they’re straight out of Stockholm, complete with grinding guitars and growling vocals.  Their noveau death metal is chock full of meaty riffs and thunderous drums ("Staring Into Nothing"), yet these guys also include melodies that’d soothe the most savage beast ("The Shape Of Lies") without sacrificing their overall heaviness.  If you crave heavy music that has a strong sense of musicianship and melody, much like At The Gates or In Flames, then Afflitus is a band that’s worth your time.

Skyclad • Folkemon

Nuclear Blast
What would you get if you cross the bottom end of Maiden, the top end of Jethro Tull and a left field philosophy of early to pre-cheesy Genesis?  Skyclad, and their latest release Folkemon, to be exact.  Ten solid tracks of heavy metal quirk is what this CD is all about, complete with epic swagger a la Savatage ("The Great Brain Robbery") and some of the meanest fiddle playing this side of Dublin.  This sextet walk the line between progressive metal and folk music with outstanding results ("Crux Of The Message").  Don’t let the folk part fool you folks, the riffs are here, and they are domineering and sneering to boot ("Deja Vu Ain’t What It Used To Be").  Yet what makes this outfit so endearing is their 16th Century flare, almost as if The Canterbury Tales were made into a rock opera.  So, bust out your lute and represent for these Middle Age metallers.

3rd Root • A Sign Of Things To Come

Solid State Records, PO Box 12698 Seattle WA 98111
Another band from the God Squad hits the streets, as 3rd Root takes their nu metal approach and mixes it with their Christianity to create a 14 track monster of an album.  Not as urban as fellow God rockers POD ("Release"), or as dark and disturbing as Tool, this California quartet lie smack dab in the middle of both styles ("Fly"). They also pull off a Deftones tribute quite nicely ("Rise"), complete with Chino-esque whispers.  Sonically, these guys are as hard hitting as it gets, although they tend to be a bit derivative at times.  Despite their borrowing tactics, 3rd Root is a band that will have you getting lost in their deep grooves and banging your head to their intense buildups ("My Soul"), even if they’re a God fearing bunch.

Sloth Frenzy • Slow Murder

Sloth Frenzy is a metal band whose seven track disc is a virtual snapshot of the last 15 years of American metal prior to the new metal breakout.  Containing some heavy dual guitarwork that rivals Exodus ("Distant"), this quintet specializes in speed a la Megadeth and chunk just like Dimebag Darrell and the lot ("Sarcoid Savior").  Throw in an insane drummer and an overzealous vocalist and you’ve got a winning formula for sure.  While you’re there, check out their thrashing version of Deep Purple’s "Space Truckin’" for a blast from the past served with extra balls.

Linkin Park • Hybrid Theory

Warner Brothers Records
The latest major label darlings that have flooded the airwaves and infiltrated the teenage rocker’s subconscious are Linkin Park, yet another rap rock outfit.  However, the difference between LP and the rest of the overplayed genre is that these guys are full of hooks that stick in your head and are nearly impossible to let out ("Papercut", "Crawling").  Add to that the ubiquitous single that you can’t escape from ("One Step Closer"), and you’ve got a monster on your hands.  The thing about these guys that makes them so appealing could be the fact that they employ a singer and a rapper to enhance their vocals ("By Myself"), which overlay on top of one another quite well during the course of Hybrid Theory.  Linkin Park aren’t doing anything radically different, that’s a certainty.  However, they may have created the blueprint for the perfect mix of blending rap and rock, as neither style is dominant.  Instead, it flows from head bobbing to head banging in all the right places.  Call it a khaki revolution, but Linkin Park have got what it takes to run over the rock world.

The Guttersnipes • Chaos, As Usual

TMR, 68 Tulip Street, Bergenfield, NJ 07621
The Guttersnipes are a badass rock and roll band that lean on the DIY punk side of the fence on their 13 track disc.  A raw, gritty feel is what you get after one listen of this NJ four piece.  Imagine the Stones, The Stooges and The Sex Pistols ("Making Time") in a room jamming, and you’ve basically got the feel of what The Guttersnipes is all about.  Throw in a few rockin’ instrumentals ("Crashed Airplane", "The Bottom Line") and you’ve got a rock explosion that rivals The Ramones meets the blues.  Some potent stuff that has that good old barroom/poolhall feel that you may be looking for on any random Saturday night.

Southforty • These Days

Bruisingly heavy, yet soulful in an unsuspecting R&B kind of way, Southforty’s seven track disc measures up to the old adage "Don’t Mess With Texas".  With heavy handed hip hop beats backdropping guitar riffs that drip with chunk ("Sticks And Stones"), this Texas quintet match Machine Head in the brutality department, both in pure music density and lyrical content ("AMCA"). With the urban flavor in tow a la Hed PE and the chugging rhythms of early Korn, Southforty have a got a groove going on that never gets in the way of their intense output, a feat many bands cannot stake claim to.  Worth a spin for those that walk on the heavy side.

Darkwell • Suspiria

Napalm Records, P.O. Box 382, Bremerton, WA 98337
Ambient heavy music with angelic female vocals is what this Austrian quintet dishes out on their 10 track disc.  In the world of hard rock where the male ego is prominent, Darkwell do quite nicely in changing it up a bit.  Keyboard driven, with a real Gothic overtone ("The Beginning"), Darkwell harken back to the days when Siousxie Sioux and The Sisters Of Mercy were all the rage, adding in a few Deep Purple moments here and there for extra seasoning ("Suspiria").  Don’t let the cherub-esque singing fool you though, because this album is also chock full of intense drumming and underscored yet a well balanced guitar attack that has a lot in common with much of the darkwave you hear out of Europe these days ("Blackheart").  If you like Portishead, but want the music to bite a little harder, try Darkwell on for size.

Che • The Sounds Of Liberation

Mans Ruin, www.mansruin.com
The ever influential Kyuss has once again spawned another monster band in its wake.  This time, it’s former drummer Alfredo Hernandez and ex-guitarist Brant Bjork (also known for the mighty Fu Manchu), who work with Unida bottom ender Dave Dinsmore to create the stoner rock supergroup known as Che.  The seven tracks on this disc are high octane, Fender driven rock and roll ("The Knife," "Blue Demon"), complete with that faded "desert" sound that has been a staple of much of these men’s past works.  Leaning a little more on the Thin Lizzy/hard rock side of the fence, Che truly rocks from start to finish and is a great addition to your rock record collection.  Pick it up and get liberated.

Filthy Thievin' Bastards • Our Fathers Sent Us

TKO Records
Featuring members of the seminal punksters The Swingin’ Utters, this nine track disc is the perfect companion for a night at the local pub.  With enough mug swinging ditties to last a round or two and leave a tear in your beer ("Bastard’s Wrath," On The Way Down"), not to mention some catchy punk tunes ("Thick," "S.S.S."), Filthy Thievin’ Bastards could’ve made the one album that all of your male kin could agree on while pounding down a Guiness or two.  Folky, punky and overall fun, much like a night at the corner bar.  Drink up.

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