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Sixty Watt Shaman • Seed of Decades

Spitfire Records
Maryland’s best kept secret is ripe for the picking, rock fans!  A quartet by the name of Sixty Watt Shaman is bound to explode into a dive club near you and blow you away with selections from their debut 13-track gem Seed Of Decades.  If any album was considered for absolute rocktitude, this would be it.  Blending the down home, dirty Sabbath-meets-Skynyrd sound completed by a booming rhythm section and vocals that go off the charts, SWS is a surefire winner.  This quartet stomps like Sabbath ("Seed Of Decades"), are as eclectic as Clutch ("Rumor Den"), stings like Kyuss ("Devil In The Details") and quite possibly plays the most real version of stoner rock out there on the circuit today ("Red Colony").  For a ride you’ll never forget, check this CD out immediately.

Velvet • Tragic

Signal to Noise Records
Velvet is a mid-Atlantic outfit that leans on the emo rock side of the fence ("Pheremoans"), shown on their eight track release Tragic. Blending the dynamics of Hum with the songwriting prowess of the Foo Fighters, Velvet show that they don’t have to be stupid to be heavy ("Falling Down"), nor do they have to be suicidal or melancholy to be emotional ("Vice Versa"). Velvet is definitely a band reared from the grunge era, yet they show that they have evolved quite a bit, mixing in shades of nu metal and good old fashioned ass kicking rock and roll to keep the mix fresh and current. Check out these guys for a solid piece of rock and roll.

Symphony X • V

Metal Blade Records
Symphony X’s latest release is a masterpiece of epic metal. This 13 track disc shines with musical virtuosity from end to end, as this New Jersey quintet mixes the progressive metal tones of such luminaries as Dream Theater and King Crimson with the symphonic wherewithal of any famous contemporary composer. These ultra-talented musicians have actually put together a CD that sounds as majestic as a Star Wars soundtrack, yet cuts and feels as heavy and intense as a Priest or Maiden release. Symphony X creates one of the most sterling metal sounds to date with their combination of lethal axework and strong metal rhythms ("Evolution") with lush interludes ("On The Breath of Poseidon"). Achieving a perfect balance between serene and extreme ("Rediscovery"), Symphony X is a must-hear for the disenchanted rock fan who thinks that all that roam the earth these days are baggy jeaned hip hop rockers. Pick it up and get swept away.

Tristania • Beyond the Evil

Napalm Records
Tristania is one of the best selling Goth metal outfits worldwide and it’s easy to see why judging by their new 10 track disc. Not only can you run down the checklist and find everything here to produce a fine Goth rock outfit, but Tristania go that extra mile to include some unorthodox sounds and styles to enhance the beauty of their sound. Whether it be the use of a fiddle ("Beyond The Veil") or a Gregorian chorus ("Heretique") backed by a techno beat, Tristania adds it all on top of their already solid Goth metal mix for a sublime listening experience. If you like Gothic rock/metal and Type O is a bit too campy for you, check out Tristania and see how it’s done when taken deadpan seriously.

Nile • Black Seeds of Vengeance

Relapse Records
Nile is what other death metal bands want to be. Supreme. The tops, bar none. Yes, they are this good. Blending snippets of all that is metal from Danzig’s grind ("The Dream Of Ur") to Morbid Angel’s snarl ("Masturbating The War God") to Napalm Death’s blasts ("Defiling The Gates of Ishtar") to some of the most thrashing death metal riffages heard on CD, Nile is the real deal. Death metal has never sounded so brutally uncompromising than on their 12 track jewel. Add into the fray Nile’s flair for Egyptian instrumentation and music (hence the name, folks), and we’ve got a potent mix of Middle Eastern moshing madness. Definitely worth a listen for those who consider themselves metal mavens.

Alice Cooper • Brutal Planet

Spitfire Records
One of the originators of the shock rock genre returns triumphantly with a blazing 11 track CD that can show his influences a thing or two. Alice Cooper is truly one of rock and roll’s trailblazing artists, and on Brutal Planet, it seems that Alice still has a lot of life left in his musical career. Sounding as current as his shock rock contemporaries, Cooper and company bang out some hard hitting anthemic rock tunes that drip with attitude and have an electronic rock feel. Nonetheless, these tunes still are branded with the trademark Cooper characteristics ("Pick Up The Bones"), such as a hooky chorus and gritty guitar work ("Sanctuary," "Blow Me A Kiss"). And of course, Alice’s staple vocals and lyrics, which go from the sardonic to the sarcastic on the drop of a dime ("It’s The Little Things"). Maybe Alice was sick and tired of certain "controversial" artists not giving him any respect, so he took matters into his own hands. Brutal Planet is the result, and man, maybe Alice should get snubbed a little more often if this is what he’s going to give us in return. Strong stuff from a legendary artist who can now put another feather in his guillotine.

Cannibal Corpse • Live Cannibalism

Metal Blade Records
Cannibal Corpse is one of the premier death metal bands in the world and they have now unleashed a live album for their bloodthirsty fans to feast on. This 18 track disc takes you straight into the pit and leaves you gasping for air, spanning the band’s career from the early days with Chris Barnes up to the new album’s goodies. Not for the weak of heart, Corpse pounds out blast beat after blast beat with ease and sounds just as good as they do in the studio. If you missed them live, or you merely would like to reopen the wounds that they left on you last time you saw them, pick this disc up.

Firebird • Firebird

The Music Cartel
Firebird is definitely the most retro band you’ll hear in the year 2000. Consisting of members of Cathedral, Carcass and Spiritual Beggars, this groovalicious three piece power trio pound out some of the trippiest rock and roll tunes this side of 1972 ("Bollard," "Raise A Smile") on their 10 track trek. Imagine Cream in an extended jam with Sabbath ("Torn Down") and a dash of Deep Purple ("Caught In A Quagmire") and you’ve got what a handle on what these metal mavens have created. Very unexpected considering their varied backgrounds, but definitely a welcomed switch up. If you yearn for the classic rock sound of a guitar driven outfit and are sick of the rehashed songs your classic rock radio dishes out, check out Firebird.

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.

Mactatus • The Complex Bewitchment

Napalm Records
Mactatus is a Norwegian six piece death metal outfit whose eight track disc is chock full of all that death metal goodness all your friends that dress in black crave. Breakneck riffs, screams from the lungs of hell, a piano twinkling in the mix somewhere, it’s all in there ("The Passage"). Also included are some very smooth breakdowns ("Another Dimension") and enough blasphemy to make the neighbors a little more wary of letting their house pet out alone while you’re sunning yourself in the backyard. If you need something a little darker than your antichrist superstar Marilyn M., check these guys out. Not only do they seem to be the real deal, but they manage to rock while singing for Satan ("Iron Handed").

Stitch • Stitch

Metal Blade Records
Surprise, surprise, Stitch hails from California. You’d never have guessed that from their Korn meets Coal Chamber flavored influences, now would you? On their eight track disc, this Northern Cali quartet keep the riffs chunky, the percussion Latin and the metal in the new vein, not unlike Soulfly, Machine Head, Downset and the ilk. Matter of fact, there’s such a strong Spanish/Latin musical influence on this CD that you’d think Tito Puente were conducting the band. Besides their impressive percussive, Stitch is pretty standard when it comes to the new metal scheme of things. Good breakdowns, catchy riffs and lots and lots of anger fuel this group throughout. If you like your metal a little ethnic, check these guys out.

Ray Mumbles • Envy the Ignorant

P.O. Box 0891, Baldwin, NY 11510
Ray Mumbles is a teenage juggernaut that is one part Korn, one part Trent Reznor and one part Chemical Brothers to create the new sound of the apocalypse ("Pigz"). Imagine Jonathan Davis hooking up with Fear Factory, or even some Webster Hall hardcore dance beats over some nu metal downtuned guitars and that’s what you get from Mr. Mumbles ("Disrespect"). While he runs the risk of treading tired ground, the mix of all the styles Mumbles incorporates always complement one another, with one never overpowering the other. If you’d like to hear the sounds of the new brigade, look no further.

Ditchwater • Breakdown

Sandra Bee Mgmt., 16310 St. Louis Ave., Markham, IL 60426
Ditchwater is a hard rock quartet from Illinois that rock in the vein of Staind on their four song offering. Ditchwater relies on playing hard hitting rock sans gimmicks. It’s just four guys full of emotion and aggression giving their all, complete with downtuned guitars that have a semi-death metal feel and vocal harmonies that complement the thunderous rhythm section ("Breakdown"). If you crave your rock meaty, complete with substance and an ability to knock you on your ass ("Fragments"), then these guys are a band you must check out.

Rick Magee and the Roadhouse Rockers • Live at Hazen

High Street Productions, 114 High St., Box 537, Waterford, PA 16441
Dubbed "America's Favorite Biker Band," Rick Magee and The Roadhouse Rockers live up to their apt title by delivering some down home Southern blues and rock and roll. On their live 10-track disc, Magee and company keep the house full of hard drinkin', rough ridin' bikers rockin' with their performance prowess and some of the hottest licks this side of the Delta ("Devil Woman"). Add to the mix some inspired cover tunes (Hendrix's "Fire" and Allman Brothers' "Not My Cross To Bear") and a near-8-minute Skynyrd-esque ballad that's a surefire flick yer Bic song ("I Don't Know"), and we're about ready to yell for FREEBIRD! If you'd like to hear what one of the better blues rock bar bands sounds like live and you just can't get to the gig, then this CD is a welcomed substitute.

The 2 Iguanas From Earth

Iguana512@aol.com; www.2iguanas.com
The 2 Iguanas From Earth is a female guitar/vocal duo from Detroit that shows a lot of diverse influences on their six song CD. With songs that range from pop jingles a la The Go-Go’s and The Bangles ("Hi-Jack A Rocket") to blues soaked ditties a la Bonnie Raitt ("Shot Of Love"), these two ladies show that they can sing and play with some pop sensibilities and a good rock and roll foundation. Check out this dynamic duo if you like your music female fronted with hooks aplenty.

Kruzt • No Accounting For Taste

Kruzt is powered by 2, yet sonically is bombastic. Mixing today's technology with the big '80s metal hooks and structure, Kruzt has a real down and dirty sound ("Slaves") that meshes the styles well, almost like an unperverted Marilyn Manson ("Soldiers"). Some of the songs on their 13-track release miss the mark, yet the ones that do hit the mark have just the right ingredients to hit it big. Catchy chorus, memorable guitar line and a good beat that could be danced to ("Knock About," "Alone"). Definitely something a little left of center, Kruzt is a pretty good effort at mixing different styles with some very impressive results.

Ashland • Ashland

By way of Washington, the same state that brought the world Heart and Queensryche, come Ashland, a powerful and progressive quartet that share many musical similarities with their hometown heroes.  They also draw comparisons to Rush and Dream Theater in terms of style and delivery on their six song CD.  Ashland can be at times technical yet harmonious with a driving backbeat ("No Easy Way"), while at other times can be lush and spacious a la Pink Floyd ("My Sky").  If you like your rock slightly operatic, with flair and pizzazz to accompany some great riffs and thought provoking songwriting, then check out Ashland.

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