"Mike's Reviews, Part 5"

by MikeSOS
Sponsored In Part By
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36 Crazyfists • Bitterness the Star

Roadrunner Records
36 Crazyfists is a seething new metal band that hails from a most unlikely place, Alaska.  And while we thought that Jewel was the only musical export from the frigid state, this aggro quartet have recorded a gem of an album to help you steer clear of that notion.  Imagine the finishing of Deftones, especially in the vocals ("Slit Wrist Theory"), meshing with the sheer brutality of any self respecting East Coast hardcore act ("Eightminutesupsidedown," "Chalk White") and you've got one Molotov cocktail of a band.  36 Crazyfists also use the beauty of dynamics to their advantage, knowing when to devour your senses with a thick chorus ("Turn To Ashes") or a chugging riff that emits windmills and picking up change ("Circle The Drain").  They're not limited to being balls out though, as they also showcase a lot of texture and grace, truly proving that they can write a song that can both be crushingly heavy and hook happy ("An Agreement Called Forever," "Two Minutes From A Year").  Armed with guest spots from Nora's Carl Severson and Skinlab's Steev Esquivel, these heavy hitters show who their friends are, and with musical comrades like these, you know that 36 Crazyfists are not only heavy as hell, but pretty well respected, too.  13 tracks of potent metal that will leave your jaw on the floor is what 36 Crazyfists delivers.  If you're starving for the next big thing, this may be the band you're looking for.  (www.36crazyfists.com)

Local H • Here Comes the Zoo

Local H, remember them?  They had a few hits in the grunge era, and hey, yea, they're that band with only two guys whose sound filled arenas.  Well, they've returned with a new 10 track disc that can put them back on the map as being one of the more eclectic and original outfits once again.  With a slew of guest performances (Josh Homme and Jerry Only amongst others) helping this dynamic duo out, Local H crank up the rock and really let the listener have it, giving off some of the most organic stuff out there.  From the tongue and cheek lyrics and stellar groove of "Rock And Roll Professionals" to the driving rhythms and debaucherous chorus ("give me money, give me blow") of "5th Ave. Crazy," Local H show that they are here to stay, but more importantly, here to rock.  If you missed out on what was good in the mid '90s and want to hear a band that understands the gift of rock, check out Local H's latest.  (www.palmpictures.com)

The Rocking Horse Winner • Horizon

Equal Vision
The Rocking Horse Winner is one of those esoteric female fronted rock outfits that sound best in a scene in some WB melodramatic hour long series.  10 tracks of dreamy vocals and fluffy music that sounds kind of like rock, but really is more in line with pop ("Miss You") is what The Rocking Horse Winner's Horizon is chock full of, and it's not that their style is so unlistenable.  It's just too damn airy and happy, almost like an updated version of The Magic Garden or a Brady Bunch album.  Kudos to the pristine production, though, as it gives TRHW a mixture of a very 1970s, Carpenters-esque feel with the sounds of the female pop warbling ("When Songbirds Sing"), as well to the interesting instrumentation, which gives off a real jazzy tone that suits the lounge at times ("Tomorrow," "Christmas Day").  If you dig female fronted pop music, you'd ooze over it, but if you're a little less sensitive than that, steer clear.  (www.equalvision.com)

Battery • Final Fury

Battery is a straight edge Washington DC hardcore outfit whose career is chronicled on this 22 track import disc.  Sadly, it takes an overseas label to bring us the fury and the power of an American hardcore group, but that's the sad state of American music these days.  Battery's music is solid and hearty, like a good can of soup; it'll fill you up and leave you satisfied.  Good breakdowns, impassioned choruses and above all, a real deal feel that Battery wasn't cashing in on a sound; they were merely trying to hold it down and keep it real.  7 years of hard work with bonus tracks and a CD ROM for your pleasure makes this disc a good buy for those of you that dig the East Coast straight edge contingent.  (www.soulforce-records.com)

Grace For the Fallen • Field Of Blood

Clenched Fist
Grace For the Fallen is one of those metal outfits whose religious beliefs is a platform for their band's output.  On their eight track disc, their brutal attack is low, deep and bruising ("More Real Than Ever"), almost with machine gun like consistency.  Containing a death metal growl who barks biblical lines may be a bit unsettling at first, but their positive message wrapped in a harsh musical package may just be the salvation some kids need to wake up.  Sturdy basslines help GFTF rise above the rest of the zealous metal troupes ("To Rise Again") and their disjointed guitars help them measure up to the more well known underground metallers ("Washing Of Regeneration").  Even though it's given God's stamp of approval, Grace For The Fallen is as hard and relentless as any metal band out today, implementing math rock techniques with a flurry of hardcore goodness for an enjoyable listen, regardless of religious overtones.  (www.clenchedfist.com)

Ampline • The Choir

Ampline lets the music do the talking, literally, as their eight track offering consists of no vocals at all.  Instead, this Kentucky quartet mix the sounds of the garage with an indie rock feel and a good old dose rock and roll to create a mix of tunes that interlock genres and collide stylistically ("Drawn And Quartered"), almost like At The Drive In sans screaming ("Texture Of Regret").  Thanks to the use of a vibraphone, their already spacious and lush arrangements are given that extra push ("Typewritten") to be left of center.  Ampline also uses the theory of build up with expertise and precision ("About Being Quiet"), overpowering the listener not by volume, but by the composition of building and repetition, a la Tool.  If you dig The Cancer Conspiracy, Ampline is the next logical choice to pick up and adore, as both bands share a common goal; taking over your senses gradually, not by force, but by feel.  (www.tiberiusrecords.com)

Synthetic 16 • Synthetic 16

NYC's emo rockers Synthetic 16 have been making waves as of late, and with the advent of their latest four song EP, it's no wonder why.  With an accessible sound that sweeps through your soul in tow ("Float"), this seasoned quintet mesh the power of Far with the sensitivities of The Smiths ("Break The Shape"), which creates an intensely rich and mature rock sound.  And, these guys contain the soul to go deep, too.  By implementing a piano led ballad whose lushness would be welcomed in an arena rock show as much as it would be in a Broadway musical ("Don't Tell A Soul"), Synthetic 16's appeal goes across the board.  For a powerfully charged musical experience that rivals Creed without the nonsense, try Synthetic 16 on for size.  (www.synthetic16.com)

98 Mute • After the Fall

Epitaph Records
Produced by resident punk madman Fletcher from Pennywise, 98 Mute's 13 track disc has got that good old punk rock feeling all over it.  So much in fact that it even can stand up against the ferocity of their producer's clan ("True To Yourself").  Total So Cal action, from the group shouts to the running guitar lines and the damnational lyrics, whose topics range from the punk scene's demise ("Same Old Song And Dance") to the self-reliance of the human spirit and the dangers of drugs ("Injection").  While the lyrical content gets a bit preachy at times, the music behind it remains packed with a punch and able to be moshed to at any given moment ("Ultimate High").  For a lesson in punk rock California style, check out the latest from 98 Mute.  (www.epitaph.com)

The Ritchie Whites • Snitches Get Stitches

TKO Records
So, who's this Ritchie White and why does he have a band named after him?  No indication is given, but this quintet's latest 12 track disc is a barnburning, street punking powder keg of a release, done up with an attitude straight outta Austin, Texas ("Human Bondage").  These true blues may remind you a little bit of the punk bands of yore ("Pimp Killer"), but make no mistake; their blend of energetic rock and a slight bit of sleaze is as current and as rocking as any faceless, stylized punk rock band today.  If you dig real bands that do straight ahead, no pretense rock and roll, The Ritchie Whites are a band you need to check out.  (www.tkorecords.com)

Manowar • Warriors Of the World

Metal Blade Records
There's metal and then there's Manowar's style of metal.  Somewhere in between the ridiculous and the sublime and the patriotic and lowest common denominator lies Manowar, who returns with sword in hand for another round of power metal.  This time around, the Manowar crew's timing couldn't have been better, for what language besides true metal speaks volumes in any country, breaking communicative barriers and helping to heal the world?  Thankfully, these iron clad warriors know this, and pay homage to many things on Warriors Of the World, from the tragic victims of 9/11 ("The Fight For Freedom"), to lead vocalist Eric Adam's mom ("Nessum Dorma") to those that have remained true to the cause across the globe.  Hell, take the distortion and volume out of these songs and they could be ready for a Broadway production.  Maybe that's next for Joey DeMaio and company?  Well, hopefully the bright lights of Broadway are ready for cod pieces and loincloths, but for now, we'll take them in a club or festival near you.  Like Motorhead, AC/DC and any other A list band whose music has stood the test of time, Manowar continue to carve their niche in the annals of rock history, proving that sometimes songs about warriors, Vikings and being metal are cool after all and after all these years.  (www.metalblade.com)

Keep Of Kelessin • Agnen

World War III
Ready for another Norwegian metal band?  Sure you are, because down the pike comes Keep Of Kalessin, whose facepaint and garb is standard fare for the genre.  However, behind the evil imagery lies some pretty damn impressive music.  Not your standard black metal here, folks.  Instead of going the unintelligible, garbled route completely, KOK decided to add some elements of thrash and (gasp) melodics into their mix.  Fear not, headbanger, there's still enough blast beated madness to put your neck back into traction ("Pain Humanised").  It's just nice to hear it dispersed amongst some old school, Testament-esque riffs ("Dragonlord").  (www.ww3music.com)

The Strap Ons • $4 Whore

The Strap Ons are one of the few bands left from the Mid Atlantic area whose abrasive punk rock still matters.  On $4 Whore, there are 15 punk rock anthems that harken back to the days when revolution was in the air and punk was its mouthpiece.  Raunchy, rude and unapologetic, The Strap Ons are a band whose lack of compromise ("Down Girl") and surplus of balls out aggression and pure punk passion ("Kill") are a potent formula for some kick ass music.  Do yourself a favor and seek this CD out to get a nice lesson in what punk rock should sound like.  (www.thestrap-ons.com)

Silver Monkey Boy • Pleased to Disturb You

Silver Monkey Boy's music is as left of center as their name denotes, as this power trio mixes the funk and weirdness of Primus with a slew of hard rock and metal influences to create a unique, if not jarring five track disc.  Chaotic basslines collide with heavy rhythms and free flowing guitars that go from jazzy to jaw dropping ("Realize") in most instances.  What really gives these guys their strength is their unabashed ability to draw from their personal experiences lyrically ("Fuck Fucking Cool") and make an eclectic soundtrack behind it all.  It may take a listen or two to get it, but once you do, you'll see the intrinsic merit of Silver Monkey Boy.  (www.mp3.com/silvermonkeyboy)

Be Loud • Be Loud

Be Loud is a predominantly female outfit whose rocking is enhanced with the use of a violin.  Yup, a violin, and if you dig the down home sounds of country rock a la John Cougar or maybe Melissa Ethridge, this six song disc is a surefire winner.  And don't let their genre bending fool you; Be Loud has got attitude ("Be Your Bitch") and can rip out a guitar lick with the best of them.  They also have an uncanny knack for knowing when to be aggressive and when to hit the people's ears with a candy coated chorus ("Who's Better"), a dynamic that may get Be Loud the exposure they're looking for.  (b-loud@nyc.rr.com)

Douglas Leader • God Bless Virgins

Douglas Leader's sunny day rock and roll is a breath of fresh air in the stale NYC scene, as this genre jumping juggernaut, complete with an ass shaking horn section ("Euclid Westcott"), rip through their four song disc with more spirit than a clan of high school cheerleaders.  This high energy sextet mix the upbeat notions of ska with the underbelly of NYC's long lost punk rock scene ("We Are So Much In Love") to create a fun, albeit quite short running, record suitable to lighten the atmosphere anywhere.  For a quick shot of musical sunshine, check out the stellar output of Douglas Leader.  (www.douglasleader.com)

Onward • Reawaken

Century Media
Onward is an American metal band whose European melodic style gives them a very epic tone on their latest 10 track release.  So epic, in fact, that it rivals Iced Earth or even Iron Maiden in song structure and composition ("Night").  Add in a virtuoso guitar player (Shrapnel alumni Toby Knapp), whose runs and riffs rival Yngwie and all the other six string heroes, and Onward becomes a potent metal force within the hard rock galaxy ("Who Saw The Last Star Fall").  Plus, they've got the good old fist pumping metal choruses working overtime ("Eye Of The Nightmare"), a surefire method to reel in all of the metalheads that remember metal as a music form based on nobility and not solely on shock value.  Solid performances and majestic songs, plus an intriguing cover of the seminal Japanese metal outfit Loudness ("Clockwork Toy") puts Onward on their way to metal supremacy.  (www.centurymedia.com)

Theorem • Theorem

Theorem is a NYC based metal act whose latest four song release is a scorching reminder of what some metal lacks today; balls.  Well, don't worry, all of you pretty boy bands, Theorem has got enough balls to go around, whether it be in their throaty vocal delivery ("Clean Break") or in their low end stomp ("Old Balls").  If you like the heaviness of Black Label Society and the entrancing melodies of Godsmack ("Wims"), Theorem will be one of those CDs that never leave the CD changer.  Just make sure that you reinforce your speakers.  (www.theorem.cjb.net)

Gunfighter/Traindodge split EP

Ascetic Recordds
Gunfighter starts off this split EP with some Foo Fighters-esque fervor, which works well against this quartet's slash and burn rock and roll style.  But then, they get all Radiohead like and bust out a steroid enhanced sleeper of a song whose dynamics reign over a seven minute plus span ("Run Angel Run").  If that's not enough to wet your whistle, out comes the Oklahoma trio Traindodge, whose musical output starts out sounding like Metallica meets a Star Wars convention ("United Skeletons").  But then, they get all trippy and hallucinate all over the place in thirds, concluding with a rousing piece of indie swirl that sounds like At The Drive In covering Rush ("Revenge Of The Cursed").  The Southwest sounds of rock never were sweeter.  (www.asceticrecords.com)

Nebula • DOS EP's

Meteor City
Nebula's archives are opened for the entire world to enjoy on DOS EP's, and it's here when we find out a lot about this endearing stoner rock trio.  Maybe we learn too much?  No way, compadre.  Matter of fact, if anything, we see some new shades of these bad boys, like their bluesy influences fleshed out forthright ("Long Day").  We also are privy to some of their hard to find jams that are now out of print ("Fall Of Icarus").  And, as an added bonus, we get three new songs that show just how far our cannibus using pals have come since their initial sojourn back in 1998 ("Rocket").  California sunshine forever?  If Nebula had their way, every day would be a beach day, so get in the mindset and pick up these rarities and tune in and burn out, baby!  (www.nebulamusic.com)

Rotten Sound • Murderworks

Necropolis Records
A blood soaked surgical outfit on the cover can only mean one thing; be prepared.  Preparation is key when indulging in the insane beats and chaotic riffs that seep from Rotten Sound's latest release.  Trigger happy drums clash with rapid fire guitars and guttural vocals, all in under 3 minutes or less ("Doom") to create the sounds of the apocalypse.  How's that for brevity? Straight from four guys from Finland with a murder fetish, Rotten Sound is a cranial overload.  And who said those Finnish aren't a fun bunch?  Folks, there's not one damn bit of fun on this disc, guaranteed.  Imagine the brutality of Nasum crossing over with the early works of Napalm Death ("Lies") and you can see this isn't an album to throw on at the next family reunion.  Unless it's for the Manson family. (www.necropolisrecords.com)

Precott C • 2 song sampler

Hailing from Long Island, NY, Prescott C takes smatterings of nu metal's warblings with a tinge of post hardcore angst and come up with some noticeable noise.  With a side order of crusty metal in their weaponry a la Clutch, Prescott C scream their way through many different styles and in turn, create a hybrid sound that is melodically chaotic and worth the attention.  (www.prescottc.homestead.com/prescottc.html)

Backslap • Find Yourself

Brooklyn is a citadel for hardcore.  Add Backslap's name to the illustrious list of bands that have come from the beloved borough of NYC, as they come out of the gate with a 10 track release that melds the old school hardcore values of Leeway ("Isolate") with some of today's current sounds.  Powerhouse drumming and an endless supply of riffs is what Backslap pours on here, and if you’re ready for the pit, Backslap has the wherewithal to whip you into frenzy as well ("Strive").  With a high pitched vocal shrill leading the charge and a ferocious musical backdrop behind it all, Backslap will have you wind milling and picking up change in no time ("Effort").  (www.backslap.tv)

Hate Theory • Hate Theory

World War III
From the place where the band themselves proclaim nothing good comes from (Ohio to be precise), Hate Theory kind of disproves their own theory.  This outfit's brand of brutal metal is as abrasive as sandpaper on your privates, and that's its strong suit.  Heavy, chock full of balls and above all, crushing ("Rage Implant"), Hate Theory bridge the gap between Pantera's power groove, metalcore's tight breakdowns and death metal's unearthly growl ("All This Flesh") and in turn, give the ardent headbanger a soundtrack to amply leave a trail of destruction behind.  Relentless on your senses, Hate Theory's jagged guitars ("So You Think") and jackhammer rhythms aren't anything groundbreaking by any means, but the way in which they compose their dropped down grooves is reason enough to pick up this metal hybrid's latest bonecrusher of an album.  (www.ww3music.com)

Vader • Revelations

Metal Blade Records
Vader is quite possibly Poland's premier metal band, and there's good reason for that, as this quartet shows on their latest 12 track metal opus.  These metal veterans once again wheel out the warhorse and leave no stone unturned when it comes to ripping your face off with some of the most melodic yet sonic metal this side of Eastern Europe ("The Nomad").  It’s no wonder why this band has been going since the mid-1980s and shows no sign of letting up.  Healthy doses of Slayer, Obituary and Sepultura are apparent here ("Whisper"), yet Vader turn it up a notch and can grind out a blast beat with any of the metal new jacks, too ("Torch Of War").  Intense yet refined, Vader's beauty lies in the way they manipulate aggression and sound like a well-oiled machine in the process.  For those that have given up hope in the American metal scene, look to Poland's Vader to cure your ills.  (www.metalblade.com)

WASP • Dying For the World

Sanctuary Records
Controversial metal legend Blackie Lawless returns with Dying For the World, which once again puts WASP back into the spotlight that they richly deserve.  Their latest 11 track release is in the vein of classic WASP outings like The Crimson Idol in that each song is epic in its own right, complete with strong dynamics and composition and moving lyrics ("Hallowed Ground").  With much of the new album based on the 9/11 tragedy, native New Yorker Lawless and his sense of imminence never sounded so on point ("My Wicked Heart").  Maybe it's Blackie's uncanny sense of self that makes these songs so visceral, but whatever it may be, the new WASP record is a proper reintroduction to a band whose legacy never really gets the credit they deserve.  (www.sanctuaryrecordsgroup.com)

Fixer • Fixer

NYC's Fixer's brand of alternative rock is definitely something that could impact radio, as they have got a good grasp on how to write a hook with conviction ("Hell In Between").  This quartet has a certain swagger about them that is part STP and part Bon Jovi ("Number One Song"), a surefire hit amongst the female contingent.  But, they aren't a throwaway pop act by any means, as their brand of accessible hard rock goes deeper than being merely candy for the ears.  There's some bite in this dog, too, thanks to the tight rhythm section and stellar fretwork, even though it may be glossed over a bit with slick production.  Nonetheless, Fixer's three songs have got the essentials to be sung by drunken audiences across the country.  (www.fixermusic.com)

Entety • Cadaveric Necrogrind

World War 3
Entety's re-release of their early '90s seven song disc has to make you wonder "what the hell is this?"  Pure noise, my friends, is what this Californian quintet delivers.  Gargles that are passed over as vocals are layed over music that sounds brutal, when it doesn't sound as if it were recorded in a wind tunnel.  When this first came out, it was probably revolutionary and groundbreaking.  Now, it seems pretty insignificant, actually.  For those that remember that era when grind was new and shocking, this may be something to check out.  (www.ww3music.com)

200 North • Watching the World Die

Da Core
200 North is a hardcore band whose continued shifts in mood and style gives them an edge over straight ahead hardcore bands.  This Maryland by way of Florida five piece have a lot of energy, both exuded in the brutality of hardcore and in the melodics of punk, and it's this melding that gives 200 North the ability to stick out among all the other seething, screaming outfits ("Feltonic Prophecy").  They've been compared to Ensign and Reach The Sky and their punk leanings and muscular riffs definitely bare those marks ("Sticks And Stones").  If you're looking for a band that can successfully give you a good helping of both punk and hardcore aggression, look no further than 200 North's crossover triumph ("Better Days").  (www.da-core.com)

Atreyu • Suicide Notes and Butterfly Kisses

Victory Records
Atreyu is a Southern California quintet who all but denies their hometown's musical output of sunny punk.  Instead, these hard hitters opt to crank out melodically tinged heavy music without regret.  With a very strong core of European metal's odd time signatures and jagged breakdowns propelling the band ("Dilated"), Atreyu's lyrical content, laden with personal pain and relationships gone awry, are complemented with dual vocals that not only spew forth venom, but can also tug at the heart strings with their stoic presence.  A very complex animal this Atreyu turns out to be, as they display the wherewithal to be not only a raging beast, ready to maim and leave destruction in its wake ("Someone's Standing On My Chest"), but also the natural ability to soothe themselves and the listener with a impassioned melodic passage ("Tulips Are Better") before unleashing the inner demons.  A juggernaut of a band, Atreyu personifies today's lovelorn and the broken spirited in a way that can only be described as beautifully brutal.  (www.victoryrecords.com)

Skinlab • Revolting Room

Century Media
San Francisco's Skinlab return with a 10 track disc that finds the veteran band finally carving their own niche and breaking out of the shadows of the Bay Area scene.  Much more focused this time around, and seemingly angrier, after a lengthy absence, Steev and company have found their groove, and damn, it is heavy and scathing ("Slave The Way").  Imagine the spaciousness of System Of A Down colliding with the bravado of a Rob Zombie refrain with an old school thrash metal breakdown thing happening in between it all ("Come Get It").  But there's more, and Skinlab is so ready to show you.  Ready to let you enter their minds and interpret whatever you'd like, nicely tied together by spoken word phone call interludes from Skinlab loyalists scattered throughout the disc.  Yea, they still sound like Machine Head sometimes ("Take As Needed"), but at least they're implementing some new spices in the stew ("Disturbing The Art Of Expression") and are still able to rip it up just as hard as the big boys that get all the breaks do.  For a shot of metal that's angry, dirty and played the way metal is intended to be, Skinlab is a choice pick.  (www.skinlab1.com)

Sentenced • The Cold White Light

Century Media
Home of the cold and dark, by design alone, Finland undeniably breeds a lot of metal bands.  Sentenced is another band from our Scandinavian brothers, and while they share the same Euro styled metal influences that bands like Soilwork and In Flames do, it seems as if these boys had a good amount of Danzig ("Aika Multaa Muisot," Type O ("No One There") and some stoner rock, too in their formative years.  That's a good thing, because coupled with their crushingly heavy backbeats and uber musical displays ("Excuse Me While I Kill Myself"), they rock, almost like an '80s band, sans the primping and cheese.  Sentenced is a well balanced metal act whose intertwining of the darkest of both continents works like a charm.  (www.centurymedia.com)

The Lot Six • Gwylo

Espo Records
The Lot Six's style is very disjointed and staggered, as they display on their nine track offering.  While they have one foot firmly planted in the punk hardcore scene that gave us Fulani and Refused ("This Is Entertainment"), they've got this quirky disposition that shows shades of Talking Heads and Weeper.  Add in some horns for the hell of it ("Last Flight Of The Spruce Goose"), and you've got a powder keg of styles meshing together to create one big underground rock love fest.  A virtual smorgasbord of indeed rock, there's something for everyone in the Lot Six's latest release, and they dare you to find it.  (www.esporecords.com)

Dry Cell • Disconnected

Warner Brothers
Dry Cell's debut 12 track release is hot off the heels of a no metal revolution, as they basically regurgitate Linking Park's technical prowess with a dash of Papa Roach's attitude, all wrapped with simple yet clever hooks ("Under The Sun") that are arena friendly and sanitized for MTV.  Not a whole lot of conviction here, but they do sound very rock star-sequel, almost like a throwback to the hair metal days of yore ("Sorry").  Maybe an image consultation is needed to get these guys on next year's Ooziest, because their no metal wrapped within their disenchanted delivery should speak volumes to the mall metal heads across the nation.  (www.drycellmusic.com)

Finch • What It Is To Burn
Drive Thru Records
Finch is a California quintet whose energy is boundless and whose aggressive stance of punk rock is more East Coast oriented than you'd think.  Hell, with the manic drumming at times, they come off sounding like the bastard child of Grade and Anthrax.  And they've got that bounce that punk bands seem to need these days, but they disguise it under hardcore screams and some kick ass distortion.  And, they can write hooks ("Letter To You"), a feat that many bands in their genre cannot claim.  Plus, they've got a depth about them thanks to the harmonized vocals and intricate twin guitar assaults that pervade the 13-track collection quite nicely.  Finch's latest disc is dually hooked happy and heavy, and with a combo like that, can you lose?  (www.drivethrurecords.com)

Swami • Glass Eye

What the hell is Swami?  Good question.  For starters, it's five guys from NYC whose musical eclecticism probably got them all together in the first place.  Then, add in some rock influences like Tom Petty, U2 and whatever is hot with the 20 something crowd these days and out comes Swami, with beefy basslines and trippy guitars and an evil underbelly that screams rawk and roll ("Chix").  If you're looking for straight ahead rock and roll, look elsewhere.  Swami has an edge that is soulful yet easily accessible.  Go figure it be from a band named Swami, right?  (www.swamimusic.com)

Agoraphobic Nosebleed • Frozen Corpse Stuffed With Dope

Relapse Records
Are you ready for debauchery laced with evil in musical form?  How about a riff infested monster of an album that's sure to give the neighbor's newborn nightmares?  Agoraphobic Nosebleed has got the goods, and they unleash them unabashedly to you unworthy metal peons to revel in.  Strap yourself in and do a lot of drugs before you throw this bad boy in the CD changer.  Death metal, movie dialogue, creepy voiceovers, razorblade guitar riffs, and sick lyrics are just some of the fun things you'll find on this 38 track disc.  You may not get a recognizable song, but there's a ton of disturbing shit on here, not only in audio, but in the songs title's themselves, which you'll have to read for yourself to believe.  Where creativity and depravity meet, Agoraphobic Nosebleed are there, drugged up and ready to assault your senses.  (www.relapse.com)

Impostor Syndrome • Impostor Syndrome

Impostor Syndrome is a three piece outfit whose no nonsense approach to alternative rock is accentuated by sturdy female lead vocals.  Whether they be belting out a catchy chorus ("I'm With Stupid") or remain ominous throughout each verse ("Waiting"), the vocal tracks help make Impostor Syndrome distinct from the whiny female stereotype that pervades female fronted rock bands.  In fact, with some help from a hard hitting drummer and a flexible bassist, IS shift from Concrete Blonde to Portishead to Joni Mitchell seamlessly.  How's that for versatility?  Check out this NYC group for a musical ride full of depth and conviction.  (www.impostorsyndrome.net)

Danzig • I Luciferi

Spitfire Records
The evil Elvis has returned, looking a bit worse for wear, and sounding a tad weaker than expected.  However, don't count out Glenn Danzig yet, as he has finally concocted the winning formula that he's been trying to make fly since Danzig 4.  This time around, the overall album is a lot less technofied and a lot more riffy ("Black Mass," "Kiss The Skull"), which can only be a good thing (especially if you own Danzig 5).  This album's henchmen accompanying Mr. Danzig are NYC punk stalwarts Howie Pyro on bass and Todd Youth on guitar, with Joey D. filling up the drum slot, and while the band is a far cry from the powerhouse outfit of the early '90s, they still manage to raise a ruckus ("Liberskull," "Naked Witch").  And, what's a Danzig album without a creepy ballad or two that goes ballistic midstream and showcases the Gothic rock and metal glory that is Danzig ("Dead Inside," "Without Light, I Am")?  On the seventh installment of this seminal group's career, Danzig has decisively put the band back on track with a return to his roots without sacrificing the experimentations he has previously dabbled in.  Thank you, Mr. Danzig.  (www.spitfirerecords.com)

Size Deep • Size Deep

Long Island rap rockers Size Deep tear up your CD player with that hip hop groove and hard rock stomp on their four song release.  Yeah, the genre is tired and played, but these guys do it well and really let the music stand out above the image, believe it or not.  Chunky riffs ("Right Off The Bat") and tub thumping rhythms supplement DJ scratches and cris crossing MC's that rap, scream and basically kick it up a notch ("Chauncy's Anthem").  If you like Limp Bizkit (and hey, who doesn't? (j/k)), or if you're impartial to five white guys from the suburbs breaking shit up, look up this tight outfit and see what's poppin' in the hood, yo.  (www.sizedeep.com)

Little League • Through Our Ears, Through Our Hearts

Too Damn Hype
Little League picks up the slack of New Found Glory and Thursday abandoned when they went mainstream with their bouncy punk rock melodics and anguished emo male lead vocals.  This nine track disc has a ton of energy ("The Promise"), and really makes you wonder how chaotic this band's live show is.  When it comes to the music, Little League tend to be a bit derivative, falling on the successes of Far, Grade and Shelter to get their point across, but when they do, it is certainly precise and heartfelt ("Theresa Drive").  This Philadelphia quintet is heavy on the guitar assault ("3,6,10") and rate halfway on the vocal whine meter, a plus for the female punk rock stalker chicks that fall in love with dirty punk rock boys.  In all, Little League have what it takes to get called up to the majors; the influences, the teenage angst ("Scott Mckeeman"), the look, the ballad ("A Mother's Day") and that new fangled punk rock sound that all the kids dig these days.  (www.chordrecordings.com)

The Generators • State of the Nation

TKO Records
Southern California's The Generators want to bring us back to the mid '70s punk era with their sneering eight tracks of old school punk, right down to the faux English accented vocals.  Fist pumping, working class anthems ("Fantastic Disaster") is what these guys specialize in, and they take pride in giving the punk fans that keep it real something to gnaw on ("Here Comes The Plague") while their scene and genre gets a mall core makeover.  (www.tkorecords.com)

Origin • Informis Infinitas Inhumanitas

Relapse Records
No, Dorothy, we're not in Kansas anymore.  It is now renamed Hell, thanks in full to the technical ecstasy that Origin bring to the dance.  There's death metal, and then there's extreme death metal.  Then there's Origin, a true metal monster whose sonic output rivals few other bands.  In fact, these guys are so intense and perform such breathtaking feats of molten metal that it's hard not to put them into a category all to themselves.  It's dark, heavy and lightning quick.  Above all, Origin's nine tracks of audio devastation are dangerous and should be handled with the utmost care.  If you're looking for the next big thing in extreme music, look no further.  Origin has arrived.  (www.relapse.com)

Killswitch Engage • Alive Or Just Breathing

Roadrunner Records
Killswitch Engage have packed a crossover crunch into their 12 track debut that aims to please all of the hardcore and metal kids alike.  This East Coast quintet take parts of classic metal's composition, hardcore's never say die attitude and an onslaught out of today's metal and its proverbial bag of tricks to create a pristine yet crushing brand of hard music ("Fixation On The Darkness").  The key to KSE's sonic success lies in their ability to effortlessly switch tempos and even at times, genres, within the course of one song, showcasing their love of heavy music and their top notch musicianship at the same time.  Armed with a rapid fire guitar section ("Temple From The Within") which aimlessly changes from intense acoustic passages to straight ahead aggressive chugging ("The Element Of One", "My Last Serenade") and anchored by a driving rhythm section whose precision is flawless, Killswitch Engage have created a hybrid form of metal that will make you stand up and take notice. Add in some of the most versatile vocals this side of Euro metal, which change from harsh screams to pensive melodies ("Without A Name") and you've got some of the most intricate yet volatile metal to come down the pike in a very long time on your hands.  Is this the future of metal?  Wait and see.  (www.roadrunnerrecords.com)

Behind the Sun • Broken Hearts and Shattered Bones

Too Damn Hype
Behind The Sun comes out of the box with a plethora of pent up rage that suddenly transforms to an anthemic, POD-like chorus and back again into a seething beast.  11 songs in all from this New Jersey metalcore quartet, and while their meaty parts are standard fare as far as heavy music goes, against their transitions, which are jaggedly unexpected yet melodic, it all makes sense.  Some folks may turn it off after the first minute of death metal yowling, but if you stick around long enough, Behind The Sun will amply produce a blueprint of all the current sounds of metal in one giant swirl.  (www.toodamnhype.com)

Tough Enough 2 soundtrack

Geffen Records
With cross promotional fever in full tilt, the WWE and MTV once again team up to produce a collection of songs for the mass consumer.  Thankfully, it's a rock based comp for the successful real life TV saga series Tough Enough, and there's enough here to evoke testosterone laden boys across the country to drop the People's Elbow on their hapless foes.  Standouts include the always dependable Weezer ("Oh Lisa"), a sneak peek at the highly anticipated Queens of The Stone Age's new one ("Millionaire"), and the maligned melodies of Rob Zombie ("Feel So Numb") and Staind ("Take It").  But, don't get your hopes up.  Yea, another crappy Limp Bizkit number tops the list of "why the hell is this on here" and would probably sway you from purchasing this if you own 2/3s of the artists' CDs already.  Buying this CD is a crapshoot, but if you feel compelled to do so, chalk one up to good old American pop culture.  (www.wwe.com)

Rosemary's Billygoat • Evilution

This has got to be some kind of joke.  At least, it's cheesy enough to be.  Think Gwar and dumb down about 10 notches.  You'll get this concoction known as Rosemary's Billygoat, dressed in the finest fur loincloths and armor this side of Manowar.  And the music, well, let's start by mixing 1/3 cock rock (they're from LA, after all), 1/3 tangible metal, complete with plodding rhythm and hearty lumberjack shouted choruses ("Control Issues") and 1/3 Spinal Tap.  Get a good enough picture?  Add a point for their Pat Benetar cover of "Hell Is For Children" and why not give them a pat on the back for putting a little tongue in cheek Satanism into the limelight.  Anything else would be giving Rosemary's Billygoat too much credit.  (www.rosemarysbillygoat.com)

The Honor System • 100% Synthetic

Double Zero
The Honor System hails from Chicago, Il and their indie punk, which lies somewhere in between Soul Asylum and Bad Religion, isn't as harmless as it seems.  While the six songs that comprise 100% Synthetic contain a lot of the typical guitar chug and bassline gymnastics which accompany many of today's punk rock bands, there's an underbelly to The Honor System that is way less disposable.  Maybe it's their lyrics, spewed forth with conviction ("Witchhunt"), or maybe it's just that Midwest angst that Slipknot tapped into dressed up with intelligence and in skater's clothes.  (www.thehonorsystem.net)

Nonpoint • Development

MCA Records
Nonpoint has returned with a solid sophomore effort that places this Floridian four piece in fine company.  A lot more refined than their debut disc allowed, these guys can give thanks to a grueling touring schedule and the lost art of A&R done right.  And, they have written 12 top shelf hard rock songs in the process that not only will appease a zombified audience that seek the middle, but also to those that crave more from their hard rock.  Nonpoint is the most distinct of the nu metal pack, probably because while taking the aggression Incubus left behind and falling somewhere between the technicalities of Alien Ant Farm and the emotion of POD, they've established their own voice.  Still retaining slicing metal riffs and the rumbling bottom end that gives them that undeniable groove ("Circles," "Excessive Reaction"), they've extenuated their songwriting so far that it cleverly walks the line between dramatic and dynamic ("Hands," "Any Advice").  Good stuff folks, if the nu metal is your bag.  (www.nonpoint.com)

Earthride • Taming of the Demons

Southern Lord
Tougher than a $2 steak, Earthride is as abrasive as sandpaper on your testicles.  Yet, that's this Maryland outfit's charm, as they bestow seven molasses slow and window shaking volumizing tracks of doom laden metal.  Sabbath meets Lemmy at a Crowbar show just about says it all for this sludgy bunch, as the tuning is low, the vocals are growled and the tempos are hypnotically sedative ("Deception").  While the bowel cleansing session may be a bit to take at first, after a few tokes, you'll understand completely.  (www.southernlord.com)

Heat Slick

Heat Slick
California is king of cock rock; make no bones about it.  Add in the glam slam of the late '80s, compile a disc of bands that fit the bill, or at least were active during its heyday, and there ya go, you've got the debut compilation from Heat Slick Records.  This 14 track disc contains some old timers teasing their hair again (Pretty Boy Floyd, Faster Pussycat) for old time's sake, as well as the sleazier side of the whole scene.  Salvation comes from AC/DC's bastard Los Angeles children Junkyard, whose haggard delivery tells a better story than any VH-1 special can, and the Tex-Mex styling of The Hangmen.   When you really break it all down, the only difference between punk and sleaze metal is the delivery, and perhaps the outerwear.  With that, while we may not see a surge in boys playing dress up, there's no doubt judging by this disc that '80s rock is bubbling underground and is ready for some of its recaptured glory.  You've been warned.  (www.heatslick.com)

Bleeding Through • Portrait of the Goddess

Indecision Records
Bleeding Through is a brickhouse of a metal sextet whose instrumentations never get in the way of one another on their 10 track disc.  Mix in the growl of Slipknot ("Just Another Pretty Face") and the choral harmonies of Fear Factory with a Gothic twist, thanks to the chamber-esque keyboards that complement the Euro metal gallop and crunch, and you've got this impassioned beast of a band on your hands.  So Cal has never heard anything on the beach quite like this, as Bleeding Through truly bring the metal, although it is wrapped in an odd shaped package.  Nonetheless, these guys shred when necessary and display enough standard metal chops to illicit many a horned hand.  www.indecisionrecords.com

Radio Junkies • Volume 1

Middle of the road rock is what the band Radio Junkies deliver, and while this Colorado quartet isn't extravagant, they are pretty damn durable judging by their 10 track release.  Four fresh faced young men playing music that show shades of The Beatles, Matchbox Twenty and The Goo Goo Dolls ("Crazy For Her") in a pop rock package ready for consumption in any college age bar or syndicated TV melodrama is the vibe which these guys emit ("Mother Mary").  They'd sound great in a 40 minute music sweep in between John Mayer and Live, as they strike the Joe Q Public nerve with the proper amount of twang in the guitar and an all around top notch production job in tow.  www.cdfreedom.com

Coheed and Cambria • The Second Stage Turbine Blade

Equal Vision
Emotionally stirring and dynamic, the emo meets hardcore sound of Coheed and Cambria is a powerful deity indeed.  Their 10 track disc provides catchy melodies and uber personal lyrical content, almost to a point when you have to wonder how wrecked their childhoods actually were.  Despite their apparent scorned youth, they've channeled the pain and have come through with a collection of songs whose moods shift as quick as the chugging guitars switch to a toned down jam ("Devil In Jersey City").  High pitched vocals a la Geddy Lee lead the band through the peaks and valleys of indie, punk and hardcore, all spruced up with a melodic flare that rivals Thursday or Incubus in terms of songwriting depth ("33").  If bands that wear their heart on their sleeve easily irritate you, turn away.  Otherwise, be sure to check out how Coheed and Cambria do an exemplary job of bridging the gap between heavy and heartfelt.  www.equalvision.com

Aesma Daeva • The Eros Of Frigid Beauty

Root Of All Evil
If Yanni went Goth, we'd probably get Aesma Daeva.  This seven track release contains some pretty orchestral moments and some stirring acoustic guitars, and when intertwined with a Herbie Hancock like synth and some tricks that Trent Reznor is known to use every now and then ("The Minstrel Song"), it gets pretty interesting.  It's got a real old school feel, but when we talk about old school, we mean Baroque era ("The Eros Of Frigid Beauty"), not the late 1970s.  While Aesma Daeva isn't going to change the face of nations, the music is composed in that kind of grandiose way that may suit the soundtrack to Gladiator 2 or some other epic film classic remake.  www.rootofallevil.com

Carnivean • In Todes Banden

With a name like Carnivean, you're sure not going to get a bunch of emaciated, greasy haired emo vegetarians.  Instead, you'll get four beefy, long haired men that scream metal.  And that's exactly what this Pennsylvania based quartet deliver on their nine track disc.  Chock full of jack hammered guitars ("Rest In Pieces") and pummeling rhythms, they successfully merge death metal's distinct brutality and disturbing imagery ("Shallow Grave") with some surprisingly melodic passages.  Don't fret though, because with vocals that could double for Cookie Monster and a barrage of dirge like riffs that rip through you like a laxative ("Dreaming The Dark"), Carnivean still hits the heavy bag just as hard as any self respecting extreme metal band should ("Evil Be Thy Name").  www.carnivean.com


Besides the strange name, the music that XPO8ODX plays is way on the fringe, too.  This multi instrument playing solo artist makes great use of delay pedals and keyboard programming, as he remains a virtual orchestra while telling his wacky tales and left of center anecdotes via song.  Imagine Moby meeting Beck and you may get the picture of what this Long Island native is aiming for.  This 10 track disc is chock full of musical creativity, with many of the disc's compositions being extremely daring works, both for the artist and the listener alike.  Bridging the Beatles, ragtime choruses and quirky nerd rock isn't easy ("Valentine"), but XPO8ODX does an ample job of keeping it together.  Keyboard loops intertwine with fuzzed out guitars while the vocals set the mood for the song.  Sometimes it's Johnny Cash singing, sometimes it's David Byrne, and sometimes the bastard child of both, but regardless of who's singing, it conveniently fits the music and successfully sets a tone, whether it be for a song of woe tinged with 70's sunshine rock capabilities ("Tonality") to an upbeat, pseudo dance song ("TraLaLa").  The production of the disc isn't much to speak of, but that's part of the charm of This Is XPO8ODX, as the lo-fi quality whisks you away from corporate rock and puts you into the garage of this guy's mind.  If you're up for an adventure, this is a CD to check out.  www.bofosoco.com

Knuckle Sandwich • Nice

Resurrection AD
Knuckle Sandwich, a punk band hailing from New Jersey, has no problem displaying their love for 80's metal or West Coast punk tendencies.  In fact, it's that combination that gives them that added push that may work to put their 13 track disc in the hands of disenchanted skaters and Warped Tour groupie kids nationwide.  Catchy without being contrite or trying too hard ("The Comfort Of Security"), this quartet not only emit the good vibes of California punk, but they also strike the chords of middle class America with conviction ("Sucker"), bashing America's underbelly when need be.  Although ballads aren't their forte ("Apart"), Knuckle Sandwich makes up for it with a good idea of how to translate the concerns of the everyday man into 3 minute nuggets of melodic punk rock energy ("Room To Breathe," "I Want More").  If you dig Offspring and Social Distortion with a bit of East Coast balls, check out just how nice these guys can be when their being blasted out your speakers.  www.knucklesandwich.com

King's Evil • Deletion Of Humanoise

King's Evil is a Japanese metal quartet whose At The Gates meets Judas Priest style speaks volumes, crushes cowards, and will convince you that Loudness wasn't the only noteworthy Japanese metal troupe.  There's a lot of old school metal in their eight track sonic brew, and damn, does it illicit some of the most headbangingly good times we've seen in years ("Core Dead").  The solos are ripped right out of Slayer's catalog ("Victim Of Hate"), and while the band is all Japanese, they do a better job of conveying metal's brooding lyrics by keeping the vocals not only blood curdling, but more intelligible (in terms of metal, that is) than most American screamers can muster ("Web Of Lies").  This is some serious stuff for the metal folk, as King's Evil combine brutality and technicality in a pristinely pummeling package ("Punish With Death").  www.crash-inc.com

The Quill • Voodoo Caravan

A bluesy hard rock shuffle is hard to come by in the year 2002, but Sweden's The Quill pull it off as if they were supporting Deep Purple's 1972 Machine Head world tour ("Travel Without Moving"). This 11 track fist pumper of an album reaffirms the fact that real rock and roll hasn't disappeared; instead, it's migrated to the underground scene in Europe, where ballsy guitar work ("Save Me"), powerhouse drumming and cohesive rock jams still have a place to call home. Leaning slightly on the stoner rock side of the fence, The Quill mix the groove of Soundgarden ("Shapes Of Afterlife") with the brightness of Badlands ("Sell No Soul") and create a swirling, massive rock sound. Play this one on 11, folks; it needs the volume to be fully appreciated. For a musical ass kicking, check out The Quill's latest dirty rock boogie. www.spv.de

Chthonic • 9th Empyrean

Chthonic is an ethereal metal outfit which hails from Taiwan and whose lush soundscapes clash with their extreme side to create some multi-dimensional metal. Their majestic overtones, thanks to the keyboard overlays, give Chthonic an operatic vibe. But there's a lot more to this juggernaut than that, as this quintet's intense love for early black and death metal ("Invasion") mercilessly rips through the beautifully composed piano and vocal interludes, creating melodic savagery ("Floated Unconsciously In The Acheron"). For a point of reference, think of this band as the Cradle Of Filth of the Far East, but whatever you'd like to think, Chthonic's orchestrated death metal and overall extreme musical output is something to marvel at. www.chthonic.org

Carrion • Sad Times For Salvation

The East Coast outfit known as Carrion has upped the aggression on their two-song sampler, really letting their anger do the talking. A wall of sound that mixes the darkness of Tool with the rough edges of Papa Roach is what makes this band not only dangerously heavy, but easily acceptable by angry adolescents everywhere. By implementing a good mixture of keeping the chorus memorable and the music moshable, Carrion has planted the seed for making a kick ass full-length album. www.carrionone.com

Doro • Fight

The rigors of metal haven't deterred German siren Doro one bit, as she embarks on her latest solo album in her near two decade career. This time around, the still stunning Ms. Pesch, completed by a durable quartet, bang out 12 tracks of rock solid hard music ("Chained," "Fight") with a few ballads thrown in for good measure, laying the law down in the process that girls can rock just as hard as the guys. With some heavy hitters on board, such as a sludgy duet with Pete Steele ("Descent") and showcasing a song written by Gene Simmons ("Legends Never Die"), Doro pulls out all the stops in giving the metal world some honest to goodness hard rock. On her latest release, Doro proves that she still has the heart to keep fighting the good fight. www.spv.de

3rd Strike • Lost Angel

Hollywood Records
3rd Strike is yet another one of those metal bands that combine rap and rock ("Hang On"), but there's something more to this talented quintet than meets the eye or can be dismissed as being encompassed into a tired genre. Their 12-track disc displays some searing metal riffs ("All Lies") and street-smart lyrics ("No Light") and there's an imminent energy about this band that is reminiscent of fellow LA metallers System Of A Down ("Blind My Eyes"). Blurring the edges between urban tensions and unrelenting metal aggression, 3rd Strike's latest release does have its dark spots, like the shoddy cover of Black Sabbath's "Paranoid", but they redeem themselves with a heavy dosage of savvy musical compositions that put them on the top of the nu metal heap. www.3rdstrike.com

Sick Of It All • Live in a Dive No. 3

Fat Wreck Chords
From the good folks at Fat Wreck Chords, NYC's stalwart hardcore outfit Sick Of It All have returned, with a live offering in tow. And yes, it truly captures the energy of this veteran group, as they still to this day manage to wreck the house whenever they perform. Recorded in San Francisco's The Bottom Of The Hill, the always giving boys from Queens make sure that their fans are getting the most bang for the buck, as there's 23 songs in here, as well as a Sick Of It All comic book, a must have for any longtime fan. SOIA are even kind enough to give us a really good assortment of all of their material, dating back to their inaugural CBGB days up to their latest works on Fat Wreck Chords. SO why do few bands manage to stick around and continue to kick ass? What do they lack? Perseverance and growth, and Sick Of It All are a prime example of a band that exemplifies these elements, as they truly prove that they are "Built To Last," thanks to a solid back catalog, a loyal fan base, and above all, the heart to continue playing their asses off. www.fatwreck.com

Def Leppard • X

Island Records
Def Leppard has returned with a more organic, yet decisively lighter offering on X, celebrating their 20-year career. Gone are the days when they were claimed by the tail end of the new wave of British heavy metal, as they've seemingly traded that in for a shot at the romantic rock splendor that Matchbox Twenty and other pop rock acts aim for. There are glimpses of Hysteria here ("Four Letter Word"), but they are fleeting at best. You can tell a band is struggling with an identity crisis when outside writing forces are needed to create the sound that they're trying to achieve. Well, Def Lep, as always, does a stellar job, but in creating a soft rock album? It hurts to see a band of this caliber go down the road of Celine Dion, but in true Aerosmith-esque fashion, the bills still need to be paid somehow. www.defleppard.com

Carpathian Forest • Strange Old Brew

World War III
Carpathian Forest is a Norwegian black metal band that has been revered for years in their native scene, and for good reason.  With their NWOBHM swagger and pure black metal tendencies still intact, their new 12 track release masterfully mixes the metal sounds of yore with the shape of some of today's metal shreddings.  In turn, they've created a beast of an album that goes from Motorhead ("The Suicide Song") to Entombed to and back again ("Mask Of The Slave"), usually during the course of one song.  And yes, for those worried, the boys can still get extreme and play with Cradle Of Filth, too.  Discerning metalheads will be impressed and for the casual listener, a word to the wise; prepare to get steamrolled.  www.ww3music.com

The Templars • Reconquista 1994-1998

The Templars are one of the most recognizable street punk bands going today, and they've chronicled why this is the case with their latest 15-track release.  While this collection may wind up being strictly for long time fans and collectors, it's nice to hear some under produced, raw sounding music in today's land of Pro Tools and musical drivel.  If you like your Oi as direct as a boot to the head, The Templar's latest release may contain more than a trip to memory lane for you.  www.thetemplars.com

No Return • Machinery

Nuclear Blast
French sextet No Return's latest 12-track endeavor pounds the listener with relentless thunderclap drumming and mind numbingly quick guitar runs. Heavy in all of the right places and chock full of metal intensity, this one goes to 11 with a knack for damning the machine and bucking the system. For a horned handed good time, check out the powerful precisioned metal of No Return. www.noreturn-web.com

3D House Of Beef • Low Cycle

Swedish sludgemeisters 3D House Of Beef bring it slow, deep and hard on their latest Alex Newport produced disc. The man behind Nailbomb and Fudge Tunnel twiddles the knobs for this outfit, and the result is pretty much what you'd get when you mix a sludge metal guru with a heavier than hell type of band. Mechanical beats a la Godflesh ("Crawl") mesh with Crowbar-esque chord structures that will shake you down to your bowels ("Man Made Of Misery"). Ready for the onslaught of carnage? www.3dhouseofbeef.com

Voodoo Glow Skulls • Steady As She Goes

Victory Records
The Latin ska punk of Voodoo Glow Skulls has lasted 13 years and has now landed in the welcoming arms of Victory Records. The band's latest 12 track endeavor combines the good time feel of ska and the LA punk metal crunch ("Steady As She Goes") and is probably most appreciated when skating, tagging up or chilling in someone's backyard barbecue bonanza. Not to be taken seriously, but not to be taken lightly either, VGS has carved a niche for themselves in their decade plus career that gives them name recognition. Thankfully, this sextet, complete with devilish horns (“Nada En La Cabeza”), goes beyond living off the name and continues to churn out their own version of passionate ska punk. www.voodooglowskulls.com

Sinistar • Future Shock

Geffen Records
Futuristic cock rock? Well, yea, that's what it seems like the five guys in Sinisstar are trying to display on their debut 11-track disc. And just because it's got a new look doesn't make it any more or less viable than any of their '80s predecessors, as the bland verse chorus verse, fist pumping rock anthem formula is done ad nauseum here ("Freak Of Nature"). It's almost like watching Faster Pussycat in Star Trek with a techno beat layover here and there to make these guys sound current. If that's too scary for you, then you'll know to avoid this disc like the plague. www.sinisstar.com

Udo • Man and Machine

Former Accept throat Udo has returned with a self-titled band and more of the same '80s hard rock swagger that this German mainstayer is known for. This 11 track collection of basic hard rock isn't going to knock you off your block, but it's nice to see that the man still has that classic yowl in him to belt out these metallic opuses ("Private Eye"). Yea, it's a bit dated and hard to take seriously, but doesn't all good '80s metal fall into that category somewhere? For a welcomed trip down memory lane, complete with stadium shaking anthems galore ("The Dawn Of The Gods"), experience deja vu again with Udo. www.udo-online.de

ADZ • American Steel

Steel Cage
ADZ is a hard living, hard rocking band whose backgrounds in the rock scribe world are unprecedented and whose no frills approach and total lack of image make them look like any average blue collar American. But, when you put instruments on them and add venom inside of them, the output of loud guitars and rock and roll rebellion, undoubtedly fueled by their experiences and inspirations, pummels through the garage wall and goes right in your face ("Heat"). High-octane rock that combines the attitude of Electric Frankenstein with the balls of Motorhead is what ADZ delivers ("Good Head"), and it's a welcomed breath of fresh air to see a band kick out the jams without the use of a fashion consultant. For some good old fashioned American rock and roll, check out the loud and proud rock and stomp of ADZ. www.steelcagerecords.com

Hate • Cain's Way

World War 3
Hate comes to us from Poland, and in the same vein of Vader and many other Eastern European death metal, they play hard, fast and above all, evil ("...And The Sin Becomes"). Their latest 11 tracks of blasphemy are chock full of blast beated, speed metal riffed out madness and it's safe to say that these guys have a penchant for old Slayer ("Sectarian Murder"), as their slash and burn style more than borrows from them. To Hate's credit, though, they go a little deeper, both in growl ("Shame Of The Creator") and in composition ("Through Hate To Eternity") and churn out some of the genre's premiere death metal in the process. For a shot of Satan, look below and you're bound to feel the heat and the burn of this seething metal quartet. www.ww3music.com

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