Okay... here they are... the Album Reviews!
Direct from issue 74
(Nov./Dec. '98)


[Click here to go straight to the Indie Reviews]

BRIDE Oddities (Organic) Some albums hit you over the head, strike you down, and take you prisoner, super-glueing the cd or tape inside your player. This album, though, is an oddity. It's not the "return to Snakes in the Playground," sound that always seems to be the pre-release rumor about this band. My first impressions lingered more around the Drop sound real heavy, down-tuned guitars and hooks a la Soundgarden. There's not the grooves as high as a tsunami sounds that took this band to the second phase of their sound (a la "Would You Die For Me?"). The more familiar I became with these songs, however, the more I saw and felt the low end that the band pulled out in songs like "Murder," for example. There's a little bouncing around, tempo-wise, like the almost-jangly "I Ain't Coming Down," followed by the plodding ballad "Only When I'm Left Alone."
The musicianship is stellar. The bass playing shreds in "Tomorrow Makes No Sense," and the band almost gets jazzy in "Spirit." This majestic tune sweeps the listener along with great accenting and subtle guitar fills atop a tight rhythm section that ebbs for awhile only to burst open in moments of all out passion from Dale. It's dynamic in a way that captures much of this band's strength.
Lyrically, the always proficient lead vocalist has cranked out another notebook full of thoughtful poetry. In "Under The Blood," we hear Dale lament that, "We find ourselves running out of human breath..." We hear several emotions, like the joy of, "No greater feeling than the freedom to fly" in the song "I Ain't Coming Down," juxtaposed by the disappointment in "I Found God," which states: "I want peace in my life / but there's always a sword." There even seems to be some anger in "Die A Little Bit," where he describes someone venting: "Now you spit your words out just to see / where they splatter up on me." The words are definitely on a different plane than the surface-level, making for some wonder-filled exploring for the listener. Overall, it's an album that takes time to learn and love. Upon fist listen, most of us in the office here were unimpressed and left waiting for a hit to jump out at us. Now that it's been played several times, I've discovered a very good album that I'll want to keep listening to. (Doug Van Pelt)

GALACTIC COWBOYS At The End Of The Day (Metal Blade) The deadline countdown had begun at this magazine, and we were behind, too; but the new Galactic Cowboys album arrived, and this was not the kind of album to just let sit for the next issue, and I just had to hear it. After all, this is one of the best bands in the universe! There's 16 (count `em) songs on this CD, so it almost never ends; and the only reason you might want it to finish is to track through it all over again. Two things that pop out at me right away were the "Machine Fish Suite" collection / segregation of seven songs right in the middle of the record; and two, it finally hit home for me how far and divergent this band has gone from its musical kinship with King's X. The pop song cowboys' style that was probably first most evident on "I Do What I Do" (Space in Your Face), has its direction fulfilled and developed on the previous two albums. It has finally just dawned on me how far those two bands, who once were so close musically, have now become so different. The former connection between the two bands seems to be the indirect lyrical focus of "The Machine Fish Suite." Just what was that old producer's name? Regardless of who the songs are about, all seven of them seem to tell a story and spill a lot of disillusionment, anger, and relief (that it's over). A few lyrics from the first two albums show up as well, like, "Yeah, I'm a bit confused / but I'm not amused," and "How could I've been so blind?" Musically, these last three albums could collectively be called The Machine Fish Collection, since the overall direction has been pretty consistent since that album's release. One song in particular here, "Where Do I Sign?," actually sounds a lot like a tune from the last album "Media Slant." But any song here could have fit nicely on either of the previous two. I miss the aural masterpieces of Galactic Cowboys and Space In Your Face that the first two art metal releases were, but I can't deny the greatness of this newer sound, either. Almost a different band, but cranking out another brilliant musical formula. (DV)

ROADSIDE MONUMENT I Am The Day Of Current Taste (Tooth & Nail) The great Roadside Monument is now the late Roadside Monument. It's a shame that this creative faucet was turned off, as it innovated and inspired many. Like its predecessor, Eight Hours Away From Being A Man, this album mixes melody and chaos in a way that keeps you off balance, but not enough to deter you from the emotional trip they seem to be taking you on. Imagine a jazz band being told to play Bauhaus numbers with only drums, bass, and two guitars, only never singing in falsetto. Much like Post Modernism turned the art world back into black and white, this brand of eccentric music is taking hardcore and forcing it to sound almost industrial without the loops. Some say that when hardcore bands get bored they either go emo or lo-fi college rock. Roadside kinda takes the two into consideration and then applies its own slant. A tune like the deftly-titled "OJ Simpson House Auction" shows the band singing about the prettiest pop song they know how, with vocals that sing a mid-tempo ballad a la Joe Christmas, accompanied by a lead guitar that won't quit trying to dance. In the tune probably most likely to be dedicated to donut shops, "Cops Are My Best Customers," the first half of the song whispers along with almost a Starflyer feel, before the band goes on an instrumental journey that would challenge many a musician. In a much healthier trend than suicide or death, the band has probably succeeded in increasing its popularity by being one of the all too many bands that have made the decision to break up this Summer. I'll count myself in as one of the late-bloomer fans. What was I thinking when I still had a few chances to see these guys live more often? (DV)

KING'S X Tape Head (Metal Blade) Two happy announcements were made today. First, we got a package in the mail from Metal Blade with this new King's X album in it. While it was playing, we got a phone call from the record company, confirming that there would be a King's X song on this issue's HM Sampler CD! One spin of this new disc told all six of us on staff here that the band had done it again. They'd cranked out some great tunes. The songs are immediate, too, as they were very easy to latch onto and start singing along. This is kind of a change after the initial hard slamming shock of Dogman. Even though Ear Candy had some great songs, it was more disjointed than this record. Each song here is worthy of serious listening, except for maybe the silly insert at the end "Walter Bela Farkas," which I guess was an impromptu soundcheck-type thing that maybe featured Wally Farkas with the band in New York? While my Galactic Cowboys review seemed to center on how different they were than King's X nowadays, it's only ironic to mention that this Houston trio sounds a lot like the Cowboys in the galloping riffs in "World." There's a lot of great rockers to choose from here, as well. "Groove Machine" starts the album with some heavy riffs that tell everyone they're listening to a King's X album a far cry from Ear Candy's "The Train." Picking a favorite is mighty hard. Tunes like "Fade" and "Happy" showcase great hooks and lush harmonies. "Ono" has some cool guitar effects to accent the catchy choruses, besides being a funny way to spell the expression of, "Oh, no!" Most every King's X album has that sweeping power ballad like only they can do. Classics like "Goldilox," "Summerland," "The Fine Art Of Friendship," and "Picture" come to mind. Close to this family of song is the surprising "Over and Over," which is a great slow song that reflects a lot of influences, from The Wallflowers to even Lynyrd Skynyrd! Another shocker is to hear a dobroe or steel guitar on "Mr. Evil." In the song, "Happy," you hear a nice spoken word vibe, as well as some tribal percussion sounds near the end. It's also real nice to hear the band dip down solidly on its Sly & The Family Stone inspiration and not sound like they're afraid to do it. "Little Bit Of Soul" kicks back in a tasty groove and lets Doug's lead vocals swim along. This could be a radio hit now, and it could've ruled the airwaves of Motown in the mid-70's. Lyrically, I didn't know what to expect here. The new songs on the Best Of album seemed a bit earthy for the band, Doug's solo album seemed to focus on dark days, and then there were the rumors and speculation surrounding the band. It was interesting to see spiritual references still sprinkled throughout the album. While I haven't had time to sit down with headphones yet and study a lyric sheet, I'm pleased with what I hear. And, after 8 to 10 real good listens, I'm thrilled to hear the band relying on its strengths top notch songwriting, harmonies that beg a sing-along, killer musicianship, the classic heavy tunage from King's X past, and the recent sideways expansion of the band's sound. (DV)

STARFLYER 59 The Fashion Focus (Tooth & Nail) It sure was weird hearing the keyboard strings from the start of the very first track, and the occasional Beach Boy vocal added to it. If walls of guitars are the reason you like this band, Jason Martin & Co. have a little surprise for you. Starflyer has always had a way of taking something otherwise mellow, and crunching it together with rock & roll to concoct their own brand of music. And they've also had a way of doing each record just differently enough from the last to avoid listener complacency. Soft and relaxing could be the critic's summation if he/she looked no further than the muffled, plodding drums, acoustic guitars, and slow tempos. The Fashion Focus has "vibe" written all over it, suitable for a long highway in the old Dodge or an apartment on a rainy day, and lyrically, Martin's thoughtful musings contain some deep awareness. I can easily imagine him coming up with the words to "I Drive a Lot" while easing the day-job truck down the pike. I like this album, but with my love for heavy guitars, it's taken an open mind. (Brian Vincent McGovern)

DC TALK Supernatural (ForeFront/Virgin) The cool thing about this band is that each record has significant differences from the previous discography. Some fans gladly moshed when Jesus Freak came out, learning every word to every song; others stood in the corner with arms folded, muttering "Sellouts" under their breath; still others, like me, for instance, enjoyed the new music, realizing that Toby, Mike, & Kevin know their own hearts more than any other human. This issue is actually addressed in "My Friend (So Long)," but with the tongue in the cheek. Never let it be said that dc Talk lacks variety. With Supernatural, gone is the rap that began to disappear with the last record. Still here, though, are the guitars -- some heavy, some not -- all played with great skill. Some light dance electronics make an appearance among the distortion in "Dive." A modern pop spin is plugged into the 70's Motown funk in "We All Wanna Be Loved." The song "Red Letters" could be an early Petra ballad, but with awesome rock guitar in the background and a sudden orchestral transformation into Kansas. The band starts bearing a little resemblance to labelmates with two tracks: "Since I Met You" could almost be Audio A or Bleach in a Southern California setting, and the title track reminds me a lot of Grammatrain's passion. Tracks like "Consume Me" and "God Send" were disappointing, but I guess that's distaste for radio schmaltz talking. "The Truth (is Out There)" made me search the universe to figure out which TV series' popularity the band is cashing in on, with this song.
My first listen to the entire record was somewhat unsatisfactory, but once a few more listens were afforded, a few standout songs seeped out but I don't hear another hit like "Jesus Freak" to send it over the top. (BVM)

GHOTI HOOK Songs We Didn't Write (Tooth & Nail) You see 'em with their black T-shirts and their heavy metal scowls... You may even hear the metal guitar in the first song on this record ("I Love Rock & Roll"). Well, yeah, Ghoti Hook has always said they were just a rock & roll band, though you've always considered them punk rock. Whatever you call it, their trademark zany antics and willingness to not take themselves too seriously has led to Songs We Didn't Write. But unlike similar projects (i.e: MxPx's On the Cover, etc.), there are a ton of songs!
Included here are such songs as the 50's classic, "Earth Angel," Willie Nelson's "On The Road Again," Elvis' "Hunka, Hunka Burnin' Love," and the Cars' "Just What I Needed" (which the Insyderz also did for their maxi-single disc), done in the quick, hyper style you've come to expect from this band. Michael W. Smith's classic (and much overplayed) "Friends" is given new life. (The only thing missing is the paramedic yelling, "Clear!") It was also a treat to hear a Stavesacre cover for the first time, which GH pulls off surprisingly well. (BVM)

WORLD AGAINST WORLD Until the Day Breaks and the Shadows Flee Away (Bulletproof) You can already imagine from the title that these guys may have studied at the Roadside Monument School of Naming things, especially with songs like "Our Nation of Thoughtlessness Celebrates Immorality, While Seeking Independence From, But Nevertheless, Finding a Plague of Sorrow." There's a mouthful. The feeling behind most of the lyrics is a general warning to those who may be blissfully flailing in a swill of immorality. Vocals and energy at times remind us of Scaterd Few, while some of the singing isn't too different than that of One 21. The production? We're talkin' big, yet surprisingly slick, with even some harmonizing guitars, almost like you might hear in a speed metal record. But speed metal it ain't... Nor is it the dirty punk rock of the band's former incarnation, SpudGun. Stylistically, the record would be more along the lines of Warlord, among others, with a bunch of slow, downtuned metal riffs, and ultra-chunky low-end. Some of the faster material could even be compared to a little of the Crucified's stuff. A far cry from SpudGun, where everything, including the music and production to the artwork was quickly done to meet deadlines, and therefore sub rate. What we have here was a long time in the making, and it's obvious that a lot of effort and study went into the making of this record. (BVM)

DUMPSTER See Through Me (Bulletproof) Rarely does Bulletproof sign anyone outside of Georgia... But hey, Australia's just a stone's throw from our own hemisphere! Rarely am I justified in saying that a particular band could easily compete with the mainstream... Well, Dumpster has it in `em, with cool clean guitars, simple, yet less-than-trite melodies, and a smooth, skilled voice. Tempos aren't overly hyper, but won't put the listener to sleep either. A track will start like a jangly acoustic song, then suddenly and seamlessly morph into some nice dirty distorted rock. Lyrically, real issues are discussed with partial clarity, making for an intelligent listen. "Set in Gold" includes allusions to various aspects of the Golden Arches, though upon reading the sheet, we find there's something deeper there. "Co-pilot," a song thoughtfully portraying one's need for God, has mostly mellow guitar, yet ends with some marvelously executed dissonance. Dumpster can stand up on its own. (BVM)

THE INSYDERZ Paradise (KMG) The title track on this three-song maxi-single portrays a simpler, more laid-back Insyderz than we've seen before, though musically these boys have lost no ground. Exclusive to this disc, the swingy metal song, "Our Wars," relates spiritual warfare to various aspects of the Star Wars trilogy: "Jesus Christ is my Jedi master, comin' at ya like a laser blaster..." Some of the music here even sounds like that of Jabba's lounge. I can just see that elephant-like creature playing keyboards. Also an exclusive, as well as a real treat, is a cover of The Cars' "Just What I Needed." Neato. Also included, another version of "Our Wars" and a Karaoke mix of Paradise. (BVM)

POOR OLD LU In Their Final Performance (KMG) This label's purchase of all the old Frontline stuff has brought us some otherwise inaccessible fruit. Thankfully, they're also into releasing the previously unreleased. In Their Final Performance captures the experience that most Poor Old Lu fans wished they could be a part of. Well, as with any once-in-a-lifetime event, the next best thing to being there is to record it. As always, we hear Scott Hunter's trademark from-the-gut intensity, and, of course, the song on which Aaron Sprinkle handles the singing, "Ring True," is beautifully executed as well. Production, at times, may seem a little muddy, but for a live recording and for the novelty of such a moment no complaints have yet been heard. Hearing the vigorous, frenetic playing and singing on the now-classic "Receive" on just the third track gives a clue at what the rest of the gig will be like (i.e: "All Pretty for the TV," etc.). It's also cool to hear the crowd response as Jeremy Enigk makes his guest vocal appearance on "Digging Deep." All vocals remain superb, of course. As would be fitting for one's last show, each member seems to pour their all into every note, amazingly, even more so than in their heyday. (BVM)

MASSIVIVID Brightblur (Tattoo) It's probably been a while since you heard the name Wally Shaw. Wanna talk Christian industrial? The name Deitiphobia will usually be included in the conversation. Shaw is back, this time in Massivivid, and these sounds are a little less like his past, and more like the pop industrial of today (i.e: NIN, et al). Unlike what some consider to be "true industrial," this actually has melody, as well as the occasional non-distorted vocal more like music than noise. A good share of like-sounding guitar, with less-than-typical riffing, makes a refreshing appearance. Some of this sounds a bit like Skillet's electronic rock outing, and has some melodies that'll be conducive to the Christian market ("Unmade"), but, at times, the name Reznor has a difficult time leaving my brain. And, as compared to Klay Scott's stuff? While musically similar, Massivivid is a smile to Circle's slight frown. But still, while most Christian industrial is generally non-melodic (trance, darkwave, etc.), this particular style is still a bit rare in the Christian market, and Massivivid should begin to reach a whole group of kids who may have previously been afraid of comparable mainstream market bands. (BVM)

THE W's Fourth From the Last (SaraBellum) A lot of ska has come on the scene in recent years, and bands like Squirrel Nut Zippers, among others, have brought swing back into the limelight after a nearly 50-year absence. The closest thing in the Christian market was Ralph Carmichael's big band project about four years ago. Well, The W's bring a nice mix of those genres to the modern music scene, and they do it well. Along with some nifty saxophones, spicy muted trumpets, the occasional clarinet, and a hard-hitting rhythm section, lead singer Andrew Schar emanates an unexpected confidence, as he nails every note, just like those wildly crooning big band guys of the 40's. The W's are one o' the coolest bands to ever enter the Christian market. (BVM)

SILAGE Vegas Car Chasers (Essential) "This hasn't been done before!" So states the first track, "Original," a poke at the whole originality debate that, depending on your viewpoint, plagues the Christian market. While the band's early work were all about ska-influenced rock, this record has less ska, more rap, and it's all rock & roll to me. A lot of the rap comes across similarly to bands like 311, and all amid bass lines that are heavier than a load of firewood. Some hooks, such as the chorus of "Verb," are catchy at first, but incessant repetition may wear out your appreciation for it, making it remind me of old dc Talk songs in more than one way. With mostly able songwriting and an all-around fun groove, Silage is poised to reach youth. (BVM)

BUCK (Tattoo) This new laid-back ska band also deals a lot in the whole swing resurgence. While most of the sound includes some vocal and melodic similarities to Reel Big Fish, other parts, like "Why Won't Josh Dance?" sound like something you'd hear from any number of new swing bands that are popping up. But there are some cool guitars here, like the fuzziness on the chorus of "A.D.D," a very bouncy ska song that asks "Why can't all the stores sell blue and yellow uniforms?" The tune "Samaritan" deals with the famed story of compassion, and strangely enough, it's not this song that was chosen for the next WWJD album. That honor went to "Next." In all, a decent first record, but I would've liked to hear a little better production/mastering. (BVM)

BETWEEN THIEVES Water (Tattoo) Steve Hindalong's top-notch production does its job, which is providing an environment to appropriately and accurately showcase the band's live sound onto a recording. Each tone seems carefully thought out, while the actual playing is beautifully rigorous artistry. Jason Wesson's vocal abilities have seasoned since last time, and the BGV's couldn't be cleaner. Included among thought-inspiring pop rockers like "Simple Truth" and "The Spring," is a touching instrumental, "When Gabriel Cried," which may be reminiscent of Jeff Johnson or Rivulets & Violets, among others. "Carried Away" features the blessing of Marc Byrd's guest vocals, and features some nice thick instrumentation, not unlike that of Byrd's band (Common Children). If you like the smooth skill, as well as the all-out rawness, of bands like Bleach, Dimestore Prophets, etc., Between Thieves reports to the modern rock regiment in full battle gear. (BVM)

MUKALA Fiction (Essential) First off, one thing I'll say about this record, it's got some nice variety and some refreshing songwriting. "Skip to the End," while remaining a clever song concept, is an irritatingly whimsical jaunt, made even more annoying by the fact that some cool Plumb style drum loops were put in and expected to fit well. But not all the songs are like that, though they do just about all have simple variations on one particular laid-back drum beat. The drums, however, aren't just backing material, but are included as an actual instrument with equal importance. "Stranger Than Fiction" emerges, as sort of electronic spy music, with a few such tricks seemingly pulled straight from Nine Inch Nails. "High" is a very thoughtful piece, and includes a variety of instrumentation. In addition to the loopy drums, there are samples of space missions and a cello here and there. A lot of people I've met need to hear "Jesus Shirt," which urges the listener to realize that our relationship with Jesus should hold much more importance in our lives than any sort of clothing, jewelry, etc., and that no amount of "Jesus junk" can ever take the place of that real relationship. He doesn't need advertising. Mukala is pretty original and thoughtful, save for a few scattered exceptions, and makes a nice addition to the Essential roster. (BVM)

MICHELANGELO & THE DIFFERENCE Under Rower (Cadence)
Trudging, thick distortion capably shrouds longings like, "Lord, make me a servant..." in the title track, with even a few Eastern-influenced sounds among the mix. Nacho typical Nashville radio cheese. Smiles will be displayed when "OTMF (Ode to My Friends)" gets up and goes. A nifty, quick beat drives this lighthearted look at supportive pals. And this same verve is duplicated in "George (Inside Out)," but turns into a Beatle-esque ska song halfway through. Why hadn't I heard of these guys? I dunno... They've been a thriving indie band since `91, more recently doing 100 shows a year, and are just now signed. Of course, being signed isn't a magic elixir for "indie-itis," but it does allow even more folks to hear your music. And believe me, this eclectic blend of heartfelt rock, tribal, and folk deserves to be heard. (BVM)

NAILED PROMISE Realize (Rescue) Thick, solid guitar riffs eat this thin silver disc, chew it up, and spit it out with the precision of a Swiss timepiece and the weight of a Caterpillar dump truck. Aggro-rock at its bone-jarring best, Nailed Promise kicks the devil's behind and takes no prisoners. Abrasion is all over the vocalists' confirmation, "I will not waiver, I will not fail / God is the reason I stand up tall." The only problem is that, while the aforementioned guitar riffs are impressive, they get a bit repetitive. You'd think the guitarist would get bored, playing the same riff over and over again for 3 minutes straight. Otherwise, a solid record. (BVM)

POLARBOY Back From Nowhere (Rustproof) There are a few melodic similarities to Tracy Bonham's material, and vocals courtesy of Pol Buckingham as smooth, clear and passionate as folks like Seven Day Jesus' Bryan McSweeny. "Do You Think" is a great song, dealing with loneliness. The whole track has an underlying needle crackle. Thank goodness it's limited to just one song. "Nickels for Green Eyed Girls" has some of the fastest disco wah I've heard in a long time, and explodes into a full-on rocker or as much of a full-on rocker as this energetic, otherwise acoustic-oriented, band can do. Don't think this is Caedmon's Call or something, though, as there are quite a few electric moments here, usually bordering on the jangly. The standout track would easily be "In My Shoes," with its catchy bounce, and bitingly pointed lyrics. Polarboy is one of those bands whose CD gives me a large desire to see `em live. (BVM)

THE ELECTRICS Livin' it Up When I Die (Sarabellum) What's cool is that the cover looks like some 80's metal artwork, in the style of Stryper's To Hell With the Devil or Messiah Prophet's Rock The Flock painting, with a medieval warrior with a flying V and a Marshall stack, repelling some attacking soldiers. Continuing in the rich tradition of Celtic music, The Electrics again squirt some vibrant rock & roll into a folky mix of said leanings. For example, "Rolling Home," complete with penny whistle, sounds a lot like a traditional melody, and the bag pipes finishing off the title track could've been bigger, and I'd have been happy. But don't forget the guitars, which usually have an energetic undertone, but thrive in the occasional solo. Thankfully, some popped up again in "Hey Paddy," which actually turns into what may be referred to as Celtic rockabilly. For more of this including appropriate guitar work hear the hilarious "Face." Julie Miller lent her vocal to "Come Back Down," which was cool to hear, as she actually did one of their songs ("Back of Your Head.") on her Invisible Girl record several years ago. (That's a bit o' trivia for ya, laddy.) Phil Keaggy also contributes some guitar.
"Yer Man McCann Can" bears a melodic and structural resemblance to the old song "Riders in the Sky." In fact, a lot of country music is taken from traditional Celtic music. Just listen to the nearly honky tonk fiddles in "Party Goin' on Upstairs." The rollicking instrumental, "Piping Hot," is just that, and will get your heels a clickin'. Never short on energy and smiles, these Scotsmen don't disappoint. (BVM)

ONE-21 When The Dragon Is Finally Laid To Rest (Bulletproof) It's cool to see this band getting another release out on the market, and one that's done right, as they churn out some fast and spirited punk rock. Did I say it was fast? 14 punk rock songs and one spiritual ditty clock in at 32 minutes and 10 seconds. You tell me if it's fast. And what's even better is that they're so into proclaiming Christ. As their lyrics state, "hardcore for Christ / not hardcore for a scene." Many of the lyrics deal with living righteously and honestly before God, sometimes lamenting over the hardcore suffering in this world, like in the "Streets of Philadelphia." The production sounds really good, providing a mix that showcases each instrument and the rapid-delivery vocals in a clean (but not too clean) environment. Ever the proficient cover band, this release offers the classic "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place" in a style that would make a band like The Ramones proud. When it comes to old school punk, there's no flies on these guys. (DV)

TRAINING FOR UTOPIA / ZAO Split EP (Solid State) A short and sweet ride through modern metal is what you get here with four songs (two each by both bands). Training For Utopia pounds away with a dynamic mix of instrumental jamming with distorted hardcore screaming and melodic vocal phrasing. Zao is not too far off on the musical side, but their vocals marry the shrill screaming/shrieking of black metal. These two bands, which call themselves "best of friends," combine the intensity and emotion of hardcore with the power and tight riffage of metal. All the songs are good, but the 7 minute 39 second "Police John, Police Red" stands out taller for Training For Utopia with its more dramatic shifts from lightness to screaming intensity with a solid groove. "Walk On By, Walk On Me (The Pianist's Prophecy)" stands out for Zao due to its brilliant lyrics about the terrible consequences our tongues can create for us. Musically, it's slower and more metal than "Skin Like Winter," featuring some really cool guitar trade-off parts and dying vampire vocals. Even though it's a short listen, having any new music from these amazing bands is a welcome sound. (DV)

DEAR EPHESUS The Absent Sounds Of Me (Bulletproof) There are a lot of great bands with new releases this Fall, and this one by Dear Ephesus may just well be the best. The band has crafted some great songs, which are bolstered by fine production. Shades of lo-fi guitars creep in, but they are complimented by a nice `n' wide low end. It's kind of hard to describe the sound on this record. "Looked For In The First Place" has a nice pop vibe to it, not too unlike the Foo Fighters. The throbbing "On West" reminds me both of the raw `n' gritty sounding pop of Puller and the vocals of Scott Silleta. "Simpleton Walks" has kind of a pouting vocal delivery that recalls the tune "Dave" from the late Asight Unseen. If there was a quality in emo for "pulling and expressing deep and sorrowful emotion" in a song, then Dear Ephesus would definitely have that quality. The song "Blue Day," for example, uses crashing guitars and cymbals to convey the feeling that it's not all going well inside the singer's life. But then it doesn't take long for him to start whispering softly about the inability to "make right this wrong" in the next tune, "Pinning Dreams," which then explodes in the end. This talented band has again created a very exciting release that's easy to like from the very first listen. Tunes like "Ocean Deep" grab you with its heavy yet melodic sound and doesn't let go. The energy is subdued but high in most places, and you can always count on a swift tempo or volume level change at some point in the song. Sometimes, however, the sound becomes a bit tired, as in the slow number "The Morning Sings," which is mostly due to the absence of a screaming style change somewhere in the tune. Taken as a whole, though, this slow puzzle piece is just another dynamic in this band's commanding delivery. (DV)

P.O.D. Live At Tomfest (Rescue) We've been telling you how great this band is, ever since we put them on our first Hard Music Compilation in 1994. Now they're about to become possibly Christian hard music's most prominent act. The only negative thing that could be said about the band up to now was that their studio albums did not capture their essence as did their live shows. Now we have a live set captured for all time that shows more of the energy and intensity this band has to offer. It lacks the sonic width of a studio recording, and it's not the full-on production of the larger-than-life live albums from the 70's supergroups, but it certainly tracks the riffage and tightness of this band. The plodding and groove of "Breathe Babylon" comes across loud and clear (especially played loud!), even while the sweet guitar tones of "Selah" retain their beautiful tone. We get the P.O.D. showstopper, "Full Color," with a glimpse of the song's passion, albeit the start/stops in the song aren't as impacting or tight as Brown's version. Those awaiting P.O.D.'s Atlantic Records debut can at least feast on this 9-song live disc. Next to seeing the band live, this is probably the next best introduction to this killer band. (DV)

Various Songs From The Penalty Box (I & II) (Tooth & Nail) Not a lot needs to be said about these samplers, which Tooth & Nail conveniently marks with a "Pay No More Than $6" tag. The label has a great roster, and each of these discs give us a 21-song sampling of the talent on Tooth & Nail, Solid-State, and BEC. The listen track-for-track is consistent and high-energy. Volume One gives curiosity-seekers the opportunity to decide for themselves if they're ready for the ultra-heavy sounds of Warlord and Zao. Those that have wondered if all the hype about Stavesacre is true can sample the band once on each disc, with "Shiv" from Friction and "An Eclipsing" from Absolutes. Brand new songs, like the "I Love Rock And Roll" cover by Ghoti Hook and the debut of the band Stretch Arm Strong make Volume Two a relevant and timely preview. The person who owns all of these releases already is left with a really good collection of "high-stick hits," but the person who doesn't have each of these bands is really served the hard music goods. (DV)

Various Live At Tom Fest (Rescue) This compilation showcases much of the Rescue Records roster circa 1997. It starts off with a killer and clean intro for the song "Preschool Days" by Dogwood. After the solo vocal lines are joined by the rest of the band, the sonics get terribly dirty and it goes downhill from there. This one doesn't fare as well mix-wise from track to track as the POD Live at Tomfest disc, but the muscle-bound riffs by No Innocent Victim are captured almost as raw as the garage gig, which is just below the expected rawness of a hardcore recording. One of the raw and live things captured in realness are the between-song raps by these ministry-minded bands. Mindrage challenges the listener to mature in Christ and not remain a "Child." The track listing gets kind of lost in the shuffle, though, as the second Mindrage track, "Asphyxiate," is merged into track 5, which makes following along on the back of the cd packaging confusing. The same thing happens with the two Dirt tracks. Then the two P.O.D. tracks are out of order. It's all a mess, but a not-so-bad mess of cool music recorded with a below-average mix. (DV)

TY TABOR Moonflower Lane (Metal Blade) This man knows he's blessed. A listen to "I Do" reveals his happiness with wife and family. With Ty's trademark smooth vocal, he lets loose a few of those Beatles similarities. Check out the laid-back "Live in Your House," with fascinating lyrics like, "A man stands tall for the One true God, an evolutionist says it's a pile of wad, and the scientist's dogma seems awfully religious to me." There are a few filler songs ("The Island Sea," "Walk With My Love"), but for the most part, some great songwriting went on here and great musicianship as well. Guitars on this record are what you've come to expect from Ty. While "Without You" and "Hollow Eyes" could practically have been one of Ear Candy's so-called "Ty songs," there's not an excess of resemblance to the low, down- tuned crunch of King's X. Rather, the clean tones, with just the right amount of distortion, coat each song, reminding me of a few of the popular bands on modern rock radio. The difference between this artist and those? Ty will be around tomorrow. (BVM)

MARTHA'S WAKE Time & Elements Kingdom Records "Martha's Wake creates the sensual soundscapes of your most twisted and cherished nightmares," so begins the band's bio from Kingdom Records. They really nailed it on the head with that statement, as is evident in the lead-off track, "Razor Blade Girl." Lori Penzien has switched from bgv's to lead vocals, and it adds much more of an ethereal feel to the band's sound. "`Fire' in Harlem" is the first of 5 instrumentals written by each band member individually, with the other "element" instrumentals interspersed throughout the album: ether, air, earth, and water. This unique approach fits the disc perfectly, with these interesting little excursions into the minds of each artist. The up-tempo ballad, "Under My Skin," is drenched with emotion. Written by keyboardist / pianist J.W. Penzien, his wife Lori portrays the intense passion of this song with her picturesque voice. "How can a voice be picturesque," you ask? Listen to this song and you'll see what I mean. Actually, the whole album is full of these enormously heart-felt vocals. Some may even weep. Next up is "Different," with its funky bass line and emotive breakdown mid-song. Oh, did I mention that Dave Beegle produced, engineered, and mixed this CD? Yes, the guitarist of prog-instrumental band Fourth Estate. Though Dave produced the band's last album as well, this one seems to find them more comfortable in their surroundings, albeit some very surreal, eclectic surroundings.
Something of note is the statement in the liner notes about the fact that the band is in no way involved in New Age ideology. This is most likely due to some of the artwork and track 11, "Solitary God," which says, "Eccentric circles `round Jupiter's moons / As they dance the dance of sadness / Orbiting shadows in my room / Like the vines around the lattice" and "There's a solitary God / That watches me from beyond the Pleiades." But, as the liner note is intended to do, be assured that these folks don't worship the sun, stars, the moon, or any other planets. This song is very danceable, while still emitting much sentiment. You can almost see Lori dancing around a stage somewhere on a dark night with her arms outstretched looking heavenward singing this song. My favorite of the instrumentals is "`Ether' Out of the Silent Planet." It is based around an acoustic guitar, with various odd noises / electric guitars in the not too distant, emotional background. The album ends with "Time," which is simply a clock ticking for 9 seconds interrupted only by the strike of "one." With all of these "elements" present and the closer "Time" (thus the title Time & Elements), one may wonder if this is a concept album. According to J.W., it's "somewhat" of a concept album, the string throughout being songs about "different things in their lives going on right now." Calling that a "concept" is an interesting concept in itself. While 1996's Coloring China has sort of an urgent, here-there-and-everywhere feel, Time & Elements seems to be much more focused, though still not easily pinned down. So, you may wonder, what will you hear if you buy this record? Is it progressive? Gothic? Folk? There is really only one word, and I've used it several times in this review: emotion. (Chad Olson)

NORMANDY Denied (Kalubone) Mysterious, cool, and groovy, this husband/wife duo have offered up some high quality stuff. In a decidedly hard rock style, the production on this is choice, bringing out the best of Mandy's vocals and Norman's guitar tones. The tunes are, for the most part, eloquent, driving, and passionate, but I just wish it wasn't quite so dated. (BVM)

7 DOORS DOWN (Kalubone Records) This modern rock outfit has a lot of good things lots of energy, lots of good guitar tones, lots of enthusiasm for Christ, good packaging, good background vocals, and good pop sensibilities. The only downside is that some of the songs seem to either be too long, or not enough variety in the structure of each song keeps the listener gripped within the well-hooked tunes. The band really grabs you, but then lets you go after a few verses and choruses. Most of this is due to the vocal lines. Definitely worth checking out, but one good producer away from really being a super hot property. (DV)

AUDIO ADRENALINE Some Kind Of Journey (Video) (Standard Publishing) While Audio A retains a safe sound that garners them the trust and endorsement of youth workers in the USA, they don't deserve to be totally dismissed as ccm drivel. What they've done here by chronicling the real-life questions and comments of seven people who traveled with the band on tour last winter is a cool thing. What's cool about it is it's real. It's like MTV's Real World with seven believers as the group, and they tackle issues most of the time, rather than the conflicts of simply living together. You hear some cool points brought up and you get the feel that some of these people are authentically cool. This is actually a video curriculum for youth workers to use in a discussion setting. Each segment is broken up so as to stand on its own and can be used to spawn the same kind of discussions captured on film. There's not enough footage to make this a genuine musical acquisition to the AA fan's collection, but does succeed at being a good useful tool for a youth worker. Besides, I couldn't think of a funner topic than body piercing to discuss in Sunday School. (DV)

And now for the most complete
indie review section in the Christian market...

APPLESEED CAST Here's another great band on the Deep Elm label (joining Brandston) that is a must- hear. Picture the dirty pop sounds of Puller meeting the emotive vocalizing of Dear Ephesus. It's power pop for the 90's with an edge easily dubbed as "hard music." Lyrically, this album seems to have been written to get over the loss of a dearly-loved girl, enduring the pain and longing for the healing that is bound to come. It's almost a concept album that deserves to be listened to as a whole, instead of a collection of hits; although the songs are strong and could be enjoyed as stand-alone singles on radio. Professionally produced and packaged, don't let the "indie label" tag fool you. Available from Deep Elm Records. (Doug Van Pelt) SIN DIZZY This limited edition release is sure to garner lots of attention. The liner notes explain very quickly what's on the disc, however, which is simply two sets of demo songs collected together. The last four tunes were recorded in 1992 with the hopes of being follow-up songs to Stryper's Against The Law, and the first six songs were recorded in 1996 as Sin Dizzy demos. With this understood, it helps the listener not expect "the next big band to emerge from the breakup of Stryper." It simply doesn't stand up to a real album's quality, nor was it meant to. What we really have here is an answer and service to the Stryper fan's curiosity and "I must have this collector's item" mentality. "Enter Me" stands out here as a moment where the band sounds confident and relaxed in a groove, and not unlike Grammatrain. For an overall musical comparison, I would say it's like Steelheart. See ad for ordering info, and check out the band's songs, "Psalm 23" and "Back In Time," on this issue's Hard Music Sampler CD. (DV) ONE Here is a beautiful musical tapestry shaped around the creation account from the book of Genesis. Crafted with skilled electric guitar, keyboards, and occasional vocals, this project should appeal to the musician-minded and perhaps even the classical/goth appreciation society member. For ordering info, write: 4027-C Rucker Ave #853, Everett WA 98201 (DV) HUNTINGTONS Remember this band's debut album, Sweet Sixteen, and how it didn't have the best sonics of all time? That's because it wasn't ever mastered. But the latest indie offering from Tooth & Nail's Huntingtons is a 29-song potpourri of the old, the new, and some covers and all the Sweet Sixteen songs are mastered and accounted for. Taking the title All the Stuff (And More), Vol. 1, the cover songs on this disc include the unexpected Ronettes song "Be My Baby," Motley Crue's "Looks that Kill," Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It," and The Queers' "Wimpy Drives Through Harlem." But what would such a record be without the obligatory Ramones song? Well, both "Pinhead" and "Do you Remember Rock & Roll Radio?" are covered in full Huntingtons glory. But wait there's more! Also here are a few originals that were never released, like "True to You," "I'm So Stupid" and "Don't Leave Me in the Hospital." So many songs is an especially good deal, considering most Huntingtons records clock in at around 30 minutes or so (and this one's twice that). For ordering info, write: PO Box 16884, Baltimore MD 21206 (Brian V. McGovern) DOGWOOD Still here is the quick punk rock you've heard on the Rescue discs, with all the animated guitars and choppy drumming we hope to always hear from Dogwood. My favorite part, though, has always been Josh Kemble's aggravated, yet melodic, vocals, stoutly making us aware of turmoil, hope, and conviction. Some of the coolest lyrics here are, "Racist, think for yourself. What puts you above the ones you hate?" (from "Belligerent Love") The record sounds great and everything's mixed well, but there's just a little beef missing in the guitars and low-end. To order, send a check (payable to Jason Harper) for $15.00 ($18 if overseas) to: PO Box 477, Alpine CA 91903-0477 (BVM) SLAV SIMANIC Here's some great melodic metal guitar playing. The first band that comes to mind is Angelica, but the vocals to the one non-instrumental here sound sweeter (it features ex-Talas singer Phil Naro), and the songs overall sound fuller. A shredder with great melodic sense and super clean guitar tones. To order, send $12 to PO Box 75017, 20 Bloor Street E, Toronto, Ontario, M4W-3T3 Canada (DV) No Exceptions With a chilling spoken word prologue by Dirt, the second Rock For Life compilation, No Exceptions, kicks off with some of the top bands in hard music both indie and signed. Some tracks were recorded live at Tom Fest (or just live), like NIV's harsh and raw "Pro-Kill," while others, like the less-than-appealing "Forgiveness," by The Israelites sound like studio quality. I really liked the low `n' fuzzy bass in Pep Squad's "Baby Doll," but didn't know quite what to think about 5 O'Clock People's "Lunar," with its indie rock vibe, but Jar-like vocals. Left Out's stinkin' heavy "My God" was a contrast, and sounds a bit like old Starflyer, that is, until high gear is selected and the gritty punk vocals explode. The guitars in Dogwood's "In the Line of Fire" could have used a tuning, and production could've been better, but having been recorded live, the vibe was certainly there and rawness was expected. Speaking of rawness, Crashdog makes an appearance here with the gritty old-school melodic Brit punk of "Through." My favorite Wendy Bailey song, "Even If," from her indie CD, made it on here, and for the record, simply rocks. Comunalien's "Silent Scream 2 (I Still Love You)" is some semi-industrial with some continual rap that almost sounds like Mikee Bridges. Dan Numbers is worth mentioning, simply because the track performed is done with nothing but an Australian dijridoo, which, I can't imagine holding much appeal for any listener. For the most part, the comp is a good follow-up and a good opportunity to help out a worthy cause, and hear some cool bands to boot! For info, write: PO Box 82714, Portland OR 97282-0714 (BVM) DALE THOMPSON This guy is always busy doing something new. This time it's a very mellow acoustic country/blues record, featuring the guitar talents of the Kentucky Headhunters' Greg Martin. Dale's diverse vocal talents could allow him to fill in for either Garth Brooks or the worship leader of any tiny Southern Baptist church. All songs are very introspective, and are sure to look to the Father for answers, though Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" is a fun diversion. And as a bonus, a few Kentucky Cadillacs songs were included on the disc. To order, send $12 to: 309 Churchview Rd, West Point KY 40177 (BVM) DUMB AS SHEEP This cool record, entitled You're Not the Boss of Me, features some authentic vocals, and fantastic songwriting hooks. Pop melody in a commercially-appealing modern rock format, and energy to spare, for sure. This is most accurately displayed in the ultra-cool "Rain" (featured on last issue's Hard Music Sampler). But the other songs don't disappoint. I'd keep an eye on these guys if I were you. For info, write: 32 Walnut Dr, Guelth, Ontario, Canada N1E-4B3 (BVM) JUSTIN DILLON STEVENS This is some of the new material this ex-Dime Store Prophets singer has been working on since the break-up of the band. The material is stylistically similar to the Prophets, though, in addition to the rootsy Southern-sounding stuff, I hear a few disco-influenced guitars here & there. But to offset some silly notion that this is a "Southern disco" project, hear the laid back rhythm and the vocals in "That Far Away Look." You'll be thinking, "Beck? Is that you? Wait, Kevin Max? Is it you?" And with lyrics like, "...my voice shouting at this moment is the Marshall stack in your universe..." and "...Behold the color of rapture, behold the gum on the shoe of despair..." Certainly artistic, and well-produced for an indie project. For info, write: 2917 Telegraph Ave, #125, Berkeley CA 94705 (BVM) WITHIN With Korn-like riffs and harmonics at times, these guys rip musically. But, it's hard to concentrate on this great music when the grating vocals steal your attention. The black metal screams here seem unseasoned. Pop in Zao's latest and this disc and hear the difference. Overall, lots of promise. And I really dig this David Rankin artwork boom. For correspondence, send a SASE to: 1506 Finley St, Cedar Hill TX 75104 (CO) THE VIOLET BURNING This new album, which started out as a cassette-demo that we reviewed in these pages, received such a warm response that the band decided to go back in and master and release as a CD. Unlike the band's previous three albums, this one comes without national retail distribution (ie. it's indie). Musically it's pretty close to the self-titled third album, but some of the pop song sensibilities from Chosen can be slightly felt. Lyrically, Mike Pritzl seems to ride the line between spiritual and sensual a la Bono. "Berlin Kitty" is a good example of this. Then "Elaste," the lead-off track, starts off with very worshipful phrases of, "Lay your hands now on me / let your love cover me / Sing your sweet songs to me." It's reminiscent of those early albums, and it comes back as a hidden-track reprise at the album's end. To order, send $12 to: PO Box 30778, Long Beach CA 90853 (DV) ANIMAL COUCH Along the vocal lines of ladies like Alanis, and even Sheryl Crow at times, this band funkily croons, "Nobody ever died for me before, Somebody gave His life, my Superhero." Pretty neat having such whimsical lyrics in the context of heavy rock music. Seriousness, however, is all over "Could've Been," a song about abortion. I can't believe the tightness and balance I hear on this record and from an indie band. Sure they've got some apparent influences in the mainstream market, but these are used more as subtle enhancements than a crutch. That, together with quality production and tasteful mixing, shows me that they've got their act together. To order, send $10 to: PO Box 591, Huffman TX 77336 By the way, there's also a $5 demo available, which the band tells me is even better. (BVM) WEDDING PARTY Like most good goth albums, this Eric Clayton-produced project must be listened to with quality headphones. From the intro, through the last dark, fulfilling note, my ears were awash with pleasure. Sheri Watters' voice is more than sufficiently strong for this music, and having Clayton also do some vocals doesn't hurt. All of Jamie McCavanaugh and William Watters' bottomless guitars lend the appropriate mood, and Watters has as much real emotion and passion in his vocals as his wife does. The second song, "Even You," seems to have more of a dare I say pop melody, but lest you think this is some Christians-without-a-clue goth project, my distinct impression is that there is enough originality, edge, and depth on here to stand right up to the mainstream. For ordering info, write: PO Box 271235, Nashville TN 37227 (BVM) ELEMENT Growing up may be hard, but it can yield nice results musically. Having periodically heard this young punk rock band grow for the past few years has been fun. I remember their first DIY cassette, and now they've got a full-on CD, which is produced by Cliffy Huntington. Musicianship has gotten better, though the drums could be a bit tighter. Chris and Danny's guitars sound great together, including the soloing and quick changes in "Sometimes." Chrissie's vocals are generally very sweet & strong, but seem to lack that strength on the first track. Keep your ears open. Element continues its climb with this professional eight-song CD. To order, send $8 to: PO Box 133, Cedar Grove NJ 07009 Be sure to check out their song, "At The Diner," on this issue's Hard Music Sampler. (BVM) HUMAN RESOURCE FOUNDATION This could be described as indie rock without the minimalism, but rather, a more European bent, and a few hints at Mercury-era Prayer Chain. Great production and capable musicianship surround this recording, including the unexpected heavy feedback in "Articles of the Missing." I could do without the constant return to the annoying falsetto, but for the most part, this is a deep and enjoyable record, though not especially enchanting or memorable. You may remember their lead-off track on last issue's HM Sampler CD "Silly Two-Face." For info, write: 343 Pine Ridge Rd, Bluff City TN 37618 (BVM) THE BACKUPS First Jesse & the Rockers, now The Backups... a lot of good punk rock coming outta Alabama these days. Vocals are good & harsh (a la Rancid), with some expected, albeit well-played, punk rock drums, and the guitars really shine. This isn't a three-chord wanna-be band. There are real solos by a real guitarist, who sneaks in a few classic rock riffs here & there. Songwriting isn't bad either, nice tight starts & stops. For info, write: c/o Jeff Shelnutt, 4751 Quarter Staff Rd, Birmingham AL 35223 (BVM) TELLUS Here's some very high quality modern rock. This is one of those CD's we get every once in a while, where we exclaim, "Gee, this doesn't look indie..." And then we pop it in and add, "It doesn't sound indie either!" The detailed hooks of the smooth, low-tuned guitars which, at times, take on a decidedly Houston sound provide a platform upon which the ardent voice of Mary Howell grows, cuts itself loose, and soars. The guys' BGV's follow suit, and continue to compliment the instruments. The disc also includes a ton of enhanced stuff. For info, write: 1920 Abrams Pkwy, #317, Dallas TX 75214 (BVM) CLOUDCITY This is raw and dirty modern rock with a distinctive 70's classic rock feel. There are also hints of 80's guitar sounds and BGV's. What a mix! On first listen, it wasn't my ideal slab, but digging deeper, I like it. Quite a bit. You might, too: 17291 Irvine Blvd, Ste 257, Tustin CA 92780 (CO) DAUGHTER SILAS This is pretty cool, kind of a slow, laid-back grunge, the vocals gritting when needed, but usually a smooth Vedder style. Steadily, the bass keeps things moving along, and the drums sit in the back, just as busy. Nice work, though the sound quality is a hair disjointed. For a musical reference, check out the song "Master of Pretend" from last issue's HM Sampler CD. For more info, write: PO Box 951, McPherson KS 67460-0951 (BVM) STELLAR SUPERSONIC With a penchant for nifty hooks and an adequate amount of strained vocals belting out truth, this project screams. Having been fortunate enough to secure dc Talk's drummer Rick May as producer, the band's best sounds seem to have been brought out, from the tight vocal harmonies and effects put on them, to the quick stepping alterna-rock, complete with a few blazing metal guitar solos, courtesy of Gregory Lee (ex-Allegiance). Songs aren't bad either. I'd look into this entity if I were you. For info, write: PO Box 267, Pigeon Forge TN 37868 (BVM) THE SUPER SONICS Along the lines of surf rock artists like Dick Dale, this band does this style well. Everything's very clean, and has a nice groovy vibe. A trombone can even be heard on a few songs. The disc also includes the surf classic, "Pipeline." Pretty neato. For info, write: c/o Curt Crawshaw, 1246 Camino Rio Verde, Santa Barbara CA 93111 (BVM) xDISCIPLEx This band just keeps getting better and better. Whether you call them "Disciple" or "xDisciplex," this hardcore band knows how to crank out the power. These guys help me get over the loss of Everdown. Sometimes the band gets the chugging rhythms going and they stop it on a dime. The vocals are used in a variety of ways, which gives this disc the much-needed dynamics to stand above the crowd. I'd be happy to hand this disc to anyone that loves the edge and power of hardcore. For ordering info, write their Canadian secular record company: Good Fellow Records, 762 Upper James Street, Suite 275, Hamilton, Ontario L9C-3A2 Canada (DV) Festival Sampler This project features four artists Tony Loeffler, Wayne Scott Farley, Monty Lee Kimble, and Secret Agent Abe. Loeffler's mellow blues made me yawn, and the bluesy 80's arena rock of Farley was stellar in the guitar department, but vocally not so credible. Reading that Kimble has been compared to Stevie Ray Vaughan peaked my interest... Yeah, I'll say the guy sure has the chops. And then the vocal started; sort of a spoken word coupled with a less than believable Larry Norman timbre. After that was the so-called "funk/surf/metal" of Secret Agent Abe. Pretty interesting, actually; female vocals, extremely tight funk, with like the j-card says metal guitars. Cool. For info, write: L&A Records, PO Box 296, Midland Park NJ 07432 (BVM) TMA-2 A lot of Christian techno sounds like safe alternatives to the world's dance music. It's got clean lyrics, but often the beats and electronic sounds are generically safe as well. Enter TMA-2. Surprisingly, this art was created by Steve Babb, the executive producer of Glass Hammer's last album, along with the prog rock multi-instrumentalist Fred Schendel (from Glass Hammer). Faster than Joy Electric. Available from Rugged Cross Connections for $15. For info, write: PO Box 250, Keokuk IA 52632 (DV) DUSTIN LEVI Roots, with a twist, but some dreadful contemporary commercial pop rears its head. "Shine" is probably the standout track, with just barely enough guitar bite to label the project `hard music.' For info, write: Saltrock Productions, 4820 Yelm Hwy SE, Ste 237, Lacey WA 98503 (BVM) HOLYSMOKE Production is as expected for a home-made demo, and skill levels seem to be up to par for this genre. Much of this could be classified as arena rock, though I do hear quite a few modern influences here. Most lyrics are of the evangelical variety, and guitars groovy and crunchy. The tape needs help, but has a ton of potential. For info, write: c/o Doug & Lisa Ginther, 641 S. Spruce, Wichita KS 67211 (BVM) DISCO CHICKENS In contrast to what you might expect from a band named Disco Chickens, this is metal and hard metal at that, with a thoroughly hardcore-sounding timbre. Remember that this was recorded on a boom box, and you'll not be too discouraged with the sonics. The music could be drudgery by description, but not by the feeling I get upon listening. Capable musicianship abounds, as does songwriting ability, yet I simply cannot put a lot of faith in the belabored vocals. To order this seven-song tape, send $5 (c/o Chad Olson) to: 11900 Stone Hollow Dr, #1433, Austin TX 78758 (BVM) WITHSTAND FTHC This is hardcore like I enjoy lots of heavy grooves, intense vocals, chant bgv's, and dynamics that keep you from getting bored. The production sonics are slightly flat, reminding me of the first Crucified record on Narrowpath / Pure Metal. This keeps the disc from rising above the pack, but I'd still call it essential for your diet and fun to eat. Available from Take Hold Records & Slacker 66 (DV) CEASEFIRE Starting off with a humorous intro about metal, this disc proceeds to slam the listener against the wall with their own distortion. Dan's vocals are pretty solid and full. The band isn't afraid to tackle some issues, like the environment or even cigarette smoking ("Selfish"). If I wasn't blessed by the fact that I get so many of these discs free to review, I'd be spending a lot of money on hardcore music this month. There's so many good releases like this available right now. For ordering info, write Boot to Head Records. (DV) SEVENTH AVENUE Progressive metal fans will be happy to see this new album. Sweeping, almost- classical keys create subtle nuances against the precise and loud metal guitars and classic metal vocals. You'll even find melodies like "Taps" and "Auld Lang Syne" alongside Dio and Helloween-like metal. Some of the music sounds a bit funny being performed with big, bombastic major-key power chords, but the soloing quickly adds credibility. There's some really cool vocals in "Big City Sharks," which sways from melodic ballad to Iron Maiden rocker. Complete with some brilliant album artwork (sometimes I miss vinyl jackets), this album definitely has its moments. Power metal fans rejoice! Write the band at: StettinerstraBe. 1, 38547 Calberlah, Germany. You can order the album directly from places like Rad Rockers. (DV) VENI DOMINE It's a shame that this band is still without retail distribution in the USA, after their Fall Babylon Fall debut on R.E.X. several years ago. Like its previous two albums, Spiritual Wasteland takes the listener on a gothic and classic metal journey. While there's not an obvious storyline, there is the consistent outlook of sorrow and faithful survival of believers in a cold and controlled end-times world. While not a dead ringer for Geoff Tate, shades of Queensryche appear in the songwriting and vocals. The sonics are superb, and the overall sound is very full, augmented by well-placed keyboards. Veni Domine succeeds in living up to their own high standards. Power metal indeed lives on! For ordering info, see ad this issue. (DV) THE DIEZMANTRIO Ladies and gentlemen . . . here's Primus! (Well, as close as you can get...) In all their funky, spastic, goofy glory! These guys have some serious chops to go with their tongue-in-cheek, "tell a story in every tune" songs. Very impressive. For ordering info, write: 125 Ardmore Ave, Shreveport LA 71105 (DV) DIRGE Those wondering what happened to the heavy band Aeturnus will be glad to hear that John Gibson has a new band. If you like pounding riffs with tight and fast riffing, then get ahold of this competent metal tape. To order, send $5 (cass.), $7 (CD), (+$1 postage) to: John Gibson, 616 S. 2nd St, Odessa MO 64076 (DV) VESSEL Many bands have had this name, but none with this kind of brutal power! If you like muscle-bound hardcore a la metal, then you have to hear these guys. The production is too thin here to actually knock you out, but it's surprisingly clean. Five songs here for $4. Send to: Andrew Labedz, 61 S. Maryland, Youngstown OH 44509 Hear their "No Silence" cut on this issue's Hard Music Sampler CD. (DV) ESTIS P@RC Whoa! Nice sultry female vocals. First impressions made me think of a cross between Fleming & John and Viva Voce. The guitars are subdued Starflyer-style much of the time. Very cool. Check out the band's song, "Sunny Day," on this issue's Hard Music Sampler CD. For ordering info, write: Dahlhaus Productions, PO Box 344, Axtell NE 68924 (DV) THE WAY SECT BLOOM Bloom where you're planted. That's sort of a theme that's presented here, in the Way Sect Bloom's latest release. With better production than I've heard in a while from Flaming Fish, this project takes thumping electronic bass, drums, guitars, and distorted vocals, and systematically produces some good songs. Eerieness surrounds the CD, but, I surmise, that's merely a stylistic thing. Fans of semi-melodic industrial should very well find this deep, thick, and rich, disc worth the cash. For info, write Flaming Fish Music, 9 Koidern Ave, Whitehorse Yukon Y1A 3N7, Canada (BVM) SKADADDLES I was surprised at the largeness of the sound coming from this relatively young band, from guitars to horns to vocals, and back again. Sometimes hearing those horns is like hearing a marching band from a half-mile away, and while those horns are just a notch below the quality of bands like The Insyderz, I expect the growth that I see here to continue. And a few slightly muddy production problems, I anticipate, will be cleaned up. Lyrics are all about the Holy One; and being blessed with the appropriate energy level is to be commended. For info, write: DTS Records, 532 Saddlebrooke Ln, Lexington SC 29072 (BVM) SKALLELUJAH Having "the one and only" printed on the cover of this three-song demo may decry the notion that this band's name is a cheesy rip-off of the already banal title of a recent ska compilation. The band's music is actually pretty good, with smooth, dynamic vocals, good melodies, the expected horn bounces, and just enough punk rock guitar for my tastes. For ordering info, write: 4777 Edinburgh Dr, Carlsbad CA 92008 (BVM) TRICYCLE The vocals on this tight, vibey rock band are definitely relaxed perhaps a little too much so. I thought he was singing in a different language until I read the lyrics. It was just a case of leaving out a few syllables here and there. Some of it reminds me a little of Thre3. The music, with its punchy guitar licks and hammering drums, is energetic, causing my foot to jump and ramble across the floor, under the desk, getting in the way of the guy who sits across from me. Lyrically, there's no doubt where the band's heart is God-oriented and the production is simple and rich. "Constipated Christian" is probably the most humorous, yet the most pointed and convicting." For info, write: PO Box 418323, Sacramento CA 95841-8323 (BVM) FIVE MEN DOWN Uh oh, another ska tape (the third in a row!). It's almost like this style is getting a little trendy or something. Oh well, just as with any widely popular musical style, we try to review more on the basis of musical quality than stylistic popularity. Sometimes that's hard, though. I mean, some questions to ask about all ska bands might be, "Were these guys ska before ska was popular?" and "Would they have been if it wasn't?" Obviously, I don't know the answers, but I'm having fun reviewing this particular tape, with its cool, uplifting songwriting, and I don't really care right now. The material here is pretty fun and not quite as psychotically energetic as some. Fairly laid-back, with some cool horns that remind me of Summertime. There are more simply-written songs than many, utilizing a basic four-chord design and basic horn parts. Vocal harmonies could be better. For info, write: 10s 107 Springbrook Dr, Naperville IL 60565 (BVM) POP'S BODY SHOP With an energetic blend of punk, ska, and pop, these guys seem to have no shortage of energy. To realize the diversity of the band, in just the first two songs, vocals range from a smooth, more ska-friendly tone, to a nearly hardcore assault, and then to a spirited rap. Quick starts and stops help make this even more credible, quality-laden and culturally relevant. For info, write: 6212 Antioch St, Virginia Beach VA 23464 (BVM) JACK RUBY Did he kill Oswald to cover up a conspiracy? The world may never know. What we do know is that this band is a cool female-fronted modern rock band, featuring gracious power chords, dainty mellow parts, and a rock & roll solo or two. The vocals aren't half bad either. To order this three-song demo, send $4 to: Rachel Austin, Rt 1, Box 68, Mt Sidney VA 24467 (BVM) HEADNOISE This Allan Aguirre-produced 5-song demo shouts quality, but a tad muffled, so I'd love to experience it on CD. I like the droning modern rock/old school punk, coupled with the raw strength in the girl's vocal. Still, some parts might almost suggest a Halo Friendlies meets Upside Down Room, if you will. For info, write: PO Box 27591, Santa Ana CA 92799 (BVM) THE SMILEY KIDS The 2 songs here (" Jesus is My Shrink" and "Love Your Enemies") are cool and relevant, while the band's name suggests an element of silliness. Though they aren't as tight as many, and the vocals need a little bit of growth, this fun, gritty punk rock band should be a hit in the wallet chain crowd. For info, write: 1720 E. 84th Ave, Denver CO 80229 (BVM) DYING MAN With some heavy-as-snot down-tunage, the modern metal of Dying Man comes away leaving me wanting more. The melodic vocals that are sung more traditionally sound great, though the harder singing gets a bit monotonous. But chugga-chugga go the guitars, and it's hard for me to tire of that. Lyrics, for the most part, deal with our fallen state and our need for divine rescue and salvation. For info, write: Terry Harbison, 213 Ohio St #1, Somerset KY 42501 (BVM) PHATSO This is said to be "noisy but melodic." I don't hear the melodic as much as I hear the noisy, but hey, it's still cool. With influences like Quicksand, Helmet, and Fugazi, Phatso will make you mosh and think. The second beastly track, "Cut Short," may even remind you a little of Nirvana. To order, send $6: c/o Joseph Harris, 10839 Hartsook St, North Hollywood CA 91601 (BVM) ESO-CHARIS After touring with Living Sacrifice and Embodyment, and also having Bruce Fitzhugh co- produce this debut, these guys are unleashed on disc. With vocals not much unlike Bruce's, the music is more progressive than either of their touring mates, which gives them a wider appeal. To order, write: 1510 North Hills Blvd, Van Buren AR 72956 (CO) THE UNDECIDED Fun melodic punk rock for the boys and girls. Amazing guitar tones here, and a nice balance of punk harshness and ska-like energy. One of the tightest and most energetic indies this issue. For info, write: PO Box 107, Steinbach MB R0A 2A0, Canada (BVM) TAUNT With a plethora of cool songs, Taunt comes close to impressing me. What impedes this is an unoriginal vocal (using a silly pseudo-Brit punk accent) and less then appealing melodies, accompanied with a lack of ability to recognize a consistent rhythm. Most of the disc is a mellow blend of pop and punk (with even a little poser-ska), like they're afraid to get too rowdy, and then there's "Victim of Society," where this band breaks loose, and settles into a more comfortable-sounding harder punk vocal. A few glitches, yeah, but let `em practice a while. To order, send $10: c/o Tonja Duncan, 185 Dabill Pl, Lima OH 45805 (BVM) ENGAGE Harsh metal/hardcore along the lines of Zao, Training for Utopia, among others. Chugging guitar riffs repeat themselves, kicking the hapless listener when he/she is down; and coming up for air, this same listener is confronted with some of the most brutal rap vocals in the genre. For more info, write: c/o Jack Bensema, 18971 Martin Ln, Country Club Hills IL 60478 (BVM) J.I.G. Here's some heavy, down-tuned hard modern rock, with a strong female vocalist, and music that's heavy on the bass guitar. Some of the production suffers when too much is added to the mix (i.e: bass overpowering the guitars), but in all, a striking listen. The tape can be purchased for five Deutschmarks, but we don't know what that is in US dollars, so for more info, write to: Andrzej Wiatrek, Muhlenweg 8, 06724 Spora-Oelsen, Germany (BVM) KRUSH If Stryper did biker rock, perhaps this would be Krush. A much grittier vocal, and more laid-back 80's metal instrumentation may also lend itself worthy to fans of Fire & Love era Guardian. Though Phil Castillo's guitars downright rock and Dave Meriwether sings like he means it, a lot of this is a little dated, since most bands today refrain from lyrical clichés like the term "lock & load." But then, maybe Krush isn't trying to be like most bands. Check out the band's song, "Beside Me," on this issue's Hard Music Sampler CD, and decide for yourself. For info, write: Twist of Faith Productions, PO Box 745, Lakeside CA 92040 (BVM) ONE-SHOT JUANITAS These guys have a lot of potential. The name is interesting enough (taken from a song on Starflyer's Gold album), but stick that with the discernible verve these boys bring together, and a interesting rock band emerges. Guitar tones are a bit monotonous, and the production on the cassette we received is less than fair, but the vocals are seasoned and songwriting ain't too shabby. For info, write: PO Box 2395, Scotsbluff NE 69361 (BVM) ZERO TO ONE Put your fist in the air. No really, do it. A few of these chuggin guitars could be similar to King's X tone-wise, while others would be more like the consistency of Full on the Mouth. Vocals would basically be a genuine modern rock style, with no sign of poserdom, and production is good for an indie project. For ordering info, write: PO Box 115, Rensselaer IN 47978 (BVM) THE PLUNGE Have you taken the plunge? I dipped my toe in the funky electronic waters, and decided I could use a swim. There are female vocals, strong enough to be mentioned in the same sentence as Tiffany Arbuckle (Plumb), and a nice background layer of smooth BGV's. Also a generally bouncy drum loop and some sampling bring an even more diverse flavor.. For info, write: CBE Ministries, RR1 Box 53, Warrensburg IL 62573 (BVM) THE OBLIVIOUS KIDS In the rich tradition of Huntingtons & Ramones, each member takes "Oblivious" as their last name. While it's decidedly punk rock, the `Kids are harder, with more tongue-tying vocals (gang and otherwise). I guess you might call it non-melodic old-school. It's along the lines of a Blaster the Rocket Boy/Man, or an Officer Negative. This band also executes some time changes quite skillfully. For info, write: 1452 NE Kathryn, Hillsboro OR 97124 (BVM) PREMATURE PINECONE Best described as Nirvana meets Tragedy Ann, with a few Soundgarden and Grammatrain similarities, this less-than-aptly named project decidedly falls into the hard rock/grunge category, and I like it a whole lot, but not just for that reason. It just has an aura about it that's simply laid-back, with an underlying hardcore-esque urgency with which the aforementioned bands were/are blessed. Modern metal at its gritty, passion-filled best. To order, send $5 to: John Betz, 9307 Hollis Ct Blvd, Queens Village NY 11428 (BVM) Collapsing Structure This disc, one of many Blacklight compilations, includes the fascinating sounds of such bands as Dendrography, Blackhouse, Graphic Verses, Audio Paradox, Jagged Doctrine, New Society, and ten others. Most of the disc is limited to the ambient, EBM, and darkwave forms of industrial, thereby preventing wider commercial appeal. Want melody? Check out Massivivid or Circle of Dust. But core fans of these sub-genres will be impressed by the high quality of this collection of artists. To order the disc, send $14 to: Blacklight Records, PO Box 6552, Kokomo IN 46904-6552 (BVM) BRAZEN FAITH This power trio seems to tear it up, with some well done rock & roll. The only problem I have is with the vocals, which could be a tad more convincing. Perhaps if they stopped trying to fit an image... Especially silly is the cheesy reciting of Psalm 23. A lot of serious, crunchy wah is evident here, though, so I can forgive the vocal instabilities. For info, write PO Box 531651, Grand Prairie TX 75051 (BVM) FATHER SON Here's a band made up of two fathers and two sons, and the mixture of youthfulness with the more seasoned performers seems to work well. Some of this sounds to be sort of a Southern pop, but I'd say rock & roll would best describe the record. "My Own Man" almost sounds a little like Daniel Amos doing a James Bond kinda thing, until the 60's rock chorus kicks in, complete with psychedelic organ. Interesting. Their song, "Disease," was on last issue's Hard Music Sampler. For info, write: 860 Stephens Rd, Independence KY 41051 (BVM) SHORTHANDED This 14-song album shows a good band cranking out some very melodic punk that shows a good mix of simple melodies, nice straight-ahead guitar tones, and good vocals. While not sounding like any of these examples, fans of Plankeye and Value Pac will both have 14 cool songs to enjoy. Production is fine. For ordering info, write: Boot To Head, PO Box 9005, Portl& OR 97207 (DV) PEABODY MYERS In the beginning, there is piano. In the middle, there is bass-driven, raucous punk. In the end, there is an acoustic-praise ballad with somewhat off-key vocals. On the cover, there is a Jolt Cola look-alike logo. For the beginning, middle, end, AND cover, write: Bedlam Records, 2422 S Ridgeland Ave, Berwyn IL 60402 (CO) BETHESDAPOOL Indie/college rock is a good description. Definitely a unique 3/4 time signature is found on "Jester's Confession," with its circus-like texture. To hold this in your hands, send $10 to: 1016 Ridgecrest Rd, Orlando FL 32806 (CO) Stifled, Vol. 1 The fine folks at Sustenance Records have released a killer hardcore compilation. One of the best hardcore indie bands out there, xDisciplex, start things off with the brilliant "Candy Apple," chugging along at high speed authority, emitting power and confidence. Other heavyweights in the hardcore underground (as well as signed) include: Overthrow, Through And Through, No Innocent Victim, Spitfire, Pensive, Blindside, and Crux. A solid listen that's totally worth checking out. For info, write: PO Box 8625, Portland OR 97207-8625 (DV) THE MUSTARD SEEDS This creative band, who were featured on the HM Sampler CD with issue #67, have returned with another quality release that relies on solid playing, hook-filled songs, and great harmonies. Fans of PFR will instantly grab onto songs like "Sylvia Beams," with its infectious grooves. Nothing ever really gets metal a la King's X, but there's some obvious influences from there as well. Cudos to Rugged Cross Connections for picking up indie projects like this. To order, send $15 to: RCC, c/o Matthew Hunt, PO Box 250, Keokuk IA 52632 (DV) LUGSOLE It was cool to hear this vibe-y, semi-slow rock & roll at Texas Tom this year. I would almost describe this as indie rock, but Lugsole aren't afraid of actually sounding good. Bass is adept at finding the groove, and vocals don't need much help. For info, write: Daddy-O Records, 700-D South Air Depot, Ste 350, Oklahoma City OK 73110 (BVM) ENGINE #9 Live and raw, this Hawaii band comes across pretty clear for such a recording (of course, it was probably all in the studio, because there's no crowd noise). Still, the band is pretty tight. Mostly melodic punk, "Stepping Stones" is a ska diversion, reminding me of Squad Five-O. For info, write: PO Box 1, Haleiwa HI 96712-0001 (BVM) The Rage Volume 1 This youth-oriented comp has some very notable stuff on it. Among those are the emotional, ethereal modern rock of The Sprigz, Under Five Nine's eclectic mix of swing and ska, ATF's rapper-punk, and Free Sample's Value Pac-ish melodic punk rock. Sounds like they picked some cool bands for this. For info, write: Worthless Records, PO Box 54951, Phoenix AZ 85078 (BVM) Crucible Compilation Strictly Dallas-area indie artists, this comp isn't bad, and shows the diversity and health that apparently exists there. Ramsie Schick's powerful acoustic rock is here, as is perennial favorites Eloi. Brother Bob is pretty cool, finding an interesting balance between hard modern rock and CCM pop, and Seven Channels' tight Pearl Jam/Thre3 tendencies are similarly noticeable. Nine On Saturday has an interesting take on a now-famous question, with their track "WWJD." Other cool tracks include Flow's "Surfboard," and, of course, "Weeds" by Eloi. But younger listeners, or those who are into more cutting-edge forms of music, may skip right past the adult contemporary of Mignon Sass and Charla Rainey, and the Folk of T-Buckk. These could've been replaced with the likes of Spyglass Blüe or even Embodyment. For info, write: Robo Records, PO Box 1553, DeSoto TX 75123-8862 (BVM) CRUX Here's a collection of tunes going way back to a 1993 self-titled tape, three songs from a 1994 7-inch vinyl, a leftover from the Cakewalk sessions, and a look back to the future with seven brand new ones. The drums sound kind of canned in places, and the difference in recording sonics is obvious, but it's just raw punk from track 1 through 21. Fast, hard, dirty, raw, and sometimes painful. I think the best tune is the flailing "Generation X," from the `93 release. For info, write: Boot to Head Records, PO Box 9005, Portl& OR 97207 (DV) LAST CHAPTER Here's some tasty metal. Mixing some progressive songwriting with the simple sonics of power metal, this band creates a cool blend. Fans of both Savatage and Solitude Aeturnus will find something to enjoy here. To order, send $15 to: Rugged Cross Connections, c/o Matt Hunt, PO Box 250, Keokuk IA 52632 (DV) WATERDEEP This starts off telling us we've "got to sink or swim" in lead track "Sink or Swim." Very emotive vocals, which are shared by husband and wife duo Don and Lori Flynn. Lori's voice reminds me of Edie Brickell. Acoustic guitars interlaced with piano/organ and distortion. Pretty light material. For product info, write: PO Box 32981, Kansas City MO 64171 (CO) SERENADE This nice female-fronted Southern groove rock is laid-back, and full of hooks and well-placed harmonies, along with plenty of electric guitar. Think the Indigo Girls meets King's Road and maybe even a little Ashley Cleveland, but all with, of course, tons of the aforementioned guitar. The neato solo in "Unsatisfied" was especially cool. For info, write: Serenity Productions, 343 Pine Ridge Rd, Bluff City TN 37618 (BVM) OCTAVION Boom! The keys, sequencers, and background guitars surround one like a pig in a blanket, together with intriguing samples, this may actually make you think. Some parts are even a little scary, but dance-able. For ordering info, write: 1719 S. Overton Ave, Indepedence MO 64052 (BVM) PHILMORE These guys are a pretty cool punk rock band, with a beefy low end and easily discernable lyrics, but the drums seem to ring a little long in my ears. This CD is called Live With No Audience, and I can tell you firsthand, the live sound is pretty decent, in fact, even better than represented here, but the disc helps in predicting the sounds you'll hear at one of the band's energetic shows. These boys aren't afraid to show a little diversity ("Turkish March"). "God is Good" is a very cool hard punk tune, and "My Blood" is sort of a 50's ballad, but turns into a love song from Christ to us. This one's probably my favorite, with its punchy guitar tone and catchy chorus. For info, write: 8614 E 66th Place South, Apt. C, Tulsa OK 74133 (BVM) FAITHBOMB I'm not sure what to call this stuff anymore. There's not much of it around, so it's kind of hard to describe. Metal, yeah, but don't be scared. I love metal, and so can you. Pantera-like song structures, but with more groove and more melodies. Cool controversial artwork of the American flag draped over the cross, thus the disc title The American Jesus. For ordering info, see ad this issue. (CO) HANGNAIL This band is wonderfully super! They're stinkin' great! Melodic punk is performed quite proficiently here. Fans of MxPx and Slick Shoes will instantly dig this. The band even shows their ability to add some horns and try their hand at ska and they can do that well too! These guys are totally worthy of being on a Pick of the Litter CD. To order, send $8 to: Mike Middleton, 1725 Madison Rd, Kenosha WI 53140 (DV) GATHERING OF SOULS Like guitar-based industrial? You'll most likely dig Gathering of Souls. Like NIN's "Closer to God?" The song "Rust" is a near comparison, with very similar instrumentation and overall vibe. The difference is the guitars are heavier, and Reznor's stuff is a lot more pop. Best of all, the music doesn't use the electronics as a crutch, but an enhancement. In fact, "Keepsake" is driven by acoustic guitar and includes a string arrangement. For ordering info, 914 Carson Dr,Lebanon OH 45036 (BVM) THIRD/CROW Some straight ahead metal circa mid to late 80's. The vocal treatment and lyrical content would fit nicely into the same time frame. To order, contact the band at: 1411 Hampton Dr, Sunnyvale CA 94087 (CO) THE PSALMS OF ARIANA Two bands on this split disc. Pensive is up first with a sometimes acoustic-based/sometimes black metal approach. Sound like a weird combo? It is. Seasons In The Field offer some dark drudgery with some Roger Martinez vocal similarities. To order, contact: akeldama records, PO Box 234, Hudsonville MI 49426 (Chad Olson) MORTAL IMMUNITY Check these guys out on issue #73's sampler cd. Pretty much thrash-like technical stuff with various vocal effects thrown in for good measure. Also some good grooves from time to time. To get this, write: PO Box 704, Holgate OH 43527 (CO) PARADIGM LOST Here's a very ambient disc with an industrial tinge. The production is clean, yet it has a seemingly small sound. The vocals, while mostly distorted, are somewhat buried in the mix. For all you Mac users, this is an enhanced cd, including the band's latest video. To get "Lost," send a check for $13 to: Shane Matsumoto, PO Box 69, Witt IL 62094 Check out the band's song, "The Riddle," on this issue's Hard Music Sampler CD. (CO)

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