"Mike's Reviews, Part 4"

by MikeSOS
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Burnt By the Sun Soundtrack to the Personal Revolution

Relapse Records
Burnt By the Sun is a much lauded metalcore outfit hailing from New Jersey, and their 10 tracks of audio mayhem are testament to why this outfit is being heralded as the next best thing in the extreme music world.  Yes, they will crush you in the form that you expect most Relapse bands to do so, with pummeling guitars ("Dow Jones And The Temple Of Doom") and rhythms that make The Weather Channel run for cover, but there's a lot more to this band than what a typical band of their genre has to offer.  BBTS also has an incredible feel for groove, and they disperse this feel amongst their mammoth deathcore musings ("Famke") to keep you on your toes and in awe throughout.  Any God fearing metalhead that likes it intricate and intense will find none better than Burnt By The Sun.  And that's a promise. (www.relapse.com)

Karma to Burn Almost Heathen

Spitfire Records
Our favorite mute rock and rollers come back out swinging with another 10 tracks of instrumental gold.  Nope, we're not talking about Zamfir here, it's West Virginia's favorite sons, Karma To Burn.  And they are still pumping out the finest hard rocking, titled only by number boogie rock anthems that have no words, but have soul as if they had Al Green and Lajon from Sevendust harmonizing on them.  Imagine Metallica, COC, Clutch and Sabbath in the woods, armed with enough food for a month and a stage to play on, sans microphones, and that's the output this trio amplifies us with.  For a raging slab of feel good heavy stomp and roll flavored with the bravado of Southern rock, Karma To Burn's Almost Heathen is an album you must own.  Rifle rack and Confederate flag sold separately. (www.spitfirerecords.com)

Hoobastank Hoobastank

Island Records
Hoobastank is cute enough to be a boy band, but don't let the swooning teenage females fool you, this California quartet is an infectious rock force.  The 12 tracks that comprise this oddly named outfit's debut are decisively 90's rock oriented, complete with heavy handed riffs meshed with harmonious vocals and killer choruses ("Remember Me," "Hello Again").  And while the comparisons to fellow statesmen Incubus can be on the mark in many instances ("Let You Know," "Better"), Hoobastank have enough depth to not only follow a path well traveled, but also add their own distinct footprints on the trail ("Running Away," "Ready For You").  Hoobastank are a great band with a terrible name that will defy all of your pretenses of what California dreaming is all about.  (www.hoobastank.com)

The Tash Brothers See You in the Morning

The Tash Brothers are a NY based outfit that banded together to cut an impassioned three song demo that has many ties and reflects on the attacks suffered on 9/11.  Their heartfelt output is laden with melodies a la John Cougar ("Where You Been So Long") and contains some of the finest female backup vocals heard in rock today.  With a tinge of country twang in their classic rock mix, The Tash Brothers seemingly unite the spirit of a broken city through the gift of music, and parts of their proceeds go towards the New York Daily News fund in a sign of remembrance and all for a good cause. (lourob@ivillage.com)

In Aeternum Past and Present Sins

Necropolis Records
In Aeternum's latest release is a greatest hits of sorts, but these songs were never hits per se as much as they were metal opuses able to crush your cranium and leave you in a hapless heap of humanity by the side of the road.  Oh, and they also do not one, but two heavy metal cover tunes ("Venom's "Countless Bathory" and King Diamond's "Abigail") besides the other 12 tracks in a surefire attempt to give you the most metal for your money.  More bang your head for the buck?  You bet.  (www.necropolisrecords.com)

Himsa Death Infinite

Revelation Records
Southern California's Himsa are a hardcore band in many senses of the genre, yet they have a lot more to offer the average hardcore listener than pit styled madness, although they are as adept as any band in that aspect.  Featuring guitar runs that have a Slayer-esque feel and some of the most technical musicianship this side of Swedish death metal (#2), Himsa envelope your ears with a unique blend of choppy hardcore riffs that will have you swinging windmills.  Imagine the brutality of Strife with the chops of Snapcase, and Himsa's vision becomes clear; let their musical machine destroy your illusions of what a hardcore band should be.  (www.revelationrecords.com)

Disaster Strikes Disaster Strikes

Rodent Popsicle
Imagine Black Flag, Fugazi and DRI in a political science class and the Massachusetts based punk/hardcore quintet Disaster Strikes, the bastard child of such a concoction, is born.  10 songs that hit such topics as worker's rights, misappropriation of funds and a general contempt for the government are all here, and the music, chaotic in a Suicidal Tendencies kind of way ("Fire") at times and paying much homage to the early crossover sounds of punk and hardcore, hit just as hard as an elbow to the jaw or the band's jarring social viewpoint.  They even go so far as to list a reading list of notable books the band enjoys and thinks you should, too.  If that's not direct marketing, then nothing is.  For a dosage of the truth served with a fist to the mouth and a middle finger in the air, check out Disaster Strikes.  (www.disasterstrikes.net)

Burning Inside Apparition

Burning Inside is a metal supergroup of sorts, as the 10 track release boasts members of Iced Earth, Control Denied and Demons And Wizards.  And while this journeyman quartet have cut their teeth and honed their craft in those aforementioned bands, they collectively bring it up a notch on this collaboration, by adding dabs of finesse to their death metal brutality ("Resurrection And Revenge").  It's this kind of technical excellence, from the odd time changes and ominous keyboard interludes to the shred guitar work ("Carnage Remains") that sets Burning Inside apart from the rest of the death metal contingent.  (www.crash-inc.com)

Watch Me Burn 3 song sampler

The California based Watch Me Burn is as intense as any band can get, as their female fronted death metal assault is as potent as any.  But, they don't stop there, as this quartet of miscreants utilize samples and sound effects to further their dynamic blitz of your sensory system.  Their songs are short, sweet and most of all, loud, so brace yourself for a wild ride.  (www.angelfire.com/mt2/watchmeburn)

Realm Realm

Mangler Records
Hailing from a land where metal reigns supreme comes the Queens, NY based Realm, whose five tracks of melodic metal harkens back to the days of Dio, Manowar and other metal luminaries.  With strong religious and spiritual imagery in their lyrics, backed by a brazen guitar assault ("Rest In Peace") and a solid rhythm section holding it all down, Realm are in prime position to spread the good word through their anthemic mix of old school metal.  (manglerrecords@eudoramail.com)

Into Eternity Dead or Dreaming

DVS Records
Into Eternity's latest 10 tracks mixes the aggression of power metal with the technicality of progressive metal to create a molten mix that demands to be noticed and will make sure that you are neither death nor dreaming when listening ("Imagination Overdose").  Stirring your senses with a dual lead vocal that hit the most punishing growls to the sweetest of falsettos, Into Eternity dynamic blend is a virtual metal potpourri, complete with pulsating rhythms ("Identify"), lucent guitar runs ("Shallow") and flawless percussion work.  This Canadian quartet really know how to create a maelstrom of metal, and it's not only their superb performances that catapult this release into the stratosphere, but it also helps that the production is jaw droppingly stunning and the songwriting is breathtakingly unabashed.  If you love metal, Into Eternity is a band you must check out.  (www.dvsrecords.com)

Pack Of Wise Pack Of Wise

Pack Of Wise is a NY based rock outfit whose three song release showcases a band armed with a fistful of melody and whose hooks are as catchy as the flu in February.  Taking pages from such rock acts as STP, Matchbox Twenty and The Wallflowers ("No Real Hero"), this quintet is polished and primed for rock and roll mass consumption.  Thanks to a solid vocal performance with clever lyrical wordplay, and backed by a sturdy chunk of pristine musical prowess ("For Openers"), Pack Of Wise are ready to be plucked from the doldrums of the NY club scene right into the limelight.  (www.packofwise.com)

The Deal Who's Pulling Your Strings?

Facedown Records
So what's the deal on The Deal?  Well, for starters, this California based quintet's CD starts out with a bang, courtesy of a brief intro cover of AC/DC.  From there, it maintains the attitude with a fist in the air and hardcore punk bravado a la Agnostic Front.  The 12 tracks that grace The Deal's latest release are chock full of punk's abrasiveness and the awareness of hardcore ("Ready When You Are"), and are tinged with the band's strong religious belief.  The Deal's sound comes complete with power chorded melodics and enough scream a long refrains, perfect for pile-ons come chorus time ("This Means War") and for slam dancing mayhem.  (www.facedownrecords.com)

Lostprophets Thefakesoundofprogress

Columbia Records
Across the pond, there's a huge buzz about a six piece nu metal outfit named Lostprophets, and by judging their latest 11 track offering, it's very much warranted.  These guys take the sounds that have penetrated the American rock radio (Incubus, Linkin Park, Papa Roach) and add a brand new depth and breath to them.  Is it the entrancing melodies ("Five Is A Four Letter Word"), or is it the band's ability to crush your head with a bone rattling riff ("Shinobi Vs. Dragon Ninja"), only to fill it back up with a moody, soulful movement ("For Sure")?  It's a combination of it all, as this band shines like none on the scene today.  Meshing the imminence of Fugazi with the scorn of System Of A Down, and successfully hitting homeruns on the continuum everywhere in between nu metal's swagger ("A Thousand Apologies") to emo's sensitive side ("...And She Told Me To Leave"), Lostprophets are a band that has made an essential album for all fans of rock to embrace.  (www.lostprophets.com)

Watchmaker Kill.Crush.Destroy

Watchmaker is a five piece human wrecking machine whose 30 some minute, 11 tracks of devastation are hazardous when operating heavy machinery ("Mournful Visage").  A trail of butchered, battered and black and blue remnants is what this outfit strives to leave the masses in its wake, and when the smoke clears, it's a safe bet that everything around this juggernaut has been destroyed ("Watchmaker").  If destruction is bliss, then these guys are the happiest bastards on the planet.  If you dig All Else Failed, Relapse bands on a whole, or are just a sucker for musical chaos, this CD will drive you over the edge.  (www.wonderdrugrecords.com)

Djyche Djyche

Djyche (pronounced Jik for those keeping score at home) is a raw rock outfit whose four song sampler shows a lot of promise for what it lacks in production.  The songs are well thought out and fun in a punk kind of way.  This Tennessee quartet also seemed well versed in mixing up the styles, from laid back bass grooves to straight ahead guitar fueled numbers, but they need to up the production level in order for them to truly burst on to the scene and out of the garage.  (www.djyche.com)

Blood For Blood Outlaw Anthems

Victory Records
Blood For Blood has called it a day, sadly, but not before they put out quite possibly their best work to date.  Outlaw Anthems definitely lives up to its name, as the 11 track disc seethes with a middle class bark ("Love Song") and a bitter white trash, rabies infested bite ("White Trash Anthem").  Real music for real people that struggle with their bills, their families and with the everyday life occurrences is the audience that these Boston bad boys target, and they do so without sugarcoating a damn thing.  Musically, the band takes the wrath of punk with the hard hitting catchiness of hardcore.  They hit the nail right on the head, as their gritty lyrics and bonebreaking music go hand in hand ("Some Kind Of Hate"). A rally cry for the oppressed or a tell it like it is sojourn?  A bit of both, as Blood For Blood's no holds barred and no topic too taboo attitude heal the broken heart and give hope to the hopeless.  Shame to see them go, but they've left behind quite a legacy to live up to and an audio catalog as a reminder of the scene and its struggle.  (www.victoryrecords.com)

Bush Golden State

Atlantic Records
Bush has returned sans electronics (well, not entirely), but decisively lessened on Golden State, their first album in quite some time.  And while Gavin remains as cheeky as ever, the music also retains the visceral bite and pristine quality ("The People That We Love," "Solutions") that lifted these Brits from Nirvana knockoffs to the tops of the charts in the '90s.  The 12 tracks here show Bush at their best, blending lyrically cryptic, mid tempo rockers ("Headful Of Ghosts," "Inflatable") that make the women swoon, with straight ahead shots of testosterone filled guitar rock ("Hurricane," "Reasons"), a winning formula that these guys know all too well.  Producer D. Sardy does his part in thickening up the mix, twiddling the knobs and catching the band during their sonically finest moments ("Float"), which results in a thunderous comeback for Bush.  So is everything zen after all?  Looks that way, indeed.  (www.bush-music.com)

Mystic Circle Infernal Satanic Verses

World War III
Mystic Circle is one of those costumed up scary looking black metal bands that you have to think twice about taking seriously.  Their eight tracks of singing for Satan is very engaging if you like a lot of Goth and gloom in your heavy music mix, but otherwise, it sounds like the trillion other facepainted death metal troupes with a tad more operatics thrown in for ambience ("Hordes Of The Underworld").  (www.ww3music.com)

Oblong Wheel Why

234 Records
Oblong Wheel is a NYC based quartet whose hard rocking stomp and Seattle sounding power groove carries them through their latest seven track release.  With an Alice In Chains-esque swagger, these neo-grungsters keep the guitars low and dirty and the melodies dark ("My World") when they pound out their aggressions for all to enjoy ("Believe").  If you dig Godsmack, Danzig or hard rock with a growl for a bark and one hell of a bite, check out the sounds of Oblong Wheel.  (www.234records.com)

The Cancer Conspiracy The Audio Medium

Big Wheel Records
This outfit known as The Cancer Conspiracy is a dangerous musical entity.  This trio meshes prog rock, jazz, and hardcore to produce a sound capable of alleviating all of your stress and tension, but at the same time allow your rage to overcome your soothed soul.  It's this dichotomy that makes these New Englanders' latest six track offering such a captivating experience.  With enough meaty slabs to satisfy the smarter hardcore contingent, coupled by an ample supply of musical noodling which is never wasteful and always fulfilling, The Cancer Conspiracy successfully blur the edges of what to expect and what you will extract.  If you're looking for a different mix that will shake you down to your soul, look no further.  (www.bigwheelrec.com)

Strife Angermeans

Victory Records
Strife has returned to grace the hardcore scene with their ominous presence, and it couldn't come at a better time, as the California quartet's latest 10-track release is a welcomed comeback.  Chugging guitars ("Everything Stripped Away," "Angel Wings") and razorbladed vocals are still the main weapons in their impressive hardcore arsenal ("Rise Again," "Spill No Blood") but Strife also strays from the formula and touches on some other influences that may not be as apparent to their usual slash and burn style ("From These Graves") with great success.  It's the band's ability to stay brutal while branching out that make Strife's latest release such a heralded reprise.  (www.victoryrecords.com)

Dawn Of Dreams Darklight Awakening

World War III
Dawn Of Dreams is a German metal clan whose nine songs of molten metal madness sounds like Obituary with a hint of black metal ambience thrown in ("The Sirenes Dreaming").  Pummeling rhythms lead the charge ("Eclipse"), as this band, formed in 1993, are just putting their debut album out now, eight years after their inception.  Maybe that's why Dawn Of Dreams seem a bit stale, as they don't do anything to bedazzle and engage, but they do provide a sturdy, structured metal sound ("Desires Origin") that impassioned headbangers can't resist.  (www.ww3music.com)

Very Metal Hit and Run

Beer City
Very Metal is a Midwest quartet whose 14 track, 23 minute release dispels the bloat and bore of some of the heavy music out there and goes to the jugular by extracting straight from the roots.  While the band's metal output is questionable (it's more of a punk/hardcore thing happening), what can't be denied is their fervor to play loud, fast and hard, complete with scornful lyrical content ("Jealousy").  While the band isn't the most cerebral in the world, Very Metal aim low and strike their target with skill and precision, knowing that behind every good rock band stand big riffs and bigger balls ("Worthless").  A nice shot of rock and roll spirit, courtesy of Very Metal is a remedy for anybody's rock and roll ills.  (www.beercity.com)

The Order Of The Fly An Exquisite State Of Decay

The Order Of The Fly is a ghoulish band of five whose debut 10 tracks of horror punk mix the brashness of punk with the melodies of metal ("Let Me Die") to create a sound that resembles AFI and Gwar at times.  These California weirdniks back up their music with vivid imagery and comic book fanfare that rivals a Hollywood production.  So is there room for another costumed metal band whose shock rock tendencies may be a bit too much for Joe Q Public?  Well, if they write catchy songs that blend Misfits styled sing along swagger ("Succubus") with metal's mighty swing ("Tear It Apart"), then yea, there's room for The Order Of The Fly.  (www.theorderofthefly.com)

Tomahawk Tomahawk

From the brilliant and twisted musical genius of Mike Patton comes another band in the long, eclectic line of Patton's musical endeavors.  So what makes Tomahawk such an entity, you may ask?  Besides the fact that the vocals are as gripping, stirring and striking as ever ("Sir,Yes Sir," "God Hates A Coward"), it's the first time in a while where real rock melodics comes into play ("101 North") on a Patton project, with a tinge of hard rock a la Faith No More.  It's not "Epic," folks, don't be misled, but it does have that stomp and swagger on it, reminiscent of anything off of Angel Dust.  Comprised of members of Helmet and The Melvins, Tomahawk is as close to a '90s metal supergroup we'll get until Jerry Cantrell's new release.  Highlights include the country fried acoustics of "Cul de Sac" and the chorus of the state of the music world's "POP 1", where Patton proclaims in refrain "this beat can win me a Grammy".  If only the Grammys were that hip.  (www.ipecac.com)

Monc Guilty

Conglomerated Industries
Monc is a British artist whose lush soundscapes rate up there with his countrymen's best bodies of work (Oasis, Radiohead).  Visceral and insightful, Monc's five track disc is a top notch production that draws comparisons to Moby for its crossover appeal ("Oh").  Not a dance album, nor a rock album, it's more of a loungy, jazzy type thing ("And The Girls Sing") that has 5:02pm Happy Hour written all over it.  Kick off your shoes and soak this CD in.  (www.monc.net)

Align Some Breaking News

Iguana Records
Align is a post hardcore outfit from Minneapolis whose 10 track disc sizzles with stellar grooves, thoughtful lyrics and a pop sensibility that most aggro rock bands lack these days ("Basement Door").  While the standard bottom heavy riffages and staccato rhythms are here ("B.A.M."), Align manage to take it up one notch by inserting catchy choruses and memorable refrains within their intelligent aggressive ramblings ("Bell Curve").  Drawing comparisons to the likes of Helmet and Quicksand isn't a slight on these Midwestern post metal mavens in the least; in fact, it's quite the compliment to praise them in such company.  If you'd like to hear a more mature Papa Roach or a harder edged Our Lady Peace ("Weigh Me Down"), look no further than this emotionally charged powerhouse.  (110 Greene Street #702, New York, NY 10012; www.alignrock.com)

Vanishing Point Tangled in Dream

Limb Music
So, you think Australia is all Koala bears and AC/DC cover bands, right?  Guess again, because straight out of Sydney comes Vanishing Point, a progressive metal sextet whose technical melodies ("Never Walk Away") rival Dream Theater or most Scandanavian metal outfits.  Heavy on the keyboards and the guitar melody lines ("Surreal"), Vanishing Point have got a strong sense of how to write a hook laden chorus, almost in the vein of Van Halen and Journey ("I Will Awake").  At the same time, they can shred with the best of them ("Closer Apart"), making this band a versatile machine that is capable of altering moods and maintaining grooves.  Vanishing Point is a solid metal band whose bound to appeal to all fans of melodic hard rock.  (P.O. Box 60 25 20, 22235 Hamburg, Germany; www.limb-music.de)

Memory Garden Mirage

Metal Blade Records
Something's gotta be in the water in Sweden.  How is it that so many good metal bands come from this region of the world?  Is it a climate issue?  Whatever the case may be, add Memory Garden to the list of accomplished Swedish metallers.  Their latest 10 track disc blends harmony and dissonance in a way that's make Judas Priest and Megadeth very proud ("A Long Grey Day").  The one aspect that makes Memory Garden a standout act is their blend of headbanging riffs with melodic vocals ("My Pain").  Even though it's commonplace for metal acts to have both nuances in tow, these guys do so with a fine sense of dynamics.  Neither force ever overpowers the other, nor does either entity drown the other out, creating a surefire metal assault ("Navigate").  Memory Garden provide some moonlit moments as well ("Yearning"), but on the whole, this quintet bring heaping slabs of metal over tuneful vocals that are sure to appease the metal fan in us all.  (2828 Cochran Street, PMB 302, Simi Valley, CA 93065; www.metalblade.com)

Blackstorm As Black As Thy Candles Burn

Darque Records
Blackstorm isn't your typical death metal outfit.  Seemingly influenced by the new wave of death metal currently receiving attention in Europe, these American symphonic seducer's orchestrations are chiseled within a sturdy Gothic metal framework ("Damnation Of  Kings").  While comparisons to Cradle, Dimmu and the like are warranted, Blackstorm supercedes these likenesses by digging a bit deeper into the well and coming up with more textured melodies and complex arrangements.  Produced by metal demigod James Murphy, Blackstorm's six song introduction shows this quartet primed to take over the genre with their multi faceted metal attack.  You've been warned.  (P.O. Box 566, Tempe, AZ 85280; www.darquerecords.com)

Uli Jon Roth Transcendental Sky Guitar

Good Lord!  The musical spirit of John Tesh lives!  Sadly enough, it's overcome former Scorpion six stringer Uli Jon Roth, as this tepid, self indulgent instrumental project reeks of aroma therapy and getting in touch with your inner child.  This is worse than any Zamfir album your mom ever bought.  Discard at once, unless you decide to drink the Kool-Aid. (P.O. Box 721147, 30531 Hannover, Germany; www.spv.de)

Niblick Henbane Go Away

TKO Records
New Jersey quartet Niblick Henbane have been playing their brand of oi punk since 1987, and on their latest 11 track release, they take us back to those magical years of the late 80's with drunken melodies and sanitized punk anthems.  Nothing to call home about here, folks, just some solid pogo music ("Happy Happy Oi Oi," "Grin & Bear It") that's great for frat parties and house parties when the folks visit the relatives in the sticks.  While this disc isn't going to change your life, it's perfect for that Friday night kegger ("Old Hat").  (4104 24th Street #103, San Francisco, CA 94114; www.tkorecords.com)

Low Twelve Flesh of the Weak

D Day
Low Twelve is a crushingly heavy quartet from Illinois whose 16 track disc is not for the weak of heart.  Strong enough to rip the wallpaper off of the wall, these purveyors of all that is heavy take a hardcore attitude and lay down face ripping riffs around ultra tight rhythms to create a brutal sound whose urgency can't be denied ("Trench").  Brash and in your face, this is ass kicking music at its finest ("Crawlspace," "Thin Skinned"), complete with an incessant double bass drum assault and vocals that sound like the singer swallowed razor blades prior to screaming his lungs out (the way real metal should be played!)  If you dig DRI, Propain or brutal, driving music in general, these guys are your best bet.  (P.O. Box 4324, Bloomington, IL 61702; www.lowtwelve.com)

Boris Absolutego

Southern Lord
What the hell is this that Boris put out?  This Japanese cult trio may call it experimental, perhaps, but one song that equals one hour of basically fuzz and treble isn't exactly a musical masterpiece.  If you're privy to motion sickness, or if you really dug your annual childhood hearing tests, you may dig this release; otherwise, just back away slowy until the low rumble is way off in the distance.  (P.O. Box 291967, Los Angeles, CA 90029; www.southernlord.com)

Biastfear All Angels Scream

Level Two
Biastfear is an Ohio rock outfit whose female fronted hard rock is tinged with sultry melodies and a flare for different genres ("All Angels Scream").  While this isn't a concept that's groundbreaking, this nine track disc succeeds because Biastfear lets the singer sing and the band rock, both at an even keel.  And this band does rock, complete with heavy backbeats and a throbbing bass. Because of this, these folks come off decisively heavier than most other female rock outfits ("Coming Down"), barring Kittie.  While the hip-hop flavor of some of the tracks grows weary after a few listens, the overall outcome is that Biastfear blend Garbage-esque vocal lines with some jarring riffs that would remind you of some of the nu metal bands (Sevendust, Incubus) hitting the airwaves ("Don't You").  (P.O. Box 795, Berea, OH 44017; www.biastfear.com)

Quest For Nine 4 track demo

Quest For Nine is a new NYC band making waves based on their four track disc.   This hybrid of punk, hardcore and radio ready rock rages like the machine and hits harder than an NFL linebacker ("Diggin' Up The Ground").  Strong sense of melody mixed with a slew of moshpit madness ("Frozen") help QON keep their chaos controlled and the listener satisfied.  While some comparisons are obvious (Rage, 311), Quest For Nine has a strong rock sensibility that many of their peers don't showcase, which puts this new band a step ahead of the competition.  A solid new arrival to the NYC scene.  (www.questfornine.com)

A Tribute to the Scorpions

Nuclear Blast
Beyond a doubt, one of the most influential metal bands worldwide is the German outfit The Scorpions.  Nuclear Blast showcases this realization with this 19 track compilation.  While a lot of the newer, radio friendly Scorps material is covered here (which doesn't remotely stack up to the older, grinding stuff), we still can get a good sense of just why Klaus and company are so revered.  From Disbelief's filling rattling rendition of "Coast To Coast" to Stratovarius' truthful cover of "Blackout," these updated versions are not bastardized messes, but instead stay in the spirit and attitude of the originals.  And as an added bonus, SOD's classic 10 second cover song mayhem continues here as well, which is reason alone to buy this disc.  (P.O. Box 43618, Philadelphia, PA 43618; www.nulcearblast-usa.com)

The Deep Eynde Suicide Drive

Black Cabaret
The Deep Eynde is a neo-gothic quartet whose melancholy melodies sound best after a John Hughes film festival.  Their six song disc hints at a punk rock undercurrent ("Deep Dark Secret"), yet these California creeps have got a lot more Peter Murphy in them than Murphy's Law ("Dead Alive").  Totally '80s?  Definitely, complete with Smiths-esque glide ("Superstition") and guitar vibrato in tow, The Deep Eynde is poised to spearhead the '80s preservation society.  (P.O. Box 9805, N. Hollywood, CA 91609-1809; www.deepeynde.com)

Chaos Theory Chaos Theory

The New Jersey quartet Chaos Theory is a band that will bludgeon you with their simple yet effective metal assault.  No time for getting fancy on this six song scorcher, as CT take it upon themselves to serve you with some serious helpings of thick guitar riffs and drum beats that penetrate further than any porn star's most intimate places ("Beat You At Your Own Game").  Keeping the guitars chunky, the rhythms groovy and the vocals so in your face, you can feel the spit in your eye ("Soulcage"), Chaos Theory have made a monstrous disc that'd make fans of Prong, DRI and Biohazard quite happy.  (ChaosThory@aol.com)

Foolproof Estrangeland

There are a lot of bands out there that sound like the California quartet Foolproof.  You know the type, heavy guitars laden with melody backed with a spirited chorus ("Marie").  Kind of punky, kid of emo, a little bit of metal thrown in for good measure ("57-3"), those type of bands.  Well, Foolproof's 10 track disc is chock full of those punkcore anthems ("Anywhere But Here") that take bits of Nirvana, NOFX and Grade and come up with an amalgamation of sound.   And it rocks.  Maybe because these guys have got the twin guitar attack down to a Judas Priest-esque science, or maybe because these songs are, despite very genre-familiar, well crafted tunes that stick in your head, unlike the grocery store list or your homework assignment you forgot last night.  In any event, if you like songs of mild lament that rock, this is the disc to check out.  (www.foolproofrules.com)

Croatan Curse of the Red Queen

Man's Ruin
Croatan is an odd duo whose primitive guitar and drum assault is accentuated by female vocals to create this pseudo-Hole moshpit extravaganza.  Seemingly without a bottom end, these songs do become grating after a few listens. Yet the L7 meets stoner rock feel of it all ("The Grand Delusion") tends to turn the attention away from what's missing and instead help showcase what's there.  And that is, besides noise, aggressive guitar work and a drummer with a penchant for odd time signatures.

Overthhhrow/What Happens Next Livin' La Vida Loca

This split CD features hardcore from two continents, as Spain's Overthhhrow and San Francisco's What Happens Next combine their efforts to pout out this 28 track disc. Up first are the abrupt Overthhhrow and their late '80s tinged So-Cal punk hardcore assault.  Fans of DRI and Suicidal Tendencies should dig their brand of crunchy punk ditties ("State Controlled," "Indocrination").  Despite their dated musical endeavors, Overthhhrow does a noble job.  Which leaves What Happens Next and their pit style hardcore.  A strong NYHC and East Coast influence is shown on their 12 tracks, complete with grinding interludes and tight breakdowns.  Taking pages from Bad Brains ("WHN?," "Charmuda"), WHN master the under-1-minute song with reckless abandon, perfect for their style of play.  A good idea with decent execution and an overall good "unity" feel all over it.

Captain T Sinister Ambassador

Captain T is a rock outfit that mesh the trippy takes of The Grateful Dead with Black Sabbath's sonic boom to create sprawling, free form jams that'd make Phish want to take a hike back to their bowl ("Girls Inc.," "Heaven Jam").  Refreshingly heavy ("Ozzy") and spiritually satisfying, Captain T speaks the language of groove and isn't afraid to leave us with a translation.  If the Foo Fighters were to mesh with Medeski, Martin and Wood, this just may be what the output would be.  It's a safe bet to come aboard a rock and roll vessel when Captain T is at the helm, because you know in you're in the hands of a band that can take you anywhere you let your mind escape to.  (5925 NE 80 Ave., Portland, OR 97218; www.captaint.com)

Operator Generator Polar Fleet

Mans Ruin
Operator Generator is a sludgy hard rock quartet that lay it down thick, like old school Soundgarden.  Their eight tracks of downtuned, doom laden grooves hit harder than most heavyweight boxers ("Quaintance Of Natherack") and their Sabbath-esque melodies make the sludge go down as smooth, albeit as slow, as a piece of toast smothered in molasses ("Arctic Quest").  As bottom heavy as a bell curve, Operator Generator take the time machine back to the mid 1970s and boost up the volume to 11, just the way you need it.  (2626 3rd Street, San Francisco, CA 94107; www.mansruin.com)

Phantom Patient Songs From Downstairs

Entartete Kunst
Phantom Patient makes normal ambient music look like 'N SYNC.  This 16 track disc, broken into four parts, seems to be a concept album, but it's up to you to figure out what's going on in here.  Reminiscent of Pink Floyd meets Roni Size, this disc doesn't offer as much in songs that stand alone as it does offer a story linked through computerized music, samples and sounds with some sort of musical understanding holding it all together ("Simulate Success").  Something wicked this way came, and its name is Phantom Patient.  If David Lynch had access to Trent Reznor's studio (which I'm sure he does on occasion), this is quite possibly what it would sound like.  (P.O. Box 411194, San Francisco, CA 94141; phantompatient@altavista.com)

Anubis Rising Opening of the Mouth

Anubis Rising is more than your average death metal band, and that's a good thing.  If these guys had to stand on their death metal merits, they'd be lumped into the generic file with the quickness.  The difference lies in their explorative devices.  No, not the anal probe, but instead, their use of percussion, their trippy, space age panning guitar effects and their overall jamming ability that lets the band survey landscapes that many heavy bands, in an effort to stay true, wouldn't even attempt. AR has a Mr. Bungle quality ("Emptiness") that propels them from the predictable guttural vocal depths of death metal.  Their five track disc is a mixture of tired death metal and spirited adventure, so if you're game, grab your knapsack and hop along.  (Anubis_Rising@yahoo.com)

Onward Evermoving

Century Media
Onward is, believe it or not, an American metal band that plays classic metal a la Saxon, Helloween and the ilk.  Their eight track disc is blazen with lightning fast guitar runs, high octane falsetto vocals and the stuff that'd give Yngwie and Steve Vai a run for their money ("The Kindness Of Strangers").  Thematically in the same vein as Dio and Savatage, Onward sing of tales of witches, rainbows and myth with the best of them ("The Waterfall Enchantress"), all under a very raise your fist and yell metal anthem banner.   If you like your metal in between the technicality of Fates Warning and the melodicism of most Swedish metal bands, you'll be sure to get some of your rocks off to Onward.  (1453-A 14th Street #324, Santa Monica, CA 90404; www.centurymedia.com)

The Great Deceiver Jet Black Art

Noisy and obtrusive, The Great Deceiver is a Swedish quintet that mixes the mechanical tendencies of Godflesh with the balls out aggression of Helmet to create an angry style of music.  Machine like in its sheer sonic boom, complete with hammering rhythms ("Jet Black Art"), the Mr. Roboto feel is quite apparent on these five tracks, almost sounding like a more hardcore version of Fear Factory ("Cornered Rat").  If you liked the smart, heavy post hardcore that was all the rage in the early '90's, The Great Deceiver is somewhat of a blessing for you.  (23 Farm Edge Lane, Tinton Falls, NJ 07724; www.trustkill.com)

Southport Nothing Is Easy

Go Kart
Southport is a three piece punk band hailing from London and containing a founding member of Snuff.  So, what does that mean, exactly?  For starters, expect a lot of guitar-driven, upbeat punk numbers that basically stay at one moderately bouncy, poppy pace ("Morning After", "Green").  Add in some lead vocals that aren't spectacular but do the necessary punk rock guy singer job with conviction ("Work") and what you've got is an above average punk outfit who aren't going to break any new ground, but who will sound really good treading familiar waters.  Imagine what it'd be like if the Foo Fighters wrote all punk songs and you'll see what Southport is all about.  (P.O. Box 20, Prince Street Station, New York, NY 10012; www.gokartrecords.com)

George Joseph S. Rider Joseph

Game 7
George Joseph is an eclectic solo artist whose self produced release contains 18 tracks of musical potpourri.  Taking smidgens of Zeppelin, Parliament, Hendrix, and James Taylor, his rock sensibilities are strong, and his songwriting skills are well documented ("I Sold My Soul").  While the use of a full time full band would strengthen many of the album's tracks, the subtle nature of Joseph's raspy voice and bluesy guitar speaks volumes ("Wind-Whipped," "Quench").  Very similar to Beck, George Joseph seems to be on a mission to fuse a singer songwriter style without a coffeehouse nearby, nor an acoustic guitar.  An interesting listen that would benefit from a team effort.

Drunk Horse Tanning Salon

Mans Ruin
Good Christ, is it 1976?  Well, if you heard Drunk Horse, you'd think it was.  Their 12 tracks of comfortable southern stoner rock ("AM/FM Shoes") is the perfect companion for those days you fix up the Dodge Charger on cinderblocks on your front lawn or French kiss your first cousin.  Yes, it's that delicious, folks.  Everyone from Sabbath to Skynyrd ("Vicious And Loathes") is an influence on this hard rocking quartet, and these guys play hard, fast, down and adeptly dirty rock that will singlehandedly knock you on your ass ("Tanning Salon," "Manchild").  Imagine the Southern rock bands you hear on those TV compilation albums on steroids, and you've got an idea of what a band stronger than an Oklahoma twister sound like.  A nice dish of debauchery that real rock fans will devour.  (2626 3rd Street, San Francisco, CA 94107; www.mansruin.com)

Nightwish Wishmaster

Century Media
Nightwish is a Finnish five piece whose style is an odd mix of Gothic rock, opera and cheesy metal that really needs to be absorbed with a full attention span.  Their 11 track disc hits many of the same heights and reaches as many of the other female fronted Euro metal groups ("Wanderlust"), but there's a certain polish that Nightwish convey that puts them in a league of their own.  Perhaps it's their Broadway musical writing style ("Wishmaster," "Dead Boy's Poem") that sounds half-Bohemian Rhapsody and half Lincoln Center theatric.  Nightwish is a very competent metal band whose strengths transcend standard
metal premonitions.  (1453-A 14th Street #324, Santa Monica, CA 90404; www.centurymedia.com)

WASP Unholy Terror

WASP has come back from the '80s metal comeback trail and has put together a stirring 10 track disc that has their classic hard rock sound in tow.  Unholy Terror, like many of the previous albums, has a conceptual thread of the falsehoods of organized religion running throughout the album ("Charisma"), which makes not only for interesting subject matter, but kickass metal songs as well ("Unholy Terror," "Raven Heart").  Blackie and company pull out all the stops and in turn, create a worthwhile and downright necessary metal album that stacks up to any of their past albums.  A triumph for a band who prove that they're still alive and can still go at it like a beast.  (1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036; www.waspnation.com)

Tad Morose Undead

Century Media
Straight up melodic metal is what this Swedish quintet delivers on their latest 11 track release.  Imagine the slash and burn rhythms of Mercyful Fate with the technical wizardry of Dream Theater with the meaty delivery of Savatage ("No Tears In The Rain," "Where The Sun Never Shines"), and out pops Tad Morose.  Bang your head, folks, these guys are the real deal, enough to give many of the established metal bands a run for their money ("No Wings To Burn").  Tad Morose has all of the standard metal sounds in tow, and use the twin guitar attack and thunderous rhythm section flawlessly.  Definitely an album to check out for those who still hail the metal flag.  (1453-A 14th Street #324, Santa Monica, CA 90404; www.centurymedia.com)

Dozer Madre De Dios

Mans Ruin
Another gem rolls out from the kind folks at Man's Ruin.  This time, the Swedes shed their metal pretenses and take form in a boogie-fied rock outfit.  Dozer is the band, and their 10 track disc is the stuff that stoner rock dreams are made of.  Plowing guitar riffs with a 350 horsepower rhythm section ("Earth Yeti") and a slew of Kyuss-inspired vocal lines ("Mono Impact," "tx-9") make this quartet something to be adored ("Freeloader").  If you like your rock sludgy, heavy and righteous, Dozer is the right place to head for getting your ya-ya's out.  (2626 3rd Street, San Francisco, CA 94107; www.mansruin.com)

The Forsaken Manifest Of Hate

Century Media
The Forsaken is a death metal band that hails from the metal friendly confines of Sweden.  Their brutal style of death metal isn't anything that needs explaining, yet it is a sturdy version of many of the genre's leading bands (At The Gates, Arch Enemy, Carcass).  While the formula of what makes this quintet tick won't blow you away, these metallers manage to create some crushing choruses, bonechilling solos ("Truth Of God"), and engaging vocals ("Betrayal Within Individuals") that are, albeit expected, definitely worth a listen.  A solid death metal outfit whose originality is questionable, but whose ability is undeniable.  If you're a fanatic of that swinging Swedish metal sound, add The Forsaken to your collection.  (1453-A 14th Street #324, Santa Monica, CA 90404; www.centurymedia.com)

Where Fear and Weapons Meet Unstoppable

Triple Crown
Where Fear And Weapons Meet, besides having an engaging band name, provide the listener with some of the more unique hardcore out there in the scene today.  On their seven track release, there's a Snapcase-like intensity ("Control Denied") with an H20 pop-punk strand going on that makes you stand up and pay attention.  Burly rhythms and brawny vocals give way to a strong sense of anarchistic melody ("Promise Of Freedom," "Our Own Way") not unlike any punk band's "raise your fist and scream" philosophy.  Some potent stuff that's bound to blow up in a big way for this Florida five piece.  For those that enjoy Shutdown, Shelter and Reach The Sky, this should be a welcomed addition to your CD collection.  (331 West 57th Street, PMB 472, New York, NY 10019; www.triplecrownrecords.com)

The Clay Pigeons I Wanna Say It Before I Forget

The Clay Pigeons are a whirlwind of a band whose sticky sweet harmonies and ultra catchy choruses ("Kissing Your Girlfriend," "Be With You") will make you an instant fan.  Their five track disc sizzles with infectious melodies ("Electric Stars") that make Matchbox Twenty look like amateurs.  Well crafted songs played with passion is what this electrifying NYC quartet bring to the table, and it's refreshing to see a rock band that doesn't leave the rock out of their reportraire.  Armed with clever lyrics, a super solid rhythm section, sassy fretwork and rounded out by harmonica and piano, these guys satisfy every bit of rock urge you may have.  Do yourself a favor and get what you crave by checking out these fine feathered foursome.  (www.claypigeons.com)

Red Reaction 2 song sampler

Red Reaction is a new outfit that take the East Coast hardcore sound to heart on their two song sampler.  Heavy and hard hitting, these guys are primed for bigger and better things in the near future if their intense preview is any indication.  If you like the East Coast sound merged with some melody, check these guys out.  (www.redreaction.tsx.org)

Haste When Reason Sleeps

Century Media
No sophomore slump here, folks, as Sweet Home Alabama's Haste unleash a barrel full of metal on their latest 11 track disc.  And if you dug their first disc, man are you gonna dig this.  Heavy in all the right places, Haste wastes no time in laying down the foundation for a dynamite album ("Brand New Opposites").  Complemented with the use of two lead singers that get that hardcore metal vibe just right, the six pack of sluggers are armed and dangerous with a barrage of bruising guitar riffs ("Meridian Summer," "Calendar Year") and a pounding rhythm section that never seems to let up.  And yes, there's melody, too, albeit the kind that you may have to search through the audio assault to find ("Engine").  These guys transcend the usual screaming band stigma by creating stimulating breakdowns and urgently catchy musical parts within their battering ram-like attack (""Vicki...Is This A Compromise?").  Part metal, part hardcore, but all kickass, Haste shows that they are very much alive and awake the second time around.  If you dig VOD, Sepulture or any of those crazy metalcore bands, check out both of Haste's albums and see what you've been missing.

Within Reach Complaints Ignored

Bad Taste Records
Sweden's hard music scene is definitely one of the most consistent in turning out slamming bands, and quintet Within Reach is no exception.  Their latest 10 track release bludgeons the senses and reaffirms that there are bands out in the world that can combine balls out aggression with depth ("Lifetime Achievement," "14:59").  With a potent mix of metal crunch coupled with the posturing of hardcore, Within Reach set your CD player on stun and are relentless in their quest to be top dogs in the taciturn realm of heavy music.  Complaints Ignored is an album that fans of In Flames, Snapcase and Darkest Hour will be spinning the hell out of.  (www.badtasterecords.com)

Godflesh Hymns

Hard to believe that this is Godflesh's 13th album, but here we are in the year 2001 and these British noise pioneers are still grinding their way through, as showcased on their latest 13 track offering.  And Hymns shows that there's a good reason as to why this ultra influential outfit is still pounding out precision laced, industrial strength dirges ("Anthem").  Basically, if there was no Godflesh, a good chunk of what you hear as the "noveau" sound in heavy music today wouldn't exist, and we'd be subjected to bad '80s metal bands making successful comebacks.  After the shuddering is done, do yourself a solid and pick up Godflesh's latest, if not for the sentiment, then at least for the kick ass music that they have given us ("Tyrant"), especially with a real drummer (Ted Parsons, ex-Swans and ex-Prong, no less), making these leaders of industry a lot more organic and utterly unavoidable.  (www.kochentertainment.com)

Serial Poets Top of the Food Chain

Future Primitive
Serial Poets are an eclectic band that mixes heavy grooves a la Soundgarden and Sabbath with other varieties of music to comprise a diverse 12-track disc, all without sacrificing their initial groove.  When this Long Island outfit croons, they sound much like the softer side of Alice Cooper ("Sharp," "Sunrise Sunset"), but they also have the instincts to rip out a technofied jam that gives NIN and White Zombie a nice run for their money ("Squirm").  Versatile and dripping with the lyrical sarcasm that you'd expect from Henry Rollins ("The Rejection," "Sex World"), when we enter the world of the Serial Poets, expect the unexpected, but be prepared to be rocked all the way.  (www.serialpoets.com)

The Lawrence Arms/The Chinkees Present Day Memories

Asian Man
This split CD contains two different styles of punk which actually complement each other quite well, as both The Lawrence Arms and The Chinkees display the sunny day melodies that made punk a household musical form as of late.  First up come The Lawrence Arms, whose Blink 182 meets Sum 41 methods don't really do the band justice, as song titles like "There's No Place Like A Stranger's Floor" denote that there's a lot more going on this band than pretty boy primping and bathroom humor.  They do, however, write catchy choruses that are worthy of praise ("100 Resolutions").  Then come The Chinkees, whose immediate keyboards and ska tinged flavor scream Smashmouth ("Clouding Up My Storm"), but their punk background points closer to All ("Heart + Me").  If you dig the current sounds of punk music, this split CD is right up your alley.  (www.asianmanrecords.com)

The Flaming Stars Ginmill Perfume

Alternative Tentacles
The Flaming Stars are a band you'd probably view in a dimly lit, smokey nightclub in some film noir type situation.  Their latest disc is seemingly a collection of their best work from the last five years. This English outfit includes some B-sides, live work and a plethora of 60's influenced surf and calmer punk, a la latter day Lou Reed ("Bury My Heart At Pier 13"), but they also have a penchant for 80's New Wave ("You Don't Always Want What You Get").  The Flaming Stars are a lot like Peek Freen cookies, a serious band for a mature audience, but that doesn't make their murky, David Bowie-esque ("A Place In The Sun") delivery any less accessible.  (www.alternativetentacles.com)

Homo Iratus Human Consumes Human

Hailing from Greece, Homo Iratus have a brutal streak in them, yet they round out their audio savagery with some of the crispest death metal this side of Cannibal Corpse ("Dead Upon Conception").  On their debut 14 track scorcher, this quartet take the patented death metal crunch and add generous amounts of groove to it a la Chaos AD-era Sepultura ("Absence Of Progress"), making for one of the better deathcore albums heard in a long time.  Complete with vocals that sound strikingly like Cookie Monster and a pounding rhythm section that dually clobbers with groove and speed ("Crawling Principles"), Homo Iratus take snippets of all that is heavy and make their own little bastard concoction that will surely create a stir.  (wwwhomoiratus.com)

Idlewild 100 Broken Windows

Capitol Records
Idlewild is a British quartet whose 12 track release isn't anything to do cartwheels over.  It's got a Morrissey "woe is me" gloss all over it ("Rusty"), and the mope rock factor is pretty high across the board ("The Bronze Medal").  The songs are solidly built, but there's really nothing very dynamic about this outfit, as they keep the mood at one medium pace throughout.  They're almost like Bush without the punch, or an Oasis without the fighting brethren.  If you're a wishy washy kind of person, or a total Anglophile, this disc is recommended.  (www.idlewild.co.uk)

Gladyss Patches A Wish This Simple

Gladyss Patches are a Canadian nu metal quintet whose 11 track release is as emotive as The Deftones and as textured as Linkin Park.  This band of young un's have really done their homework and have come up with a bevy of well written and heartfelt performed tunes that fill your senses ("Headlights").  Displaying the keen instinct of when to charge ahead with a heavy passage or fall back into a melodic groove ("Rhea"), Gladyss Patches successfully borrow stylistic devices from Sevendust ("Spin"), Taproot and the rest of the nu metal contingent.  Yet, what makes this band such an entity is that they also make way to allow their own voice shine through, with the help of a twin guitar attack that combines brutality with melodicism with the best of them.  A Wish This Simple is an excellent debut for a band whose better days are definitely yet to come.  (www.gladysspatches.com)

New Disorder Soda

New Disorder
This compilation from San Francisco based label New Disorder is a punk/hardcore battle cry, as the 25 songs that fill up this collection mainly fall into that category.  The best thing about this disc, besides the garden variety of good underground band that it offers, is by far the packaging, where each band showcased on the disc was given their own page to do with what they want, an interesting concept that really makes an impression.  On the whole, this is definitely a disc worthy of your time.  (www.newdisorder.com)

Sceptic Pathetic Being

The Eastern Block nations sure love their metal, and Poland is no exception, as the hometown quintet Sceptic aptly display on their blistering 10 track disc.  Horned hands and closed fists are raised for sure as this metal troupe take us through a journey into old school thrash and European death metal ("Pathetic Being"), all done with the utmost respect and unbridled attitude.  The guitars wail ("Last Identity"), the rhythms are tight and the vocals are gleefully guttural ("Ancestor Of All Powers"); what more from a metal band could you ask for?  (www.crash-inc.com)

Ratos De Porao Guerra Civil Canibal

Alternative Tentacles
The long running South American punk band Ratos De Porao return with a half new, half cover album that not only displays their crossover punk/metal/hardcore sound, but it also pays homage to many of their friend's bands, such as The Varukers and fellow countrymen Sepultura.  So what if they sing primarily in Portuguese? This mainstay of the Brazilian scene proves why they are so influential with this release, as it hits you right between the eyes, regardless of the language it's spoken in.  (www.alternativetentacles.com)

The Lepers The Lepers

Caulfield Records
The duo known as The Lepers have got a very eerie quality swirling throughout their seven track debut.  Imagine Jane's Addiction mixing with Radiohead in a jam room with acoustic instruments and maybe you'll have an idea ("Dead Romantic").  While the music is limited, as it only contains drums, guitar and vocals, it's that strange mix that gives The Lepers that ominous tone.  Adventurous and exemplifying a punk spirit ("Love Is Out On The Town"), The Lepers are definitely an acquired taste, but an interesting listen nonetheless.  (www.caulfieldrecords.com)

The Brought Low The Brought Low

Tee Pee
From the bowels of Brooklyn comes a power trio with more soul than a gospel choir and boulders for balls.  The Brought Low is their name, and flashback rock and roll is their game, according to their eight track epiphany of a CD.  From the opener "What I Found", a rip roaring guitar led slab of rock and roll, these guys make the Black Crowes look like a nu metal band with their laconic blues soaked jams ("Goddamn God Bless") and Southern rock anthemic antics.  1973 never sounded as good as The Brought Low, and maybe it's the fact that hindsight is 20/20, but a lot of it can be attested to the superb storytelling that the lyrics convey ("Hot N' Cold").  The Brought Low are retro, and they love every minute of it.  Chances are if you know what's good for you, you will too.  (www.teepeerecords.com)

Mercenary Musik 2001

World War III
What the world needs now is... more sick and twisted death metal?  Well, the folks at World War III Music think so, as they unveil their latest endeavor, a partnership with Mercenary Musik and all of its demonic metal bands.  From the (unlucky) 13 tracks, you get what you expect from a death metal compilation, a lot of heavy guitars, guttural vocals and drummers that play as if they were hopped up on amphetamines.  Throw in some Gothic keyboards, praises for Satan, and weird screams and an acoustic guitar (hey, sometimes even the most evil people have to chill out, right?) and you've got this latest compilation.  If you dig the darkness and live in a pit of despair, something here is bound to make you crack a sinister smile.  (www.ww3music.com)

Hellspawn Lords Of Eternity

Rotten Records
Hellspawn aren't likely to play your church social, unless Anton Le Vey is the pastor.  Make no mistake about it, this bludgeoning trio is mounting a fight against Christianity, armed with their eight tracks of audio chaos.  Sounding somewhere in between Cradle Of Filth and In Flames, Hellspawn mix up their messages of hate quite well musically and can hold their own in any death metal scream-a-thon ("Ancient Possession").  While their not exactly fighting the good fight, they do manage to blast beat their way to be heard, and it's that kind of power that makes this band as scary as their message ("Heirz To The Throne").  (www.rottenrecords.com)

Evergrey In Search Of Truth

Century Media
In the vein of Dream Theater and Queensryche come Evergrey, a progressive metal quintet whose latest nine tracks of melodic metal will appease both the ardent headbanger and prog rock geek.  With Andy LaRocque of King Diamond producing the project, we are more than covered in the metal department, as the fretwork is flawless and the overall musicianship displayed is top notch ("Watching The Skies"). However, it's through the use of the concept album device that this Swedish outfit fleshes out their grinding attack.  By successfully telling a cohesive story through impassioned lyrics and interplaying music, Evergrey not only tell a compelling story, but also make one hell of an album in the process.  For a concept album that may just rival Queensryche's epic Operation: Mindcrime, check out Evergrey's latest soon to be classic release.  (www.insideoutmusic.com)

Steel Reign Forgotten

Steel Reign is a massive rock outfit from long Island whose scolding delivery fits somewhere in between Alice In Chains and Motorhead.  On their four track release, this quartet add in the proper amounts of grind and groove to create some of the heaviest melodies this side of Black Label Society ("Two Days Slow").  Decisively hard yet surprisingly melodic ("Forgotten"), Steel Reign is perfect music for a wild night of beer drinking, hell raising and overall ass kicking.  For a swift kick in the head, Steel Reign is an excellent choice.  (www.steelreign.net)

Satanic Slaughter The Early Years

Old school metalheads have something to look forward to, as Satanic Slaughter have released 25 tracks of their vintage death and thrash metal, all on one handy CD.  While the altar and farm animals are sold separately, what you do get when you purchase The Early Years, besides a sense of nostalgia, is a stern lesson in thrash guitar, complete with advanced Slayer solo classes, as well as some breakneck paced metal that bands like Slipknot and System have undoubtedly cut their teeth on.  And hey, where else can you get songs titles like "Breath Of The Serpent That Rules The Cold World" and "Satanic Queen"?  Need I say more?  (www.necropolisrecords.com)

Soul Survivor Soundtrack

Gold Circle
This soundtrack is for the horror movie Soul Survivor, and while the movie probably didn't rake in the bucks at the box office, the soundtrack is nothing to write home about either, as it mainly contains underground bands and bands that have arisen from the "Where Are They Now?" file (Harvey Danger, The Presidents Of The USA).  It is adventurous, however, as it genre hops quite well from aggro rock to techno to pop punk, but not well enough to keep an attention span too long.  (www.brookescompany.com)

Scissorfight Mantrapping For Sport and Profit

Tortuga Recordings
Scissorfight is a New England quartet whose latest 13 track release is as heavy as it is quirky, as these guys are basically on a mission to prove that they are not your average rock band.  Matter of fact, they heartily beat the notion into your skull through the use of heavy melodics a la White Zombie, Monster Magnet and countless other rock bands on the fringe.  With a gnarling part death metal, part stoner rock and all balls out guitar leading the charge("Blizzards, Buzzards, Bastards") and a twisted lyrical vision reaffirming Scissorfight's eccentric brand of stomping rock ("Deliver The Yankee Coffin"), these guys are as left of center as Clutch in musical composition and songwriting lyrical topics.  Firing more brainpower than 20 nu metal bands combined, Scissorfight kills you with both brains and brawn, a bastardized combination that's difficult to combat and impossible to ignore.  This is some potent stuff, and while the average rock fan is probably thinking "what the hell is this?", those in the know will sing their praises like the 100,000 in attendance at the Freedom Rally in Boston this past year.  Can that many Bostonians be that wrong?  Get a hold of this band and be prepared for an unexpected history lesson laden with the heaviness your boring 11th Grade American History teacher lacked.  (www.tortugarecordings.com)

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