"Mike's Reviews, Part 2"

by MikeSOS
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Black Label Society • 1919 Eternal

Spitfire Records
Upon opening the new disc from Zakk Wylde’s Black Label Society, you see a picture of his pops, decked out in military garb and when peeling the CD from its precarious position, it leads you to a harbinging picture of the statuesque six stringer, as if he took the lead role of Jack London’s Call of the Wild and made it his own.  The album, much like these photos, echoes the sentiments of honor, patriotism (check out Zakk’s stirring rendition of "America The Beautiful"), loyalty and commitment, only it’s Wylde’s job to preserve hard rock this time around.  And he does so unabashedly, with little fanfare and with jackhammer-like alacrity.  From punishing guitar chuggers ("Bleed For Me," "Genocide Junkies," "Demise Of Sanity") to softer Southern tinged acoustic tunes ("Bridge To Cross"), BLS covers a lot of ground on this 14 track salute to heavy music.  Zakk handled most of the musical duties himself, with a little help from BLS Chapter members across the US.  His style, falling somewhere in between Lynyrd Skynyrd and Pantera, holds up throughout the entire disc, as the crushing "Battering Ram" and the prolific "Lost Heaven" being immediate standouts.  Yet, every track on BLS’s latest can be considered a rip roaring success, as they showcase Zakk’s passionate performance as well as his deep and powerful songwriting abilities.  Black Label Society bring it heavy, brutal and most importantly, honest, a trait you’ll seldom see in the music industry these days.  For a hard rocking trip you’ll enjoy taking again and again, check out Black Label Society’s newest release and feel the intense pride that Zakk exudes for yourself.  (www.spitfirerecords.com)

Orquesta Del Desierto • Orquesta Del Desierto

Meteor City
Another Kyuss alumnus comes out with a solo effort that showcases the diversity and musicality of the desert.  This time it’s drummer Alfredo Hernandez, who, along with notable longtime collaborators Mario Lalli and Pete Stahl, have created the sounds known as Orquesta Del Desierto.  Surprisingly enough, this outing isn’t a heavy one at all; instead, these eclectic 10 tracks encompass acoustic guitars, mariachi horns ("Shadow Stealing") and a folksy overlay ("Mary Strange") that sounds as if it were concocted in Seattle and not Death Valley.  If you’re familiar with the clique of musicians that comprise the infamous Desert Sessions, then this CD is definitely right in your ballpark.  It’s quite the stark contrast to what you’d be accustomed to hearing when these guys get together.  Rest assured, even the most ardent Kyuss fan may be thrown for a loop at first, but once you soak in the melodics of "Scorned Liver" or the solemn acoustic beauty of "Waiting For That Star To Fall", you’ll see that it’s merely an unplugged, stripped down version of the sonic sounds we know and love.  (www.meteorcity.com)

Uphill Battle • Uphill Battle

Relapse Records
Like any good Relapse outfit, Uphill Battle has the uncanny knack to knock you out cold with their precision power punch.  Packed with one part grind core and one part hardcore, this California quintet is loud, jarring and definitely does not typify the California band stereotype.  Insanity reigns over these guys ("Climate Control"), as blast beat drumming and guitars, which flip flop between grind and groove, pervade the entire nine track collection ("Old").  Add a murky outlook, complete with lyrics like "shot me to the ground, then skin me alive" from "Playing Dead" and you can see that Uphill Battle isn’t exactly a feel good kind of band.  For a harsh lesson in life and how it can break your spirit and leave you cold ("Bleeding Morals"), allow Uphill Battle to provide the music to your gloomy pensiveness.  (www.relapse.com)

In Extremo • Sunder Ohne Zugel

Metal Blade Records
In Extremo is a German metal band whose musical offerings are radically different than what you may be accustomed to.  Implementing a vast array of wood and stringed instruments into their Rammstein-esque metal attack, and adorned in enough fur and loincloth to make Manowar blush, this seven piece outfit mix renaissance flare with slabs of heaping metal.  The end result?  Imagine a suped up version of Jethro Tull that, oh yeah, sings in German.  Weird?  Well, it’s not as unaccessible, surprisingly enough, as you’d expect.  Hell, if AC/DC and Korn can use a bagpipe in a few songs, why can’t these guys rock out with them for an entire 13 track disc, right?  Bring the 16th century on home with a metallic twist with these guys.  (www.metalblade.com)

Che Zuro and Tisa Adamson • Soak

Youghiogehny River
Che Zuro and Tisa Adamson make a formidable folk rock tandem on their 16 track disc, taken mostly from an intimate live show.  It’s that kind of intimacy that also seeps through the disc and makes the listener feel as if they’re front row, thanks largely to Che’s and Tisa’s ability to connect with their audience through song ("There You Go," "River Of Life").  These ladies aren’t your run-of-the-mill, whiny female tortured artists.  Instead, they are both adept songwriters ("Taken"), as well as excellent guitarists, reminiscent of old school Heart ("Jailed").  For a rocking, folksy trip with a female perspective, look no further than this duo’s latest disc.  (www.checheche.com)

Oxymoron • Best Before 2000

Oxymoron is a punk rock band from Germany whose history is documented on this 18 track disc, complete with rare tracks, a CD-Rom video and an in depth and informative timeline of the trials and tribulations of this punk rock outfit.  You may not have heard of them, but they’ve toured with Dropkick Murphys and Cocksparrer and have been around for over a decade.  If you dig the sounds of Rancid mixed with some good old fashioned oi, then Oxymoron is a band you need to check out, because they definitely deliver a swift musical boot to the head, which no doubt translates well at their live shows.  (www.victoryrecords.com)

Trephination • With War Comes Atrocities

As if their name isn’t menacing enough, the band picture contains four roguish looking gentlemen flocking a man pointing a gun at the camera.  Scary, but what’s scarier is their sound.  Solid slabs of old school death metal a la Obituary ("Threading The Twine") meshed with their morbid lyrical visions of war, death, hate, you know, all the good stuff.  Hard to believe that this quintet hails from the city of brotherly love, but they work hard to denounce their city’s reputation and by doing so, make one badass rep of all their own.  You’ve been warned, folks.  (trephine666@aol.com)

Go Mower Go

Riding Mower Records
The Big Apple’s very own Riding Mower Records have brought us 13 tracks of their artist’s best for their compilation CD, and the results are not only indicative of the vast talent this label carries, but it also shows the depth the NYC scene has to offer.  Starting off with R&B flavored funksters PIC, who get their groove on and set the tone, it’s hard to stop your ass from shaking after this juggernaut has their way with your ears, but there’s more to be heralded.  Like the curiously clever pop rock of Convertible Jennifers, whose lyrical output easily wins the tongue in cheek award ("you’re the best e thing that I’ve had since/ you’re the cheapest thing I’ve done since" from "Sugar Cubes").  From there, the mixture of intense alternative rock with an angelic voice leading the charge, belonging to Shiva Copal, invades your speakers and makes you stand to attention and listen intently.  Rounded out by some other left of center acts (Lovetester, RickBartow), Riding Mower have built up quite a stable of bands and artists and hopefully are in the works for their next compilation.  Keep that mower gassed up and ready to go, baby!  (www.ridingmowerecords.com)

Brant Bjork and the Operators • Brant Bjork and the Operators

The Music Cartel
Once upon a time, there was a mighty band by the name of Kyuss, and even though they never received the mass audience acclaim that they richly deserved, many of the ex-members of this landmark outfit have gone on to push the envelope of the heavy music scene for years.  Bands like Queens Of The Stone Age, Unida and now Brant Bjork and The Operators have risen from the ashes of the kings of the desert rock scene.  Brant, ex drummer for Kyuss, on his debut solo effort, plays mostly everything on his 10 track offering, and it’s to no one’s surprise that this self titled record contains many of the same elements of his previous band, though the overall sound is way less menacing and a lot more laid back.  It’s so laconic in fact, that it even could be considered soft rock to a degree, if not for the racy lyrics and hallucinogenic rhythms ("Smarty Pants," "Captain Lovestar").  Bjork’s solo effort could’ve been the soundtrack to any Southern California’s 1976 high school video yearbook, if they existed then, complete with muscle cars and Farrah Fawcett hairdos ("Electric Lalli Land") in tow.  Once again, one of the forefathers of modern heavy music tune in and change the questions when you thought you had all the answers, as Brant Bjork’s latest will give you that sunshine feeling that’ll warm you up all over.  (www.music-cartel.com)

The Mushroom River Band • Simsalabim

Meteor City
The Mushroom River Band shows the world that they have the balls plus the groove to go along with it by playing relentlessly raucous rock and roll on their latest 10 track collection.  With a low end that rivals fellow Swedes Entombed when it boils down to getting down and dirty ("Change It"), and a massive understanding of groove, which they turn on at full blast and which shows no end in sight ("Proud Of Being Cool"), this quartet have made a gem of a rock record, and quite possibly one of the most enticing stoner rock releases in quite some time.  Not only does TMRB take you for a hellacious joyride that is one part metal and one part garage, but they do it with an anthemic sense of melody ("Bugs") and a strong sense of songwriting dynamics ("Simsalabim"), which adds to their high octane aural assault.  Put this CD in your stereo and watch the chaos ensue.  (www.meteorcity.com)

Engorged • Engorged

Death Vomit
Ok, right of the bat, judging by the record label’s name and the band’s name, we know what this CD is all about, right?  Kind of, because if you wrote these guys off for being a mere gore-induced run-of-the-mill metal outfit, guess again.  Matter of fact, these maulers from the Pacific Northwest are gore monging maniacs, but there’s so much more to them that that.  Like a penchant for late '80s East Coast thrash metal, like SOD and Anthrax, whose guitar sound and style is all over this 14 track collection ("Cobra Rage," "March Of The Engorged").  And yes, metal purists, there are blood curdling screams and breakneck rhythms a plenty, enough to satisfy the most insatiable headbanger.  So, if you’ve been bitten with the bug for some hybrid death metal that will surely rip your face off, check out Engorged’s latest offering, chock full of B-Movie dialogues which spurns lyrical yarn with tongue firmly bestowed in cheek ("Death Metal Attack 3") and pummeling death metal poundings that will behead you from there. (www.engorged.net)

The Business • Hell To Pay

What can we expect from British hardcore punk legends The Business on their three-song endeavor?  Well, knowing these long running leaders of the pit, it’s a safe bet to assume we’re going to get some good time, old school, fist pumping and boot stomping rock and roll that probably feels better after a few pints have been imbibed.  And that’s exactly what they deliver, as usual, as The Business truly give us the business, even after all these years.  (www.tkorecords.com)

Infamy • The Blood Shall Flow

World War III
Imagine Testament getting a little heavier a la Bolt Thrower and you’ve got East L.A. metal troupe Infamy.  With a firm grasp on the death metal pulse, these guys kind of do it all by numbers, but it doesn’t make them any less powerful or brutal, just a bit less interesting than other bands in their genre that push the envelope more.  Yet, Infamy’s sheer sonic attack, thanks much to the outstanding vocal grind and growl ("Putrid Infestation") may be enough for the ardent metal militia member to see past their tired lyrical tirades and standard thrashing guitars and rhythms.  (www.ww3music.com)

Home Town Hero • Home Town Hero

Maverick Records
What kind of band do you get from the quirk of Weezer meshed with the rocktitude of Our Lady Peace?  California’s very own Hometown Hero, folks.  This quartet walk the line between power pop and hard rock with a pristine sense of precision and an excellent sense of when to bowl the audience over with a catchy chorus.  Remember the bands The Flys and Marcy’s Playground?  Yea, they each had one hit apiece, but it seems that the boys in Home Town Hero are picking up their slack by taking both band’s mixes and adopting them for their own.  Hook happy and able to reach large demographics with a simple melody ("Eighteen"), these guys are blessed with the powers of restraint, knowing exactly not only when, but what to give to the listener to make them happy and feel good inside, in under three minutes to boot ("Who’s To Say").  No surprise that there’s a bit of STP’s rock star swagger in their mix too ("Questions"), as HTH hails from the same neck of the woods as Weiland and company.  For a slickly produced rock album that will strike chords and whose melodies are so familiar that they’ll resonate in your head all through your errand running sessions, check out Home Town Hero’s alt rock stylings.  (www.hometownheromusic.com)

Throes of Dawn • Binding of the Spirit

World War III
Throes of Dawn is yet another band in the long line of black metal outfits whose majestic overtones and sweeping melodies intertwine with gurgling vocals and a heavy back beat.  This Finnish outfit’s eight tracks of audio assault aren’t without its dynamics ("The Last Rainbow Warrior’s Dead"), and it’s this that makes Throes of Dawn such an enjoyably morbid experience.  Keyboard overlays and acoustic guitars coupled with the trademark Cradle/Dimmu sound helps Throes Of Dawn maintain a constant level of Goth rock pleasantries and death metal gloss that should appease anyone with a wardrobe that consists of predominantly black clothing.  (www.ww3music.com)

Crank It Up

MCA Records
Fox Sports capitalizes on a rock and racing connection as they release this compilation CD of hard rock and metal acts paying homage to the need for speed.  This 18 track collection contains some heavy hitters with some interesting contributions, such as Type O Negative’s odd tempo version of Deep Purple’s "Highway Star" and Slayer’s full tilt metal homage to Steppenwolf’s "Born To Be Wild".  Other honorable mentions go to hed PE for their updated rap rock version of Hendrix’s "Crosstown Traffic" and an unreleased Staind song way before their breakthrough success ("See Through").  There are some misses here, though, like Darwin’s Waiting Room’s clumsily composed cover of Tracy Chapman’s "Fast Car" and Fenix Tx’s bubblegum version of Billy Ocean’s "Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car," but on the whole, Crank It Up is a high octane joyride on a hot summer day.  (www.mcarecords.com)

A House Divided
Break Even Records
Break Even Records put out a five way split of indie rock gems on A House Divided.  Sounding just as good as anything we’ve heard on alternative and college radio, Pop Unknown start up with a laconically Weezer-esque approach ("...this is now").  From there, Long Island’s The Cotton Weary take up issues with Dashboard Confessional to see whose really more sensitive ("Post Script"), while the Northwestern sounds of Slackjaw mix the garage senses of Tad with the under bellied intensity of Screaming Trees ("Darkest Hour").  The lighter side of the street is where The December Drive starts off, but they tend to turn down some pretty heavy corners and wind up in some very dark places along the way ("The Will Of Good Men").  Rounding up the quintet is A Dim Halo’s drug induced, Sonic Youth inspired trip rock ("A Heart Sick With Hope"), whose dreamy guitars and hypnotic rhythms beg for another hit, please.  Pushing the envelope without pushing it down our throats, Break Even once again go out of their way to showcase some stellar bands making waves.  (www.breakeven.org)

Damsel • Spirit

Damsel is an all girl rock outfit, in case the name didn’t indicate it.  But, they aren’t one of those frilly, star gazing female rock bands.  Not by a longshot, as this Queens, NY quartet have cut their teeth on hard rock, and it shows on their 11 track disc.  >From the passionate and catchy choruses to the wah pedaled guitar solos ("Down," "Broken"), Damsel have got the rock and dole it out accordingly.  They also know how to diversify their mix, sometimes going tropical ("One") and at others taking it down a notch and letting their hearts sing out loud ("Sometimes"), all without yielding their hard rock premises.  For a shot of rock that rivals what the boys can do ("Can’t Stop"), let Damsel show you a thing or two.  (www.damselmusic.com)

Codeseven • The Rescue

The Music Cartel
Is this the same band that made such a splash with the Don Henley "Boys Of Summer" cover?  Well, if it is, they’ve definitely toned it down a lot, as this North Carolina band of brothers plus a few took note of Radiohead, undoubtedly, when they made this eight track disc.  Ethereal and almost jazzy at times ("Southie"), Codeseven haven’t lost their hardness, they just know now when to use it ("The Rescue").  If you’re looking for it here, though, be warned that they use it very sparingly on The Rescue, and instead let their softer side shine through, complete with Pink Floyd-esque kaleidoscope melodies ("Smell Of Yellow And Black").  (www.music-cartel.com)

Bloodlet • Three Humid Nights in the Cypress Trees

Victory Records
As jarring and disjointed as ever, Florida’s antithesis to Disney World and retirement homes have returned to throw a wrench in the world of hardcore, as Bloodlet’s latest, their first in four years, has invaded the album stores.  This 12 track album, done in 9 days with indie king Steve Albini, once again proves why this band can get under your skin and reawaken your sensibilities like a bad nightmare ("Three Humid Nights In The Cypress Trees") .  With its imminence and brutality combined, Bloodlet makes an album that is hard to listen to (imagine Sabbath on even harder drugs) and which is even harder to ignore.  The grooves are here ("I Have Such A Hard Time Making New Friends," "Vision Quest") but they’re subdued by such immense angst and intensity, that you need to really focus on Bloodlet’s formula of part swampy grind, part tough guy hardcore to be able to look effective in the pit.  Notwithstanding, Bloodlet’s return should shake shit up for a while, because this album, unless you’re a brainless drone, will work every nerve you’ve got.  (www.victoryrecords.com)

The Kudabins • Kudashudawuda

Plan Z
The Kudabins are the type of band that lurks in every suburban garage across America.  Not exactly the most pristine of outfits (no Coldplay musical interludes here), their brand of dirty rock and roll ("Duck And Cover") is actually a breath of fresh air in the sanitized music scene these days.  Taking the low fi road, this quartet utilizes late 70’s punk rock charm ("In This World," "Wake Up") just as well as any band that played CB’s back in the day ("Gatekeeper").  Armed a jazzy overtone ("Lazy Guy") that pervades the entire 16 track collection, these seasoned players showcase their chops with their tongues firmly in cheek. The Kudabin’s mix of rock and roll may not be suitable for all ages, thanks to the lyrical roughness and subject matter, but it’s sure to lift the spirits of those that can remember when rock and roll was 90% attitude and 10% image.  (www.kudabins.com)

Spaceboy • Searching the Stone Library For the Green Page of Illusion

Southern Lord
If Dream Theater did an overabundance of halloucigenics like Monster Magnet ("The Monsoon") and dropped some of their progressive pretenses ("The Melting World"), this is what they’d probably churn out.  Spaceboy is a space cadet’s dream outfit, complete with swirling vocals, trippy melodies and a smashingly heavy underbelly ("Spaceship"), which really helps Spaceboy’s musical meanderings from falling off the deep end.  Consider this outfit math rock for the death metal crowd, if there’s could be such an existing group.  Containing ex-members of The F*cking Champs and Bl’ast, the sonic assault found from both bands is very much apparent here, only this time it’s wrapped with a cosmic coating that is both hypnotic and enchanting.  Sci fi metalheads rejoice, your band has arrived. (www.southernlord.com)

Out to Win • Persist and Destroy

Triple Crown
Voted least likely to appear in their town’s benevolence association, the group formerly known as Mushmouth (quite possibly the coolest Fat Albert reference in the hardcore scene) returns with a new name and the attitude to coincide with their new moniker.  Out To Win’s six song EP is short in length, but long in aggression.  Just check out the lyrics in "Suffer," a happy hardcore anthem whose final words say, "I’ll crush you, I’ll kill you, you’ll never see another day."  If that’s not Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood material, then where is this world going?  In all seriousness, Out To Win rage through metalcore riffs and rip out some of the fiercest musical firepower seen thus far this year.  Perfect music to beat people down to, Out To Win’s latest complements the new Hatebreed album very nicely.  (www.outtowin.net)

Alabama Thunderpussy • Staring at the Divine

Relapse Records
Richmond, Virginia’s pride Alabama Thunderpussy return on a new label and some new members, and while their comeback is welcomed, it isn’t as grand as expected.  While they’ve managed to pound out 10 tracks of Southern fried heavy metal soul ("SSDD"), the songs meander a bit and are less cohesive from the band’s prior outing.  Their immense guitar firepower is very much apparent though, and ATP really lets your ears have it this time around ("Motor-Ready," "Esteem Fiend").  While the album is solid and will rock you, it seems a bit laconic.  Maybe it’s too much weed intake for the boys or the new members need to gel more, but it seems as if ATP is full of sound and fury and need that one piece of the puzzle to get them over the hump.  Nonetheless, if you dig metal boogie, these guys are the real deal.  (www.relapserecords.com)

Break Even Definition

Break Even
An ambitious label out of Philadelphia, Break Even puts out indie rock from across the world on this 18 track compilation.  Some standout tracks include Germany’s Casanova Action ("Bonzaismcreamaffair"), whose German spoken word interlude will throw you for a loop, the Nirvana flavored track from Mezzanine-c14 ("Gasoline Faith"), the blistering metallicism of As We Grow ("Kiss Of Cold Asphalt") and the STP-inspired jam of Soul Cracker ("Bones In The Ground").  All of the tracks are passable, and the collection is well done overall, showcasing a vast array of what Break Even wants to bring to the music world.  For those that crave the new sounds from the unsigned realm, check out this label’s offerings.  (www.breakeven.org)

Five Pointe O • Untitled

Roadrunner Records
Five Pointe O is a new outfit from Joilet, IL whose 11 track debut is a surprising potpourri of techno and technical metal ("Art Of Cope").  Overlays of keyboards pervade the chugging riffs and solid rhythms underneath, almost sounding very similar to some of the more recent Fear Factory outings ("Double X Minus").  But, these guys aren’t just another run-of-the-mill metal band.  With a pensive set of lyrics that dig deeper than one’s personal pain, Five Pointe O almost take a scientific tip and go so far as to question life and its meaning ("Aspire/ Inspire," "Purity 01").  Not bad for a band of twenty-somethings.  They also successfully mix the melodics of Linkin Park ("King Of The Hill") with the simmering anger of System Of A Down ("Untitled") and create a nu metal sound that may not be the most original on the block, but should far and away appease the ears of the disenchanted nu metal militia.  While they may be a bit headstrong for some, those that appreciate anger served with intelligence will totally dig Five Pointe O’s assault on your ears and your beliefs.  (www.roadrunnerrecords.com)

Diamond Rexx • Diamond Rexx

Chicago heavies Diamond Rexx take their urban blight and dress it up with metal riffs and kicks to the gut on their four song release.  Definitely not out to cheer you up, Diamond Rexx’s music is a harsh look at the underbelly of society, and through using a metal backdrop for their platform, they evoke memories of Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson, though not as grim or foreboding.  They even have a Bic lighter moment for all the lovers in the room.  While their style is a bit antiquated, Diamond Rexx know when to keep it serious and when to let loose, amply shown on their Grand Funk Railroad cover of "American Band."  (www.crash-music.com)

Low Twelve • Sampler

Low Twelve is the kind of band that scares small children and house pets with their bottom ended attack.  Metal to the bone, Low Twelve will rip your face off with their growling battle cries and chugging guitars and thumping rhythms ("Heavycore").  For an avalanche of metal, look no further than the Low Twelve sampler.  (www.heavycore.org)

Tearabyte • Embrace Oblivion

Screaming Ferret
Terrabyte is a metal trio whose old school concepts and delivery may be just what the outcasted headbanger that remembers the glory days of metal is looking for these days.  Easy on the brain but hard on the body, their 13 track release sounds like it’s the 1987 thrash scene all over again, with snippets of Anthrax, Slayer and Overkill, all in one foul swoop ("Embrace Oblivion").  Tearabyte basically throw the burners on and create some straight ahead, no bullshit metal ("One More Day," "It’s All A Lie"). Sans any deviation from what they believe, their metal anthems and stalwart stance set this band from all the trendy outfits who claim metal as their own.  For a taste of tight, heavy music at its most primitive, this Dallas, TX trio will keep your head banging and the fists pumped in the air.  (www.tearabyte.com)

Superjoint Ritual • Use Once and Destroy

Sanctuary Records
Superjoint Ritual is a nasty, smoke filled, seething beast ready to strike without repent or regard.  This metal supergroup features members of Hank Williams III, Down and Pantera, and their 16 tracks of breakneck metal and hardcore punk with a Southern twist is just what those people that have lost faith in today’s metal scene need.  As angry as anything Pantera has ever recorded, and just as powerful musically, Superjoint Ritual’s CD may be the soundtrack for the misunderstood.  Mixing Black Flag, Black Sabbath and swamp metal, the merciless display of aggression Superjoint Ritual wields is very scary and should be handled with the utmost care.  Quite possibly the best metal album this year, this CD is essential for anyone that likes metal.  (www.superjointritual.com)

Red Harvest • Sick Transit Gloria Mundi

Relapse Records
Norwegian industrial metallers Red Harvest make Rammstein and KMFDM look like technofied Raffi on their 14 track mechanical opus.  Produced by Neil Kernon, the bloodlust this band contains has been captured in aural format and is ready to be released to the masses.  But are the masses ready for such a harbinging and overall overpowering experience that meshes the volatility of death metal with the hypnotic grind of industrial?  Doubtful, but Red Harvest comes in all guns blazing and ready to take control.   Sounding like Ministry at their hungriest ("Dead") and Godflesh at their most trance inducing ("Dead Men Don’t Rape"), Red Harvest have definitively raised the bar for all cyber metal to match.  (www.relapse.com)

Disarray • In the Face of the Enemy

Eclipse Records
Disarray is a heavy handed trio from Tennessee whose metal credo is as welcomed as their savage work ethic.  With a twist of Southern inhospitality in their molten metal concoction, this power trio mix the groove of Pro-Pain and the old school Wrathchild America ("Open Wounds," "Powers That Be") with the snarl of COC ("To This Day") and the unabashed metal power of Pantera to create a really heavy and tight sound that goes the distance throughout the entire 11 track disc.  Produced by GWAR’s Odeus Urungus, Disarray’s type of straight ahead, in your face metal is a dying breed, sadly, but it’s nice to see that some bands still know how to get their point across and kick your ass simultaneously.  Disarray’s debut full length disc would be a welcomed addition to any metalhead’s CD collection, not only for it’s sheer sonic assault, but also for the cool cover art.  (www.disarrayonline.com)

Death Threat • For God and Government

Triple Crown Records
Old school style hardcore from the East Coast, complete with short, fast arrangements, group chorus screaming ("Bombs Will Fly") and a slew of breakdowns is what the rapidly rising Death Threat deliver on their second full length release.  With a real grasp on the fundamentals of punk and hardcore under their belts, Connecticut’s Death Threat’s 14 track album is short, sweet and to the point.  No gratuitous musical moments here, just a bevy of pit styled madness that is bound to keep the crowd dancing ("Watch Your Mouth").  If you dig stuff like Youth Of Today, Gorilla Biscuits and other forefather NYHC bands, Death Threat do a stellar job in carrying the torch and taking the genre back to the streets and the people ("Live In The Moment").  The press release quotes this quartet’s style as "hardcore for the hardcore", and that just may be the truest statement said in a press release thus far this year.  If you dig hardcore, Death Threat’s latest is an album you need to hear.  (www.triplecrownrecords.com)

Places to Park • Places to Park

Volcom Records
Florida quartet Places To Park have a style that lends itself to melodic punk anthems with depth, unlike the MTV debris that’s force fed to the unsuspecting.  Somewhere in between the Foo Fighters, Samiam and Strung Out ("Too Soon"), Places To Park display great guitar work ("So Different") and some heartfelt lyrics on their debut 11 track disc.  Harmonious and upbeat, yet containing a serious demeanor, PTP’s brand of punk rock isn’t one of rebellion, sarcasm or chicanery.  Instead, it borders the emo route a la Grade sans the undecipherable singing ("Ascension") and displays a tenacious intensity ("Turncoat") that a lot of punk bands today fail to showcase ("Greatest Story").  Despite these guys being all over the genre map, what is undeniable is their stellar songwriting and immense energy level.  Catch them on the Warped Tour this year and soak in their Section 1 Row A Rock and Roll.  (www.volcomrecords.com)

Motorhead • Hammered

Sanctuary Records
OK, so there’s a new Motorhead album on the shelves.  Why buy it?  Aren’t all Motorhead albums sound alikes?  Well, yeah, they are, but this legendary outfit, like AC/DC and Ozzy, aren’t treading new ground but instead are maintaining the groove that they’ve helped to incorporate ("Brave New World").  13 tracks, complete with the classic Lemmy snarl, the driving rhythms ("Kill The World") and above all, the bluesy, ballsy and black and blue delivery ("The Game") that has made Motorhead the iconoclast outfit that metalheads, punks and rock fans across the world can’t deny.  So, represent for Lemmy and the boys, as their new album, while it isn’t groundbreaking, is by far more neck snapping than a lot of the other stuff that’s passed as heavy these days.  (www.imotorhead.com)

Heavycore: Core Til Death

Heavycore is an Illinois based organization whose objective is clear -- to stand up for the love of metal and to make those who pose, primp and falsify metal’s good name feel eternal damnation.  Or something like that.  In any event, Heavycore’s first compilation CD contains 23 hard hitting, bone chilling and headbanging tracks.  Too much metal for one disc? Damn straight, as bands such as Pro-Pain, Low Twelve, Hate Plow and Dirtnapp wheel out the warhorse and do their best to sever your head.  This CD is so loud, nasty and overall metal.  This compilation is so metal, it should come with earplugs.  It’s almost as if the ground opened up and Hell came right up from Earth and gave us this 76:20 offering.  Support the indie metal scene and get to know about Heavycore and all of its good work.  (www.heavycore.org)

Mastodon • Remission

Relapse Records
Mastodon is a beautifully jaded beast whose meaty yet unique metal sound hits every hard music genre as it spirals into complete heavy bliss.  Featuring former members of Today Is The Day and Social Infestation, this Atlanta by way of Rochester, NY outfit have the innate aptitude to obliterate the masses with their utterly jawdropping cohesion ("Where Strides The Behemoth," "Trampled Under Hoof").  But there’s so much more to this band than being another formidable power metal quartet.  Disjointed melodies a la Will Haven morph into Rush-esque instrumental breaks ("Workhorse") in some instances, while trance like guitars give way to a free form, percussive led Euro metal tinged number ("Ol’e Nessie").  Consummate musicianship gives these guys the wherewithal to go all over the place and create 11 tracks of landmark metal.  This is an album that should be feared and respected.  Get it and understand why.  (www.relapse.com)

The Ribeye Brothers • If I Had a Horse

Meteor City
Leave it to a member of acid rock kings Monster Magnet to produce 14 tracks of country fried stoner rock.  Taking slabs of blues, rock and drunken country, The Ribeye Brothers consist of Tim Cronin and Jon Kleiman and this duo do their part to give a psychedelic edge to their picking and grinning ("Mr. Ray Charles").  You’ve heard of garage rock, but are you ready for barnyard rock?  The Ribeye Brothers hope so, as they’ve armed themselves with enough two steppin’ melodies that tie in to everyone’s prevalent country music stereotypes ("DWI," "Drinkin’ and Stinkin’") to fill up a knee slapping, hooting and hollering good time of an album.  Cowboy hat and whiskey bottle not included.  (www.meteorcity.com)

The Cotton Weary • Cinematic Overtones

Break Even
The Cotton Weary are a Long Island quintet whose four songs give the listener a multi layered, emotionally charged insight on what the sensitive side of the street sounds like ("Said Enough").  Intense yet not overpowering, The Cotton Weary’s twin guitar attack is reminiscent of softer Pearl Jam tunes ("Opposite Of Acension"), while the vocals denote a sense of devoted anguish and a longing for true romance, like most good emo bands often do.  Not exactly a party band, The Cotton Weary instead is a genuine outfit whose musical output is food for thought and fodder for introspection.  (www.breakeven.org)

Off By One • Off By One

Yea, California is full of them.  Those omnipresent, pre-pubescent whiny pop punk bands that provide the soundtrack for television commercials, trips to the mall and probably every 15 year old’s summer this year.  Off By One are no different than the Sum 41s and Blinks of the world; matter of fact, they fit right in the middle of both aforementioned bands, with their light and airy delivery having a lot more substance than you’d expect from four guys under 21 ("On My Way," "Punk Rock Girl").  They cover Natalie Imbruglia’s "Torn" for color, and the rest of the album contains those Brady Bunch, sunshine days choruses and anthemic pop punk hooks that we all have come to be plagued by.  Dependent on the cuteness factor of these lads, they may be a big MTV splash or may fall into the vacuous abyss known as the "where are they now" file.  C’mon Carson and crew, make these guys stars! (www.lmcrecords.com)

Poundhound • Pineappleskunk

Metal Blade Records
Ask who the busiest man in metal is these days and a few names come to mind. You've got your Dursts and your Maynards pushing endeavor after endeavor out for your consumption.  However, there's an unlikely candidate who's not only catching up to the Jones', but is putting out stellar material along the way.  Doug Pinnick is the man behind the music, and he's been a busy little beaver as of late, not only playing and recording with King's X, but also putting together a supergroup (Supershine), as well as his own vehicle, Poundhound.  Now on the second release, Poundhound returns with 16 tracks that carry the Pinnick staple sound of heavy harmonies and moshable melodies ("Jumpin'," "Atlanta").  However, with most solo projects, there are some differences which make Poundhound familiar yet unique, such as the multi-textured percussion that grace the disc ("Smearing").  Pinnick also plays everything here but drums, which adds to the complete crushingly heavy vibe on this disc ("Rain").  In fact, Poundhound rivals Korn in riffage here, with enough filling rattling rhythms to give the California quintet a run for their money.  In short, as usual, Pinnick works with his usual fervor, adds a few nuances here and there, and does not disappoint.  If your a fan, or even if you want to hear some kick ass rock and roll, check this CD out. (www.metalblade.com)

Stereomud • Perfect Self

Columbia Records
Rising from the ashes of Life Of Agony and Stuck Mojo, Stereomud is a five piece hard rock outfit whose 13 track debut disc treads the same old nu metal waters.  While the songs are hard hitting and do show signs of radio success ("Pain," "Steppin' Away"), it's basically one of those disappointingly ordinary, metal by numbers discs that seem to be a dime a dozen these days.  Liberally borrowing from Sevendust and the rest of those that carry the aggro banner, as well as rehashed Life Of Agony riffs ("How We Stand"), Stereomud isn't anything to gush over, but they are a competent act who are sure to be given a lot of attention due to the member's past band histories. (www.columbiarecords.com)

No Innocent Victim • Tipping the Scales

Victory Records
No Innocent Victim is a blistering hardcore quartet whose latest release is an 11 track melee that is bound to leave a permanent blemish.  Heavy as all hell, NIV's guitars chug more than a frat house keg party, and seemingly gets heavier as the disc progresses ("Calm Before The Storm," "Deadweight"). Throw in a good old Oi song for good measure ("Reunion"), and you've got a monster on your hands.  Not for the weak of heart, NIV hits hard and doesn't compromise.  If you like it heavy, you'll love these guys with their neck snapping snappy riffs and overall brutal presentation. (www.victoryrecords.com)

One Perfect Crime • Angst For the Memories

One Perfect Crime blends power pop with tinges of hardcore and punk on their four song disc.  Not exactly anything radically new and exciting here, but OPC do have a keen sense of song movement ("Decisions") and are probably a jumping band to see live.  This Pennsylvania quartet are capable of getting a pit to sing along judging by their catchy refrains and high spirited playing ("19 Long Years").  OPC is smarter than your average band, too, which gives them an edge over the mundane punk rock outfits.  Try 'em on if you dig bouncy rock. (www.oneperfectcrime.com)

Long Winter's Stare • The Tears of Odin's Fallen

Dark Symphonies
Long Winter's Stare creates an eclectic mix of music that melds Renaissance instruments with Gothic rock to create a surreal atmosphere where witches, warlocks and elves seemingly dwell ("The Unknown God").  A bit on the cheesy side (especially the guttural growls that make it sound like Cookie Monster is part of this ethereal trio), LWS nonetheless trudge through their seven track offering, showcasing many different techniques which, despite some of their shortcomings, do earn them credit for being adventurous ("In Arms").  If you like to walk a little left of center every now and then, check out this hybrid for a taste of what weirdness is really out there. (www.darksymphonies.com)

King Django • Reason

Ok, so who's one of the most prolific ska masters in the rock scene these days?  Not Nick Hexum and you'd be wrong if you said Dickie from the Bosstones, too.  It's King Django, whose resume reads like a who's who of the genre bending ska-rock mix.  And now the time has come for the leader of the Stubborn All-Stars to bust out with his solo album, and it is a hard hitting funky 12 track disc, indeed.  From supercharged ska punk ("Kick It Out") to traditional flavored ska ("LKO," "Precipice"), King Django does it all and defies you to not shake your ass while listening.  Master of the dub ("Hustle The Mac") as well as the groove ("Never Try"), King Django has got everything to soothe your soul.  Spark one up and sink into this disc. (www.kingdjango.com)

Buried Alive • Last Rites

Victory Records
Buried Alive's latest decibel breaking disc contains nine tracks that will surely pound you into submission.  This quartet pull no punches as they deliver their crushing attack ("Burning Holes Through Myself").  Taking the basic rudiments of hardcore and twisting a metallic edge in between tight breakdowns and introspective lyrics, Buried Alive aren't reinventing the wheel here.  But they are leaving a discernible trail of dismemberment and disarray along the way ("Cleanse Yourself," "A Coward's Eyes").  And what more can you ask from a metalcore outfit?  They keep it heavy all the way through, and even add live tracks for your moshing pleasure.  Solid stuff here, folks. (www.victoryrecords.com)

Marduk • La Grande Danse Macabre

Century Media
Black metal pioneers Marduk return with their latest batch of blasphemous tunes sure to please the religion hater in your clan.  Their 11 track disc is laden with guttural vocalizations and blazon with savage lyrics ("Death Sex Ejaculation") and standard black metal fare ("Bonds Of Unholy Matrimony").  Nothing here to get too excited about unless your a big fan of this Swedish export or aren't shocked by Marilyn Manson anymore. (www.centurymedia.com)

Bal-Sagoth • Atlantis Ascendant

Nuclear Blast
Do these guys do an album a year or what?  The busiest band in battle metal, Bal-Sagoth bring their barrage of epic metal to light with their latest 10 track disc.  Fans of D&D styled metal should definitely brace themselves, as this British quintet busts out the Darth Vader voiceovers and lays the keyboards down just right in their cosmic metal attack.  Imagine Dream Theater meeting Battlestar Gallactica for an idea of what these guys sound like.  For an out of this world outer space metal opera, look no further than Atlantis Ascendant. (www.bal-sagoth.co.uk)

Dust For Life • Dust For Life

Wind Up
This Memphis quartet take bits of Creed, Alice In Chains and Zeppelin and give it the old college try on their debut 11 track CD.  Even though these guys do show signs of being a bit derivative and contrived as far as rock bands go, Dust For Life do have a good grasp on the art of writing a good hook ("Step Into The Light," "Bitten").  Lyrically and musically mood driven, DFL strike a bluesy chord from time to time ("Shadow Pool"), but they mainly keep the mope up ("Lifelike," "Dragonfly").  If you like mid tempo mood rock that leans on the heavy side, check these guys out. (www.dustforlife.com)

Cold As Life • Declination of Independence

Cold As Life is a merciless Detroit hardcore quintet whose 13 track disc rips into you like a meathook and doesn't let up.  Thunderous riffagings and intense rhythms that make Pantera look like Poison are the name of the Cold As Life game ("I Can't Breath").  Brutal in their aural assault, they take the pounding of metal ("My Prayer") with the spirit of hardcore ("Tried And True") to create one of the most stirring releases this side of Hatebreed.  Some bands mimic the reality of street life to boot sales, but Cold As Life actually are on street level and act as the ace correspondents of the horrors and agony of everyday danger.  Their bludgeoning broadcasts are the stuff that powerful music is made of ("What It Was").  This is as real as it gets, straight from the epicenter of disaster.  Brace yourself and prepare for the maelstrom that is Cold As Life. (www.coldaslife.com)

Blood For Blood • Wasted Youth Brew

Victory Records
Boston bad boys Blood For Blood come back with a collection of live and rare tracks that maintain the band's usual drink, fuck, fight vibe quite well.  With enough bang for your buck (25 tracks in all), this is essential for any hardcore punk's drunken collection.  Mixing the punk, hardcore and oi style to perfection, BFB's rarities stand high and mighty amongst their standard releases, and the live tracks make it feel as if you've just downed a pitcher and decided to flex those newly acquired beer muscles.  Pick it up and chug it down with your favorite beverage in check. (www.victoryrecords.com)

Skarhead • NY Thugcore

Triple Crown Records
A truer title for an album couldn't be found than NY Thugcore for these Queens kings of crime.  Their latest release is a 19 track collection that spans the trials and tribulation of this hard living hardcore band.  Some bands write about things without living them, but you can get a sense that Lord Ezec and crew live this life everyday, if not from the intensity of the songs, than definitely from the soundbites taken from live shows that are strewn within the disc.  Plus, it contains some hard to find singles and compilation tracks for your listening pleasure. For an education in the East Coast thug life, this body of work is essential. (www.triplecrownrecords.com)

Belvedere • Angels Live in My Town

Jump Start
Belvedere is a Canadian punk band whose 13 track disc takes off where Blink 182 left off and adds about 30 pounds of muscle on their rotting carcass ("Difference").  Belvedere, besides having a cool name taken after the infamous butler on an ABC television show, don't play a brand of punk that leaves puddles on female high school student's desk chairs.  Instead of going the way of MTV, these guys opt to turn it up and not flake out by playing some solid slabs of punk with meaty riffs and tight breakdowns that never get that melodic, but walk the line between breakthrough hit and indie punk anthem ("Male Pattern Impotence").  With a borderline metal sound pervading their attack ("Weekend Warrior"), Belvedere's guitar assault fits nicely with their breakneck punk rhythms ("Malpractice") and make for a welcomed return of true punk rock that isn't a meatier version of a boy band. (www.jumpstartrecords.com)

Hangnail • Clouds in the Head

The Music Cartel
Hangnail return with their retro rock fury intact on their latest 10 track disc that's sure to have your blood pumping and your head clouded by the time the steamroller riff of "Slowhead" hits your cerebrum.  From there, it's all purple haze and sunshining love, as this Brit quartet takes downtuned psychedelics back from the '60s and spruces it up for the year 2K ("Release").  Meaty yet mindful, these guys play like a triple bill of Sabbath, Purple and Soundgarden would ("Into The Ether").  If you like to take a down and dirty trip into the recesses of your subconscious ("The Watcher"), screw renting the Woodstock movie and pick this CD up. (www.music-cartel.com)

Fist Full Of Dust • The Test

Fist Full Of Dust is a NYHC outfit whose metal tinged assault is merciless.  Their four song scream-athon is a chunky, gritty reminder that hardcore still lives and breathes in the underground and below ("Remnants").  Bound to create some fist banging and head bobbing, these guys keep it real by keeping it really heavy. (www.fistfullofdust.com)

Shadow Keep • Corruption Within

Trends in metal come and go, but occasionally you get a handful of bands that attempt to carry on a certain era's sound with decent success.  Add England's Shadow Keep to that list, as they wheel out the early '80s epic genre that spawned images of demons, dragons and rainbows, as well as classic bands such as Dio and Queensryche.  On their 11-track disc, these guys and gal pay homage to such fare.  Complete with on the mark falsetto metal shrills ("Meta-Morale"), double bass drum led interludes ("The Trial Of Your Betrayal"), and a plethora of guitar wizardry behind some of the toughest, tooth gnashing riffs this side of Judas Priest ("Altar Of Madness").  So bust out that ruffled shirt and squeeze into those leather pants, folks, as Shadow Keep take you back to the glory days of metal yore. (info@spvusa.com)

Heaven and Earth • Windows to the World

'80s metal really didn't go away; it just went overseas.  Just ask the members of Heaven And Earth, whose Howard Leese (Heart member) produced 11-track disc combines some old school luminaries with some sizzling songwriting and performances.  Ok, so it's a little dated (MTV circa 1986, anyone?), but you can't deny the Coverdale-esque balladeering of "If Only Love" or the big guitar riffdom that makes up a good part of the album ("Jade," "Away From Harm").  Yes, this music is sadly associated with things that are laughable and downright embarrassing, but the melodicism of Heaven And Earth can't be denied.  Imagine a lighter version of Deep Purple and you get a good idea of what these guys sound like.  Sappy ballads aside ("Through Your Eyes"), this is a pretty darn good band you may be afraid to admit you like.  But hey, everyone has skeletons in their closet, right?  If you yearn for '80s metal, dig around for this disc. (www.frontiers.it)

Monster Magnet • God Says No

A&M Records
Monster Magnet make a triumphant return to the rock world with their latest 13 track acid flashback that gets a little more experimental than previous releases.  Dave Wyndorf and company still knows how to churn out those Cream meets Sabbath choruses and trippy musical endeavors ("Heads Explode," "Medicine"). But if you dig a little deeper, you'll hear a lot of Delta blues ("Gravity Well") and even some futuristic sounds that you'd expect on an Orgy album ("Silver Future," "Queen Of You").  Still the purveyors of all that is weird and organic, Wyndorf really gets down and dirty on the vocals here, taking smidgens of Morrison, Hendrix and Lou Reed to create that cool, yet creepy neighbor vibe ("Take It," "Kiss Of The Scorpion").  While Monster Magnet has gone out and done some exploring on God Says No, their basic credo of kick ass first and never asks why still remains very much intact ("My Little Friend").  If other bands could grow up and be rock stars like Monster Magnet, the world would be such a crap free music place.  If you're a fan, or want to hop on the bandwagon, this is the album to pick up. (www.monstermagnet.net)

Abigor • Satanized

Abigor is one of those scary black metal outfits that use keyboards for ambiance and screaming vocals for emphasis on their blast beated eight-track cacophony of an album.  While this band has had a career that has spanned over 10 years, one may ask how?  Well, being that they are one of black metal's forefounding groups ("Battlestar Abigor"), churning out music suitable for a Viking funeral, could be how.  Perhaps it is because underneath all the chaos, there are some pretty heavy riffs ("Nocturnal Stardust").  Or maybe it's because they have song titles like "Satan's Galaxy."  Take your pick, folks, but if you like black metal, chances are you'll dig this black metal trio. (830 Pacific Ave., Suite #200, Bremerton, WA 98337; promo@napalmusa.com)

War Dance

Relapse Records
From the gruesome folks at Relapse comes an imprint label whose about to turn up the heat to an already overboiled kettle.  War Records, in junction with the Upper Darby musical massacarists, have compiled a 10 band, 14-song collection bound to satisfy the underground metal fan in us all.  From the evil metal offerings of Naglfar to the filling rattling rants of Cryptopsy to the pristine precision of In Flames, this one has got it all, and you can too!  Here's how to order.....only kidding.  A good scoop if you like all types of metal and are on the hunt for some unreleased and rare stuff by some of the underground's biggest names. (P.O. Box 251, Millersville, PA 17651; www.relapse.com)

From the Desk of Sally • Everything and Nothing

Shark Bite
From The Desk Of Sally is not your average girl with acoustic guitar act. Instead, this female led music collaborative is less Lillith Fair fare and more of a rock outfit whose 18 tracks would sound at home on the Josie and the Pussycats soundtrack ("Stupid").  Light and catchy, FTDOS hits the mark when it comes to being clever and cute ("The Girl U Want").  However, when the lights are dimmed, this outfit can produce some fervorous mood pieces ("Hollow").  On the attitude scale, think in between Courtney Love ("All The Pain") and Pat Benetar, but on the musical scale, it runs the across the board, hitting on everything from Sheryl Crow to Jewel ("Taken").  For some smartly crafted rock songs with a strong female voice, From The Desk Of Sally delivers the goods. (P.O. Box 4118, River Edge, NJ 07661; www.fromthedeskofsally.com)

Oratory • Illusion Dimensions

Oratory are a Portuguese sextet whose metal style is pretty much in the same vein of the technical hair metal bands that came to prominence in the mid to late '80s (Europe, anyone?)  Their 12-track disc shows stellar musicianship ("Kingdom's Legacy"), and the male/female lead vocal switch help to keep the situation interesting, but it is sadly a tad outdated.  With songs like "Metal Messenger," they could easily be placed on the Manowar Hopelessly Metal heap, but their epic songwriting flare help them to rise above the rest ("Rising Land"). (info@spvusa.com)

BRMC • Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Virgin Records
BRMC is a hazy West Coast trio whose Haight-Ashbury meets early '90s English rock roots shine throughout their 11-track debut.  As psychedelic, but not as heavy as Monster Magnet ("Red Eyes And Tears"), these guys produce subliminally subversive songs that are sure to get your mojo working.  Creating an imminent, less poppy version of bands like Blur & The Stone Roses with tons more depth, BRMC takes us back into the 1960s by capturing the spirit of free form rock and roll ("White Palms").  Armed with musical questions ("Whatever Happened To My Rock And Roll?") and stark realizations ("As Sure As The Sun," "Spread Your Love"), BRMC is a band to check out if the artsy rock is too artsy and the heavy rock is too heavy for your finicky musical tastebuds.  Want freedom rock, man? Well, here it is, man! (www.virginrecords.com)

Miserable Existence • Miserable Existence

Miserable Existence is a straight up metal band from NYC whose five-track disc shows their love of the metal.  From the note for note Slayer cover ("South Of Heaven"), to their crunchy guitar riff nod to bands like Exodus and Mercyful Fate ("Dialogues In Dementia"), these guys wear their influences on their sleeve with pride.  And while the vocals are a bit on the skater punk whine side, it's still a spirit packed trip.

Engine Orange • Phase II

Sky High Records
The NY based boys from Engine Orange come back out swinging with another four-song sampler that will wet your appetite if you like your hard rock laden with urban sensibilities ("I Break You").  These guys aren't playing candy coated, forced funkified metal; instead they morph the sampling ability of Rob Zombie with the musical cohesion of Korn with true NYC flavored lyrics ("My October").  It's an adventurous ride, but one that you're sure to latch on to very soon. (www.skyhighrecords.com)

Rhapsody • Power of the Dragon Flame

Is this the soundtrack to Lord of the Rings 2? Nope, but it's pretty damn close, as Italian metal troupe Rhapsody bring the orchestra and choir out for their 10 track masterpiece of an album. These guys make Maiden look like a punk band, as each track not only has the bite of a buzzsaw, but is lushly orchestrated and masterfully composed, too. This isn't a garden variety, let's add a string section for ambience type of album. It's the real deal, so real that you're music professor and neighbors may even turn an appreciative ear to the musicality that Rhapsody contains. Pavorotti meets Pantera ("Steelgods of the Last Apocalypse") ? Amadeus meets Amorphsis? You decide. www.limb-music.de

Zao • Parade of Chaos

Solid State
The new sound of metal comes to us from the Pennsylvania trio known as Zao. This long-standing underground band is gaining momentum, and on their latest 10-track release, it's easy to see why they've crossed over to such a wide audience. Unrelenting and uncompromising, Zao doesn't work under the same guises that most bands do. With an air of volatility always looming, their style is destructive in a thrash metal kind of way, without the silly metal imagery ("Parade Of Chaos"). In fact, they manage to incorporate a lot of the metal genres (Euro, thrash, metalcore, ambiance) into one giant grab bag without choosing a predominant one to wreak havoc in with great success. They get as tender as a serious metal band can get at times ("Angel Without Wings", "Man In The Womb"), yet have no problem turning it up full throttle and ripping your head clean from your neck without remorse ("Free The Three"). Zao has a sense of adventure, shown through the now three piece throwing curveballs out to the listener. Take the techno tune that sounds like it just got spun at the local rave for example ("The Ballad Of Buddy Bigsby"), no doubt a device of keeping both Zao themselves and their audience on their toes and musically appeased. For those that like to take an emotional roller coaster ride when listening to an album, or just for those that want a little more than what the masses offer, Zao should fit into your musical collection rather well. www.solidstaterecords.com

Electrasic • Electrasic

Long Island has been a beacon for hard rock for a long time, and Electrasic is the latest act to take the reigns. Their four song sampler is laden with attitude and energy from the get go ("Everybody Come On"), meshing some tight hardcore breakdowns with tried and true hard rock pretenses guaranteed to get the dance floor moving. Imagine the old school power of Biohazard mixing it up with the intelligent belligerence of Boy Sets Fire ("The Great Big Burn"), and you can get where this band is coming from. If you dig bands like Papa Roach and POD, Electrasic will blow you away. electrasic@aol.com

Safety in Numbers • Build and Structure

Triple Crown
The Alabama trio known as Safety In Numbers isn’t strangers to the indie rock world, as it contains members of Hot Rod Circuit and The New Amsterdams. On their debut 10 track release, Safety In Numbers show a wide array of influences, from the poppy punk that pervades the Warped Tour every year ("Alone") to some NYC post hardcore sound honed by such bands as Shift and Quicksand ("Petrafied"). It's rare to find such a cohesive unit that happens to be a side project, but these guys have known each other for a long time and have played off and on in between their main projects. Despite their other endeavors, they manage to sound rejuvenated and in turn, produce some high powered and emotionally charged music in the process ("Potential State"). www.triplecrownrecords.com

Iron Savior • Condition Red

With a name like Iron Savior, you can basically gather this isn't going to be a sensitive folk band. Instead, it is as the name suggests, a power metal quintet whose anthemic swagger, gigantic riffs and sing-along choruses cry out for the death of false metal everywhere. In all seriousness, Iron Savior mixes the old school sensibilities of Maiden, Priest and the ilk ("Protector") with a shot of Manowar's melodic metal assault ("Warrior"). This German troupe put out 13 songs of unabashed heavy metal and just for that, they should be lauded. So, get your spiked wristbands out and bust out the denim jacket and be prepared to rock. www.iron-savior.com

Rancid Vat • The Cheesesteak Years

Steel Cage Records
Rancid Vat is one of the more prolific underground rock and roll bands around, and like most hard living rock bands, their two-decade plus career has seen its ups and downs. Their latest collection chronicles this nomadic outfit's years spent in "Hostile City", known by Rand-McNally as Philadelphia, Pa, and the 16-track disc covers a lot of ground and kicks up a lot of dust. With the aggression meter reading off the chart and the attitude at a fever pitch ("Old People"), Rancid Vat's latest contains some rare tracks, b-sides, covers (check out their dirty boogied version of the Black Oak Arkansas gem "Hot And Nasty") and truly encompasses what this band is all about, which is total rock and roll debauchery. Pour the bourbon and prepare for the slaughter, as these rock and roll rebels are ready to destroy first and get drunk later. www.steelcagerecords.com

Punishment • Where Love Is Dead and Hope Never Lived

Too Damn Hype
Why are hardcore album titles so damn long? Punishment's latest ode to despair contains 10 tracks of the kind of hardcore that mesh personal pain with a grim outlook. Take the lyrics of "Prisoner" as an example: "I choose death and its black abyss". Not exactly something you'd take lightly, and Punishment shows, through their actions and their words that this band doesn't play. If the backdrop of brutal drumming, powerhouse guitars and their tortured lyrics aren't indicative enough, the arsenal of East Coast hardcore throats that lent their voices (including Josh from Misura and Enrique from NJ Bloodline) should more than convince you that this Philly quintet's mission of bringing their harsh realities has been successfully accomplished. www.punishmenthxc.com

Minority • The Eyes That Saw Tomorrow

Minority is a punk metal band whose political stance and powder keg delivery stand out among what we've come to know crossover music today. With nods to Suicidal Tendencies, DRI, Rage Against The Machine and Black Flag, this West Coast group keep the song tempos in line with their socially conscience lyrics, fast and furious ("Greed," "Delusion"). But then, the outfit opts to show off their metal chops with "Tomorrow", a pseudo Metallica-esque instrumental, giving the listener a break from the anarchy and a chance to rock out. Very clever, indeed. www.minorwalk.net

Origin • Informas Infinitas Inhumanitas

Relapse Records
Yes, Dorothy we are in Kansas. It has been renamed Hell, with much of the thanks going to the quintet known as Origin and their blistering nine tracks of death metal insanity. Nothing can prepare you for the onslaught that these midwestern metal mongers have got in store for you. They slice and dice riffs faster than a Quisinart, implement as many blast beats as the law allows and will by far pound the ever living hell out of you. Brutal and dangerous, you need a bouncing ball to follow the lyrics, which are just as morbid as the guttural vocals, by the way, and a neckbrace when you're through to rest up from the whiplash that the twin guitar attack bequeaths upon you. American death metal hasn't sounded this extreme in a very long time, so brace yourself for the maelstrom that is Origin. www.relapse.com

Misura • The Subtle Kiss of a Sledgehammer

Too Damn Hype
The title says it all, folks. Virginia is a state that's supposed to be for lovers; apparently no one let Misura in on the movement, as this ferocious quintet take their home state's slogan and leave it in the dust. The latest 11 tracks from these barons of brutality find the band hitting as hard as Hatebreed ("Empty Footprints," "Finally") but at the same time, finding a melodic stride in a very metal kind of way. Don't worry, hardcore kids, they can still grind it out with the best of them ("Targeting My Greatest Weakness"). For a potent shot of East Coast hardcore, check out the no frills audio destruction that Misura causes. www.misura1.com

The F*cking Champs • V

Drag City
The F*cking Champs continue their silent reign over the rock world with another brilliant instrumental masterpiece. This 14-track gem picks up right where IV left off, in the true majestic fashion that bands who can name albums simply by Roman numerals can only offer. Armed with more instruments and equipment than NASA, this powerful trio takes the guitar riffs and the subtle nuances of hard rock that we've all grown up on and twist them into instrumental gold. An arduous task? You bet your ass it is, but these guys make it sound so easy, combining the Hetfieldian crunch with the '70s arena rock swagger of Boston and a slew of guitar hero antics to produce yet another essential album for all serious rock fans to own and adore. Yanni, Zamfir and those post hippie Windham Hill artists ain't got nothing on the baddest band without vocals in the land.

Spiritu • Spiritu

Meteor City
Spiritu amply displays the sounds of the desert on their debut six-track disc. Picking up where Sabbath and Kyuss left off, with a smattering of Tool's progressive edge and Clutch's creative flow ("Slump") in for good measure, this New Mexico quartet's got their gameface on from the onset. Mainly, it's all about the jam for these guys, as half of the disc's tunes clock in at over 6 minutes, without losing any of your already short attention span. And they know how to fire up the burners and smack out some stoned out, riding free, whiskey soaked guitar riffs ("Fat Man In Thailand"). If you dig the sounds that accompany bong hits and black lights, Spiritu will do you just fine. www.meteorcity.com

Herod • Execution Protocol

Too Damn Hype
Fear and loathing in Philadelphia? Not quite, but the hardcore quintet known as Herod do seem a few steps away from total despair based on their latest nine track jackhammer of an album. With the chaos of their music eliciting moshpits and broken bones, their lyrics reflect a soul that has lost in love and is at the end of their rope. Take the title track for some lessons in heartbreak; "he wrote her a song- 'my heart was yours', he said, and now his heart rested in broken pieces in her hand". Heavy stuff, and the backdrop of Slayer-esque guitar runs ("When Halos Burn") and hardcore's most pounding moments ("She Ain't Talkin' To Me") compliments the feelings of the words that are screamed at the top of their lungs. If you're feeling a bit betrayed, check out Herod and be reassured that you're not as alone as you think. www.toodamnhype.com

Serberus • Descension

Serberus is a straight up metal band from Colorado whose seven-track disc sizzles with rapid-fire guitars, thunderous rhythms and deep growling vocals that are intelligible to the trained metalhead ear. No costumes, no crazy DJ scratching, and no gimmicks needed for this outfit, as they show that they can say their peace by steamrolling over you with their metal assault ("In Eternity"). Mixing old school sentiments of Priest and Maiden with some of the hottest metal newcomer's sounds like In Flames, this quartet may not have their own unique sound, but they kick serious ass meshing all of the epic metal sounds together ("Our Dying Grace"). Who says that American metal has gone to pot? After listening to the stirring sounds of Serberus, you'll be quick to forget about all of those bands passed over as metal. www.serberus.com

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