"Leadhead's Lounge"

Album Reviews by Shane Copher
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Soil - El Chupacabra!

MIA Records
This five track EP from Chicagoís Soil picks up where last year's demo left off. Hard driving rock riffs with a crunching rhythm and a metallic edge. Two of the strongest cuts from their demo make a reappearance on El Chupacabra! -- "She" and "Broken Wings." The new versions are more polished, but not at the expense of their grit.

The opening track "F-Hole" is the cream of this crop, wasting no time grabbing the listeners by the ears and yanking them in. "Crucified" and "Two Cent Friend" round out this solid effort, with the only visible drawback being the length of this disc. It left me hungry for more and anxiously awaiting their upcoming Throttle Junkies debut.

Deicide - When Satan Lives

Roadrunner Records
17 crushing tracks of pure death from Deicide, recorded live and blistering. Mixing old and new cuts, this album displays the power and prowess that has made Deicide the heirs to the fan base created by Slayer, Venom, et al.

"Once Upon The Cross," "Serpents of the Light," and "Trick or Betrayed" are prime examples of the kind of gut-wrenching, fist-clenching, sweat-soaked metal this band has been delivering since day one. Itíll wear you out before itís done spinning. Killer!

Disarray - Spreading the Death Plague

Inner Void Records (NRVD)
A four track teaser from Nashvilleís thrash masters in an attempt to whet your appetite for their forthcoming album, Spreading the Death Plague is about what one would expect from a live recording. The sound suffers at times, but overall it captures the frenzy and fury that Disarray has polished on recent tours with the likes of Skinlab and Stuck Mojo.

"Death Plague Jesus" and "Piss" kick this off, with "Future Lost" and a great version of "Agony" rounding it out. Fans of the band will want to snatch up this short collection, but if youíre checking them out for the first time, Iíd recommend tracking down a copy of í96ís Bleed.

Death Penalty - Conviction

Wild Rags Records
A far cry from their Bitter demo, Death Penalty has returned with a fuller sound, improved writing, and an album thatíll stick with you beyond the first listen.

While their debut sacrificed melody for the sake of brutality, Conviction offers groove-laden hardcore that, ultimately, listeners will find much more satisfying. As tracks like the opener "Race of Hate" and "Unspoken" will attest, this band still packs a wallop, but on Conviction they spend nine rounds beating you into submission, rather than going for the one punch KO. This time out, Death Penalty show theyíve got what it takes to become a contender.

Backstreet Law - Hockey Helmet

Riviere Records
Rap-laden hardcore with plenty of crunch, but little originality. This album suffers severely from sounding a lot like the rest of the pack. Of the 14 tracks, there are half a dozen that sound fresh, including "The King," "Freeziní," "Confusion," and "Ape Shit," while the remainder of this release sounds recycled.

Musically, the guys have got it down, with some interesting structures and capable riffing, but their lyrics and subject matter are a bit old hat. Not bad, but nothing special.

Roy Roberts - Deeper Shade of Blue

King Snake Records
Roy Roberts delivers soulful vocals, some enticing fretwork, and a dozen well-penned tunes on his latest release. In the tradition of B.B. King, Roy displays a melodic flair with a laid back delivery. This album contains a good mix of both contemporary and traditional stylings, with a jazz influence.

"Tonight Your Love Belongs To Me" and "Learning To Love You Again" are fine examples of Mr. Robertsí smooth baritone, while "Mr. D.J." and "I Tried" push his axework to the front. His duet with Little Royal on "Iíve Been Makiní Love" is a jumpiní number with deep roots.

There are very few bluesmen on the scene today who can hold their own with the legends like Muddy Waters, but Roy Roberts is one of Ďem. An outstanding collection of soon-to-be-classics!

Marilyn Manson - Mechanical Animals

Nothing/Interscope Records
Electronic glam is the best way to describe Mansonís latest, as this album is a far cry from Portrait and Antichrist. The heavy edge displayed in the past is replaced with a Bowie-esque mix of space and drug themed reflections of a troubled soul.

Say what you will of Mansonís over-the-top theatrics and satanic references, the bottom line is the guy's got talent! Well-written songs abound on this release. Whether the subject matter is at times dark, as in "Fundamentally Loathsome," or tongue-in-cheek, as on "I Donít Like The Drugs (But The Drugs like Me)," Manson finds a way to make the listener feel the emotions heís trying to deliver.

The change of pace on Mechanical Animals may catch fans by surprise, but after a few spins it feels downright comfortable. While slightly more tame than past efforts, there is still plenty here to spark the usual protests and controversy that surround this artist, and that is sure to translate into big media and big sales.

Mandy Barnett - I've Got a Right to Cry

Sire Records
While many of country musicís female hitmakers are taking traditional material and giving it a modern sound, to the ringing of cash registers worldwide, Mandy Barnett is taking the opposite approach. Her soulful vocal deliveries owe more to the likes of Patsy Cline than her chart-topping contemporaries.

If youíre looking for pop-flavored dance floor country, youíll want to steer clear of this album in favor of the mix-and-match artists playing on your radio. If, on the other hand, you want to catch some true country music thatís as pure as it gets, this album is full of passionate cuts thatíll take you back in time.

"The Whispering Wind," "Ever True Evermore," and the title track are all fine examples of Ms. Barnettís deep talents, and while they might not tear up the airwaves, theyíll definitely tear out your heart... this is the real McCoy and an album that you donít want to miss! Pure country music, delivered with conviction and grace.

Papa Vegas - Hello Vertigo

RCA Records
This debut release from Grand Rapids-based Papa Vegas boasts pop-flavored melodies with a modern rock sound. The grooves are infectious, and the delivery near flawless.

Rather than being influenced by a particular style, Hello Vertigo boasts a combination of everything from hard-core and garage rock to bubble gum and alternative, with the end result sounding remarkably fresh, and impossible to categorize. "Bombshell," "Mesmerized," and "No Destination" are among the most arresting cuts on an album thatís sure to push Papa Vegas to the forefront of college radio and well on their way to national prominence.

Andy Griggs - You Won't Ever Be Lonely

RCA Records
If you only buy one country album this year, I recommend you make it this one! Andy Griggs is a fresh face on the country scene, and this debut is in a class all its own.

The album-opening "You Made Me That Way" has top ten written all over it, though I find it the weakest track on the disc, its main drawback being the "generic" sound on his vocals. From that point on, Andy breaks from the crowd with an "outlaw" sound for the future.

On cuts such as "A Side Of Me" and "Ain't Done Nothin' Wrong," there is a gritty, Travis Tritt-like feel, but without the whiskey soaked vocals. "Waitin' On Sundown" and "I Miss You The Most" are strong, narrative "story-songs" that fit Mr. Griggs' vocals to a "T." His cover of Rodney Crowellís "Ain't Liviní Long Like This" will make you forget all about Waylonís version, while his duet with the aforementioned Jennings on "Shine On Me" is country magic.

With one boot in the present and one in the past, Andy Griggs covers a lot of country ground on this debut. It ranks right up there with the best of Ďem! Eleven strong cuts, any one of which could be a chart-topper. Combined with Andyís obvious visual appeal, I think heíll be all over your TV and radio in no time at all. Don't miss this fantastic release from a future Horizon Award winner.

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