hoopie rides again
Punk rock all over the map! Definitely an album which is growing on me
the more I hear it. Old school crazy thrashy punk sound with lots of
influences. There’s some rockabilly / americana influence. There’s some
rapcore thrown in there (not to mention the spoken word / rap hidden track -
“Crackup”). There’s some hyper-fast punk. Some extended vocals like he’s
screaming and will soon pass out. There’s some chick vocals. There’s a ton of
guitar tone changes. But most of all (and what I like most about the album
are), the vocal style changes. The guy is nuts (vocally). There are more
vocal changes on this album than you can imagine. It’s the vocal changes that
remind me of how punk used to be this thing you couldn’t expect or predict or
quite felt comfortable with. Sometimes it doesn’t sound beautiful. Exactly!
Isn’t it beautiful?
Good listen. Well worth the buy for the punk listener. Not your pop
album. Edgier. This album seems to have had a lot of thought put into it: the
styles and changes from song to song, the vocal variation, the attention to
being unique/fresh. The lyrics are worth listening to as well. This is the
most variant album I’ve heard in a while. When the trend is for bands to have
a squeak of punk influence, it’s fun to hear a punk album with squeaks of
Rocket Dog Records
Rocket Dog is a new label, and Stonefly is their first band. So, if you
haven’t heard of either, then that may be why. I hadn’t heard of either, so I
was curious to hear what this CD sounded like.
After my first listen, I was at a loss to describe exactly what it
sounded like. At times the music reminds me a lot of old PlankEye, at other
times the Spin Doctors, and at other times many other bands that I can’t
quite put a finger on. After a second listen, I wasn’t much closer to
describing the sound. But after several listens, I realized I was trying to
over-analyze the sound, as it is actually quite simple. Primarily, the band
makes use of typical punk chord progressions, but in a more modern rock sort
of way. There are a few discrepancies from this model, as one song has this
jazz thing going, reminding me a lot of Hot Pink Turtle. But, for the most
part, a lot of the songs sound like something you might hear on modern rock
Lyrically, the topics range from “safe” songs about girls, to topics like
lust, to just an acknowledgment that Jesus is our refuge. Nothing completely
new or innovative, but nothing cheesy either.
Overall, I would have to say that this is just an average album. It
doesn’t invent anything new in the modern rock arena, and it doesn’t really
step out onto any limbs or take many chances. It is a safe modern rock album,
and it is good in its own right, but since there are lots of modern rock
bands that are doing more creative stuff, I don’t think I’ll be listening to
this one too much.
moth & rust
Gray Dot Records
Is it just me, or does Scandinavia put out a lot of good music? And
though that area of the world is primarily known for more extreme bands,
along the likes of the mighty Extol, Blindside, and Antestor, The
Miscellaneous demonstrates that extreme music isn’t the only quality music
coming from there.
The Miscellaneous plays a tight brand of, well, modern alternative rock,
for lack of a better term, since their sound really transcends the boundaries
which that term boxes it into. I am hearing hints of perhaps The Choir, as a
lot of the songs have an edgy, distorted guitar feel that drives the song,
while others rely more on the piano and keyboards. And still others use a
more laid-back guitar and a driving bass line. Many of the songs have a moody
feel to them, with a dreamy backdrop to the driving force (sometimes the
piano, sometimes the guitar). Others are more upfront and actually would fit
in well on modern rock radio, but the difference here is that these songs are
much more creative and palatable to my ear than most of what does get played
on the radio. The vocals are very good, as the lead vocals are traded off
between Stef and Sooi, providing a nice mix of very ample male and female
vocals. Some of the songs even make use of a very nice backdrop of background
vocals that complement the rest of the music like another instrument. It
almost sounds as if most of the songs were a huge musical composition that
was painstakingly pieced together.
The lyrics are very upfront as well. “Crumbs” starts off: “It’s all about
the towers of babble, the clattering of metal in the gym - it’s the endless
pursuits in sugar substitutes, dodging the wages of sin;” and it ends: “moth
and rust - moth and rust - waiting at the table for the crumbs from God.”
“1929” seems to talk about the danger of trying to live up to the
American Dream: “I’ll put my home up next to the sea - that crazy scheme, the
American dream - and it’s plain as DAY - all I own is my soul anyway.” A lot
of the songs seem to talk about the upcoming millennium change, as evidenced
in the song “Bug” (“The sky is falling! The sky is falling”), and they point
that God is the only way “to save your soul today.”
Moth & Rust is edgier than their previous release, All Good Weeds Grow
Up, which I also like a lot. A lot of the songs on this disc have the same
feel as songs from that disc, but this one goes beyond and covers new ground.
This is a very solid effort, and it is one of the better modern rock
alternative albums I have heard in a while. (DB)
Tooth & Nail
This Canadian outfit plays a pop punk style that’s almost reminiscent of
sugar pop from the 60’s. The vocals sound real nice, and the guitars are
produced pretty clean. They find a nice way to incorporate feisty music with
lyrics like, “And through everything remember / what’s important in your life
/ you’re saved by grace / never let anything take His place.” Much like the
kings of pop punk (MxPx), the band can break a song down with kind of a bop
feel and then slam away in 4/4 time. Not to be compared to Jimmy Eat World,
this is still very much punk. Fans of Dogwood and Slick Shoes might enjoy the
melodic leanings of vocalist Matt Fast. It’s hard to wax eloquent when you
hear an album like this. It’s all done very well. The songs are strong, the
hooks are there, the playing backs it up, but this genre has certainly been
explored by many a band.
For breaking new ground, the jury is still out on The Undecided. On
musical strength alone, they score very high. I like ‘em. (DV)
Ever since the Stryper tribute album on Flying Tart, this band has slowly
but methodically been building underground credibility. The quality vocals of
Laurel Snapper meld beautifully with the looping drums and crunchy guitars. A
song like “Purge,” with its dance loops and techno beat would ordinarily be
dismissed as dance or house music were it not for the savagely industro-metal
guitars all over the place. Fans of Circle of Dust and Klank will certainly
key into the vibe here, thanks to the distorted six string. The song “Black
and Blue” even takes the saxophone, played by Dave Fairall, to new unexplored
places with leads that sing like a guitar. Nice and creative!
The words in “Purge” are like knives, stabbing at the beast and his
legions of liars: “I’ve got to purge you from inside me / I’ve got to purge
you out of my mind / I’ve got to purge this from my body / I’ve got to heal
myself up one more time.” The title track is like a prayer for God to remold:
“...I need to be made brand new inside / I need to be disfigured...” and the
prayer is answered in a subsequent chorus: “I am disfigured / I’m just like
Jesus Christ.” The song “Ultradramatic” is self-descriptive of the writer,
but also pointing the way to Jesus: “My life was colored in beige and grey /
until I stopped to meet Jesus.” Don’t think that all is bright and cheery,
though. “Only Roses” touches on the pain of love unrealized, questioning:
“...the last one he ever bought / when it’s gone what will I...” Lyrically,
it’s a very ministry-oriented album, while not abandoning honesty and the
fallen state of man. Musically, even though the vocals and electronic beats
are vibrant, the ugly guitars keep the music from getting too pretty and
sweet. Take a swipe between the witty cuteness of Fleming & John and the
zaniness of Argyle Park or the new Klank and you’re close to where Aleixa
moment of clarity
Wow! Imagine if the monster rapcore band E.D.L. joined forces with Faith
No More... This is the kind of commercialism that E.D.L. has added to their
potent sound. Tedd Cookerly’s scary monster vocals are still backed up by the
ferocious and creative guitar playing of Carl Weaver (see “Adieu”), but the
band collectively is churning up a new mix of dance, hip-hop, and pop.
Overall, this album is not a clean departure from the sounds of Disgruntled
and American Standard. The change is subtle enough to retain the band’s core
fanbase, and it’s also a clear enough step into the mainstream of pop to
attract a lot more new fans. The more I listen, the more this becomes my fav
The melodic direction doesn’t just apply to the musicianship and
songwriting, either. Tedd’s hip-hop rap-like vocals are much more enjoyable
than previous supersonic outings. It goes over-the-top rap in “Choice,” which
features guest rappers for some lines. The funk is fried and basic. The
biggest change that stands out has to be the classic rock big guitars that
are found in “Represent.” The song settles into laid-back rapcore, but the
pre-chorus guitar melodies are as straight-up as Brother Cane or Lynyrd
Skynyrd. Wow! The other shocker is “Time To Change,” which has a huge pop
anthem feel to it in between straight-up rap lines.
This album is big, real big! Songs like “That Never Fails” and “Incline”
should stay in our minds for a long time.
—Doug Van Pelt
wanting . . . waiting
Bettie Rocket Records
At some of the recent festivals, a certain band had caused a bit of a
stir. Their shows have been described as intense, the players as good
musicians, and the music as simply brutal. And, after hearing Wanting . . .
Waiting, I believe it.
This CD opens up with Jon Edwards passionately screaming “Sound the
trumpet / Prepare for battle / Your helpless struggle with self-righteous sin
fades,” coupled with some seriously intense grooves that just don’t stop.
Musically, this is brutal. A lot of it reminds me of some of the more recent
Living Sacrifice or Embodyment, with that death metal-flavored hardcore.
There is some serious metal riffing on this disc, lots of double bass and
near blast beats, and nice changes from fast to slow to fast again. The thing
that seems to stand out the most are the vocals, which are truly of the
screechy hardcore variety. They almost don’t match the music, as I expect to
hear death vocals, or vocals a la older Living Sacrifice. And yet, the vocals
still match the brutality of the music, creating an ominous wall of extreme
Lyrically, these guys leave no questions as to where they stand. Edwards
belts out in a holy manner phrases like “I Believe in One True God, a God of
mercy and forgiveness” (“Confession in Times of Tribulation”), and “UNITE we
stand for the Lord / TOGETHER we cannot fall / TONIGHT we worship the Lord /
WE FIGHT Satan’s stronghold” (“Five, Sorry, 5 ... Drive Through”). A lot of
these songs are practically praise and worship songs, if not all of them. I
doubt you’ll hear these on Sunday morning anywhere, but these lyrics are more
intense than most songs you would sing in a typical service. And what makes
them even better is that the message is not sugar-coated, but rather is pure,
blatant honesty. I think my personal favorite quote comes from “Compromise
Collection”: “Forgiveness / Is only good / When I am in / Truth with myself /
But more importantly . . . / ... with God.”
Bettie Rocket is a young label, and I was under somewhat of an impression
that they catered more toward punk and ska bands. I am very happy that they
found this talented band, and I know that I will be spinning this one often.
liberate te ex inferis
Solid State Records
I am going to admit something. I absolutely love Zao, and they have
remained one of my favorite bands, even through various lineup changes and a
quite extreme musical progression. And yet, I wasn’t sure that this album
would deliver like their last release, Where Blood and Fire Bring Rest, did.
After listening to this disc several times though, that fear was quashed.
This CD sees Zao cover even more new ground, which I thought might not be
possible to accomplish. I believe I can best describe this as black
metalcore, as the vocals, especially when going full-thrust, remind me a lot
of Extol, and the music is extremely brutal metalcore with a strong emphasis
on the metal. Zao seamlessly and seemingly without effort transitions between
slower, more melodic sections and all-out extreme metal riffage. The
different parts mix very well together, and the soundscapes which they
produce are crafted quite nicely. A very nice example is in the song
“Savannah,” where they are going at 100 miles an hour and suddenly stop on a
dime and transition into a lead bass line with backing drums, accompanied by
a big drop in volume, and then they again seamlessly switch into high gear
again. What makes this so cool is that almost every song is like this.
Liberate... also has a bit of a spooky, dark feel to it. The title is
Latin for “Save yourself from Hell,” and the theme of the disc comes from
Dante’s The Inferno, as the ten songs are paired into the five circles of
Hell, which Dante describes in his Divine Comedy. The disc starts with a
killer intro that begins slowly, gradually building and becoming more chaotic
while remaining at a slow tempo, finally dropping back off and ending with a
mysterious-sounding voice sample before segueing into the next track at full
throttle. This sets the mood for the entire CD, as it is dark and moody. This
is also sensed in the lyrics. “Autopsy” begins: “And what shall I do / I try
to speak and words stop short of my tongue / They make their way back to my
thoughts / Still crafted by a still soul,” and it ends with “IF THESE SCARS
COULD SPEAK,” which also happens to be the title of the following track.
Phrases like “I desire the end / The touch of Armageddon / This world encased
in flames...” (from “Desire the End”) speak of the despair that Hell
obviously will be. Zao speaks bluntly in all their songs; there is no sugar
coating of the message anywhere. The last track on the disc is an
instrumental, which, though not sounding quite as haunting as the finale of
Where Blood and Fire Bring Rest, does a very good job in ending the CD
Overall, I just can’t recommend this disc enough. I’ll admit that it took
a few listens for me to decide what I thought of it, but I have been hooked
since. Zao is making a name for themselves in the extreme scene, and this
album is a good one to do so with. (DB)
Well, Brian Grey and company have released another CD as The Blamed. This
CD is a big change from their earlier Tooth & Nail albums, and after the
disappointment of Again..., Forever comes as a very pleasant and refreshing
Most people would recognize the Blamed as a hardcore, thrashy punk band.
Though these elements are evident on this album, they don’t dominate as much
as they did on earlier releases. In fact, I would almost venture to say that
this really isn’t even a punk album. The comeback of metal is becoming more
and more obvious, and The Blamed obviously recognizes this, as they
incorporate lots of crunchy metal riffs into their songs rather than just
playing standard punk riffs, though those are on the disc as well.
Musically, this is difficult to summarize. Some of these songs sound like
they could have been on Crashdog’s Cashists, Fascists, and Other Fungus, at
least from a musical standpoint, while others almost sound like Focused from
a vocal standpoint, while others sound more heavy metalcore with screamed
vocals. There are a lot of fast, punk rhythms on this CD, but there are also
longer, more drawn out sections that lend themselves to a slow and purposeful
headbanging session. The CD opens up with a fast metal riff in “Dissonance,”
and it has a really cool slowed down power chord progression in the middle
that should get at least a few heads nodding. “To Change” is more of a thrash
punk song, while the title track almost approaches speed metal, but stays
primarily in the fast, heavy metal arena. The last song has a goth / doomcore
feel to it, with a slow and deliberate metal riff with soaring female vocals
layered over the top. Overall, this is a very diverse disc musically. And
though no lyrics are included in the CD jacket, it is obvious where these
guys are coming from spiritually, as the band shouts in the title track’s
chorus: “Forever! Forgiven! Sanctified! By the blood of Christ!”
In my opinion, this is the best Blamed disc to date. They may lose some
of their pure punk fan base with this release, but there is enough
gang-shouted / screamed vocals to satisfy that crowd, and the metal riffs
beef up the sound and give it a whole new feel. And did I mention that the
drumming on this disc is killer?
sown in weakness, raised in power
Please don’t think these guys are brand new or copycats. They’re not just
jumping on some tech metal bandwagon. These guys have been playing hard for
quite a while. It’s nice to see their album in print. The word “splitting”
comes to mind. The album is very fast with lots of break-ups, cyclical guitar
riffs. Strong on every position (drums, bass, guitar, vocals) and very heavy
in each as well. Mindrage is in the same genre as Embodyment, Selfmindead,
but less hardcore sounding and more straight up growl metal. They don’t let
up much. Front to back it’s pounding.
The song “Passover” has one of the best guitar lead-ins on it. Most of
the songs have good ones, but this one sounds incredible when loud. On this
song and the rest of the album, the lyrics are packed with heavy stuff. Not
your average way to write, but cooler in getting you to dig deeper and think.
The guitars make this album. The tones change a good deal, keeping it
fresh and unique. It’s so fast and nicely technical without being a puzzle.
Vocals and guitars go well together, with the drums putting down a rapid
rate. It’s so good to have these guys pushing forward. I hope good things for
This band has really improved their sound; and they’ve achieved this
without using that youthful spunk. The sonics are a lot cleaner than their
last outing, and their playing is much tighter. Many of the songs gallop
along at a fast clip, with melodic vocals and soothing “whoa-oh-oh” BGV’s in
the choruses. It’s hard to pinpoint highlights, because the band hits it
right on so many levels. In addition to the aforementioned playing, the
songwriting is very catchy, and the lead vocals get the doubling effect from
the BGV’s. This is most evident in the super, “Give It Up.”
As is the Pocket Change custom, they cover a worship song, this one the
traditional “Amazing Grace.” They really change this one up. It’s metal!
Groove metal with chugging guitars and drums. I hear some Vengeance riffs
along the lines of the song “Warfare.” Wow! Who would’ve expected this from
these pop punks? While these guys have been somewhat obscure on a national
level up to this point, this album should change that for good. Who cares if
the album doesn’t have a Tooth & Nail logo on it? If it’s good music, it’s
good music! (DV)
at the show
Tooth & Nail
For a band that puts on a killer live show, this album is a great idea.
I, for one, was not hooked on this band until I had seen them live several
times. Infectious songs like “Punk Rawk Show” and “Teenage Politics” were
nice highlights, but it was their incredible tightness that pulled me in like
a caught fish into this band’s musical grip. Adapting 50’s bopper pop music
into a punk rock format is a swell idea, but the chops and synchronized
playing of Mike, Yuri, and Tom make it work. These guys have sounded at times
like a well-oiled jazz trio, playing off one another and stopping on a dime.
While not as big as some of the classic rock live albums (can you say several
studio hours worth of overdubs?), this recording stands up pretty well.
There’s a little bit of mud in the mix, but the balance between raw punk and
studio clean was handled pretty well. The vocals sound a little distant at
times, as do the drums, but it’s well above the world of bootlegs in terms of
quality (in case you were wondering how raw it was).
This recording shows much of the playful interaction between frontman
Mike Herrera and the audience (Washington DC and Philadelphia), including the
fun breakdown in “Chick Magnet” and joking around. It also shows quite well
why these guys are in the lead pack when it comes to pop punk. They’re not
just creative, fun, talented musicians and songwriters; they’re all those
together! This 22-song extravaganza is equal parts punk aggression (“Fist vs.
Tact” and “Forgive and Forget”) and pop hooks (“Middlename” and “I’m Ok,
You’re Ok”). Viva la MxPx! -DV
These bunch of believers return quickly with another project — this one a
ska Christmas album. The last time we heard from our superheros, they were
hamming it up with tunes like “Mission Trip To Mexico,” and they start off
here on the same humorous note. “Snowball Fight” proclaims loudly, “Now I
know / why God made snow . . . snowball fight!” Track one, “Light Up The
World,” with its encouraging point, runs a sideline joke about a massive
Christmas light fixture. “Too Many Santas” audible-izes the thought that many
kids probably have about believing in a man that seems to be at every
department store. “So many Santas / I’m looking for the Prince of Peace / So
many Santas / but only one King of Kings.” The song “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”
has a catchy Police-like guitar cha-cha-riff that’s pretty fun. This is the
common theme between every song — fun. While there’s no massive riffage here
to beef up the sound, the up-picking guitar does carry the energy along,
which should sweep this bunch of believers into the hearts of Frenzy and
the fundamental elements of southtown
The wait for a solid studio album from these boys is finally over. While many have recognized them as a killer live band, they had yet to lay down some sounds that did it on a sonic level. While The Warriors EP was a wonderful step up, this full-length (16 tracks!) does the band that sweet justice us fans have been craving.
I'm happy to report that my assumption about the new versions of "Full Colour," "Draw The Line" and "Breathe Babylon" probably being included on this album (in my review of The Warriors EP in HM #78) has proved to be false. This makes The Warriors EP all the more an essential collector's item.
True to their style, P.O.D. gives us a wide spectrum of their style and influences. The most notable departure from hardcore intensity is "Set Your Eyes To Zion," which really lays down the reggae vibe. Even though the thought of reggae may turn some off, the band is so stinkin' tight and in the pocket that any music appreciate-r cannot help but be impressed. Included in the "...Zion" lyrics are a lot of buzzwords that are prevalent in the Rasta scene. This song might act as an effective witness into that misguided sect.
Other noticeable moments of musical dynamics are the drum sounds in "Bullet The Blue Sky." They are incredible. And the hidden bonus track has a killer tribal percussion sound that starts the song off. The biggest highlights and songs that grip my throat as if they didn't want to let go are the back-to-back slugfests known as "Hollywood" and "Southtown." The riffs and building groove hold you tight and knock you around at the same time. Tunes like "Image" and "Outkast" don't let up on the heaviness, either. The tune "Freestyle," with its appropriate vocal delivery, shows off the band's fine ability to incorporate a sonic hook that pulls in a wider audience -- only to pummel them over the head with the chorus.
Anyone wondering if these guys would water down their message will soon find that their fears were unfounded. This album lays it down, just like the band's previous material. Just like the music, the lyrics are real and passionate. P.O.D. has, in my opinion, just passed another very important test in their musical journey. May they remain faithful to the Lord that has blessed them so (and may we remain faithful in praying for them).
--Doug Van Pelt
sundown to midnight
This new Dingees album has all the ingredients you expected -- great melodic yet bratty vocals, nice songs, and fun lyrics. Thrown in are some ska upbeats (a la Squad Five O) and the occasional horn ("Votes and Violence"). Last year's Armageddon Massive had a little hotter sound in places (mostly the guitars).
It's hard to critique this album, as it's all over the place. "Trial Tribulation" is reggae; "Dark Hollywood" sounds like a cowboy western movie soundtrack a la Havalina Rail Co; and "Staff Sgt. Skreba" goes for fast and hard aggression. It's hard to know where the band wants to stake its claim. They do great with a fun, poppy and smart-alek ska (a la Squad Five O) in tunes like "Chevy Malibu" and take it over the top in the fun "Leave The Kids Alone."
I really like their fast punk rock pace in "Staff Sgt. Skreba." The only parts here that make me gag are the droning horns in "Votes & Violence" and the hideous sounding ballad, "You In My Heart."
Sundown To Midnight is a fair progression from the band's Armageddon Massive debut. The production sounds a little wider, with more breathing room. The punk rock energy and distortion is used less here, in favor of more ska-influenced tunes like "Bullet Proof."
Well, for all of you Poor Old Lu fans who are still lamenting their demise, there may be a glimmer of hope, as the long-awaited solo release from Aaron Sprinkle appears on the horizon. I remember playing the first song on this disc and having someone ask me if this was a Poor Old Lu song he had not heard! The influences are definitely evident throughout the CD, but this CD has a fresh and unique sound all its own.
Many of the tracks have a "happy" Mike Knott acoustic feel, as the majority of the songs on the disc are carried by the acoustic guitar. In fact, as much of a hard music lover as I am, I find myself enjoying the acoustic songs more than the electric ones, especially since so many of them are so catchy, right on down to the picking. Aaron's voice is extremely smooth, and it matches his playing style very well, seemingly complementing the music perfectly. A few songs on the disc do have the almost techno feel backing percussion that I generally don't like, but it doesn't feel out of place in those songs.
Overall, this is a solid release. And since it looks that Poor Old Lu will remain at rest, I may have found at least a partial replacement for them.
good night evening star
Does the name Miles ring a bell? Anyone who has followed the Tooth & Nail roster any will recognize his name from the band he plays guitar in -- Puller. Well, this CD is his side project, and it is NOT Puller.
I would describe the music on this disc as quirky, funky acoustic pop alternative. I like his voice a lot, and a lot of the guitar playing is good, though it isn't very innovative. A real detractor is the annoying drums that prevail. They almost have a techno feel to them, and this sound gets old after just a few tracks.
Lyrically, this album is, well, different. Lines like "Why do the dogs always drink from my pool" bring a grin to my face; while lines like "Someone lit a cigarette. The way it hit the ground, it looked like a million fireflies in flight. And some strange reason, it reminded me of the spark in you." make me go "Huh? That must have been some strange reason..."
I listened to this CD several times, hoping it would grow on me. It did a little, as I do enjoy a few of the tracks. But I find myself hitting skip far more times than I like to. Some people will enjoy this CD, I am sure, but I just can't get into it. I think I'll stick with Puller.
|Various Artists (Video)
the moment of truth 2
take a stand
Truth Soul Armor
Here's an interesting video. It is basically the story of a road trip taken by several guys in their Chevodge (Chevy camper with a Dodge back end) on the West Coast. It almost seems like the video is trying to capture the flare of the show Road Rules, but it falls very short, as the acting is pretty much nonexistent, and the humor throughout this reviewer found to be rather trite. So, if you're looking for a good story, this video is not for you.
What stands out about this video is the extreme sports content. There is some awesome footage of snowboarding, surfing, skateboarding, bmx and motorbiking, and even air surfing. And for all you guys who think chicks don't do extreme sports, there is some equally good footage of girls surfing and skateboarding. All of these action shots are backdropped by primarily punk and ska songs, including the likes of Ghoti Hook, Plankeye, Five Iron Frenzy, Dogwood, and Slick Shoes. And the message that Jesus is the only Way is very prevalent throughout this video.
Would I watch this video again? Definitely not for the story. But since I enjoy both extreme sports and good ol' punk rock, I expect that this video will make its way into my VCR again soon.
this is solid state, vol. one
Solid State Records
The title sums up this CD quite nicely. Perhaps one of the best "young" labels has released a sampler that showcases the talent evident throughout the label. Bands like Zao, Blindside, the mighty Extol, Stretch Arm Strong, and others are found playing some of their best songs from their featured Solid State releases. The standout track, however, is the unreleased Living Sacrifice song "Enthroned 98." It sounds like they may be returning back to their roots, as the song sounds like it could have been on Nonexistent (minus the unusual vocals on that disc). The double bass pounds, and the riffing absolutely shreds! There is also a track from the upcoming Warlord CD. I like this song musically, but the vocals really annoy me, as they don't seem to quite mix right. Oh yeah . . . and for those of you who liked the old school hardcore on Tooth & Nail (like Unashamed and Focused), you will find some classic tracks on this disc as well. Overall, this is a great sampler.
As everyone knows, if a band plays all the time, they're going to get better. Well, it also helps if you've got a great singer and good songs. Miss Angie benefits from all three. While the first record was straight, basic, in-your-face rock & roll, this one's a little more eclectic, borrowing from pre-comeback Blondie, and bearing vocal and instrumental similarities to Plumb, among others in the genre. "Jesus Get Me" is a breathy plea to be completely taken over by Christ, and it smoothly segues into "Let's Get Together," a song about falling in love. Other similarities might include the cute pop song "Don't Go Gettin" to those of Morella's Forest, and the songwriting in "Dancing In My Head" is akin to that of Chris Taylor. "Like Lightning" is easily the most beautiful track, due mostly to the pleasant piano and strings, but the song lends itself well to this instrumental combination. The subtle electronics and the fuzzy, ultra-low bass here belie the mellow nature of the song, but give it a very modern feel. If you liked the first record for its rock & roll, there's plenty of that on Triumphantine, but look out for even more fun sounds you will not have expected. But no matter how she does it, Miss Angie pulls it off well.
rock the foe hammer
Solid State Records
It has finally happened. After much talk of a full length follow-up to Warlord's EP, Rock the Foe Hammer is born. I will start off by saying that I really do not know how to go about describing this CD. It is quite different from anything I have heard before. A lot of the songs are quite epic, with long, drawn-out sections of music, and a lot of the music has a slow yet heavy feel to it. Perhaps doomcore is a good word to use, as the hardcore influence is evident, but the primary musical feel is that of doom. In fact, at times I almost feel like I could be listening to Last Chapter if they came from a hardcore background rather than a metal background, as many of the songs contain strange-sounding samples before launching into long segues of pounding riffage. Unfortunately, a lot of this riffing is extremely repetitive, and I would almost think that the band members would get bored playing the same chugga-chugga for a minute straight. I do like this CD musically though.
The thing I don't like about this CD is the vocals. It sounds to me like the vocals are being run through an overdrive pedal, and it begins to wear on the ears after a few songs. Basically, the vocals remind me of what I think Mark Saloman would sound like if he processed his voice, which could possibly be a good thing, except that his voice sounds great without any processing. Same thing applies here, as I think I would like his vocals without any sort of processing whatsoever. There are a few select spots on the CD where it isn't used, and I really like his vocals in those spots.
Lyrically, Warlord is pretty upfront about what they believe, and their choice in words is fitting to the style of music they play ("They shall see my servant beaten, and bloodied / so disfigured, you would scarcely know it was / a human standing there," from "To Die For," which describes the story of Jesus). Overall, they blend together a sound that is fairly unique. If they could just eliminate the vocal problem, this CD would be one of the best I have heard in a while, as it otherwise is a terrific CD.
Ken Tamplin is a name that should be quite familiar to most Christian metal enthusiasts. After a stint with Joshua, he went on to headline the pop-metal band Shout. After Shout, he went on to release a myriad of solo releases, as well as Big Bang by Magdallan, which actually had a Shout feel to it.
Well, it has been 10 years since Shout released an album, and they are back again with the same lineup. This CD is trademark Ken Tamplin . . . soaring vocals, great harmonies, killer guitar playing, and overall good musicianship. But 10 years can do some things to your sound. Some of the songs on here feel like they could have been either on It Won't Be Long or In Your Face, with the pop-metal sensibilities and blazing guitars. But other influences find their way onto this CD. Some of these songs have the feel that was heard on Tamplin's self-titled release on Benson, with a more driving hard rock sound. Several of the ballads are acoustic based, one even starting off with a piano, drawing from Ken's We the People solo release. So, this CD is pretty much a potpourri of many musical influences throughout his career. Don't worry, though, as this album still smells like Shout. And though there isn't quite anything on here like the song "In Your Face," and none of the ballads, in my opinion, quite match "Find a Way" from Shout's first album, this is a solid disc. Hopefully this won't be the last, as I don't want to wait another ten years.
dig for the light
Here's a side to the guy who has screamed "Shut Off" for a couple years -- the soft side. Mike Lewis plays a nice acoustic guitar and sends out some smooth vocals a la Jyro of Fold Zan. Well thought lyrics that reach into the heart and mind of this songwriter. Several creative elements include the number of transgressions in "Counting On You" and the nursery rhyme references in "Sound Of My Heart." The title track is one example where Mike expresses his faith and the struggle to keep it: "I'm digging for the light buried in the truth / punching through my deep defense..." Mike seems to make a worshipful song of thanksgiving out of "Heart Song," which also offers itself as an apologetic to his material: "When I don't feel anything, you give me the grace to sing my heart song."
Some of the songs have a rockin' tempo, like "The Greatest Thing," while many others take a dynamic swoon to soft lullaby land "Sound Of My Heart." "Heart Song" takes the dramatic swing between gentle and urgent between verse and chorus. This might be the closest Mike gets to the "Fold Zan meets Nirvana" sound. This could easily be a Puller song. The sonic quality throughout is of very fine quality, without sounding sterile. There's enough naked rawness in the guitar tones (both electric and acoustic) to keep the whole vibe real and earthy.
Hopefully this new label will have its fine music heard. It would be a tragedy if music consumers had to dig for this disc, although I'd say it'd be worth the effort.
Sometimes people are at the right place at the right time. After introducing their harsh brand of rap-core with their independently released 5-song EP, Gryp was prepared to release this CD independently as well. That is, until some reps from Metro One heard them play and wanted to make it a label release instead. And what a good choice those reps made.
What ensues on this 11-song CD is much more than rap-core. The closest single comparison I could make would be to Korn, and yet Gryp sounds nothing like Korn either. Many of the songs have the chaotic feel that a lot of Korn songs do, but Gryp moves much beyond that to create one of the most unique sounds I have heard in this genre. Gryp makes use of a lot of samples as intros and outros. Some of them almost sound like the metallic clanks you would find on a Mental Destruction album, while others have more of a rap / hip-hop feel, and others I just can't describe. But it all seems to somehow meld together perfectly, producing a soundscape that will rattle your walls and make your bass dance across the floor. The vocals are a special treat, as they are low and gruff, and they switch a lot between whispered, rapped, shouted, screamed, and sung vocals. And they all sound good. The fifth song on the CD has this really cool intro that reminds me a lot of Four Living Creatures, and when it jumps into the chorus, it has this bombastic scream and then stop feel, like a shortened nuance of something off Horde's Hellig Usvart. These strange mixes are all over the CD, which is very cool, as I never quite know what to expect next.
I'll say it again. This is probably the most unique CD I have heard in this genre. If you are a fan of heavy music and don't mind predominately rapped vocals, you better be sure to add this CD to your collection.
I just love it when I hear good music. This is good music. I love this disc. Best described as pop punk, these guys have nice melodic vocals, fun lyrics, and fairly tight musicianship. Even though this is a crowded genre (since everyone wants to follow MxPx's footsteps), these guys still find a way to stick their head above the crowd and wag their tongue (just like the dog on this disc cover). There is one song that's a dead-ringer for an MxPx outtake C "Multiple Kittens," with its 50's sockhop rhythms.
These fun-loving guys throw a funny bone and a tip of their hat to the guys in Magnified Plaid with their title track, which starts off with the like, "Darlin' take me by the hand / gonna see the noggin band." It goes on to feature a simple chorus of "Wo wo wo," jumping in and out of it with jokes like, "Don't give out the number to Mike's phone" and "We love God and we don't cuss." They follow this up with "Noggin Toboggan 2," which states, "If you went to our show and wish you didn't go, we don't feel bad..." The band finds a way to be serious, of course, but they can even take a blast at Jehovah's Witnesses in a fun way in the song "Kingdom Hall Crashers," where they say, "...we're not trying to be jerks, but God saves by grace not by works."
Like any pop punk band, it's a major challenge to lay down 22 songs in a row that will keep your attention high, but these guys at least keep a consistent feel. Not every song's a hit, but I couldn't spot a real flat anywhere (I won't count the banal hidden track). Noggintoboggan is worth the fun-filled 22-song ride.
|Zippy Josh & The Rag Tag Band
Here's a 12-song disc from Josh Handley, who plays guitar for Officer Negative. They call themselves "the finest in cow punk." Joining Josh in the Rag Tag Band are Brandon Baizian on drums and Tim Duzan on bass. I'm reminded of The Altar Boys or, more specifically, Mike Stand's solo performances of Altar Boys' material. It's not too distant from Nirvana's cover of the Meat Puppet's song, "Lake of Fire" from the Unplugged In New York album. Very raw music with the vocals up in front of acoustic instrumentation. Meat Puppets fans should definitely appreciate this disc, although the blunt lyrical content might hit them a bit hard.
The country-fied sounds of "Salvation Train" offer up one of the catchiest tunes here. All it's missing in order to enter the Blues Hall of Fame is a nasty harmonica accompaniment. While mostly laid-back, this raw album is real and it's edgy enough to fancy the open minded listeners of Officer Negative and melodic enough to get the notice of Lost Dogs fans.
live at the roxy
Live albums are generally difficult to produce well. It seems that the mixing is always strange, and some voices generally dominate while others get lost in the mix. Even so, live albums generally capture the feel of a band that studio albums never can.
This album is no exception to any of these rules. The mix is extremely muddy, and it is hard to hear the voicings of the guitar all the time. However, unlike many live albums I have heard, the bass is loud and clear, which is a nice change, though it does sound a bit high in the mix.
Alright . . . enough about the live aspect and on to the music itself. Officer Negative plays a pretty tight brand of "rage punk." Basically, the music is very punk, with fast and furious 3 and 4-chord progressions, with a surprise in the guitar every now and then. As I said before, the bass can be very easily heard on this CD, which is good, as it complements the rest of the music well. I call this "rage punk" because the vocals are pretty much of the old-school Tooth & Nail hardcore brand. At times, they remind me of Strongarm, at others, Unashamed (first CD anyway), and still others, Overcome. To me, these vocals are a lot harsher than those offered by Crashdog and The Crucified, and it adds a different flavor to the music.
Overall, this is a fun album. It features 8 songs at around 22 minutes, which begs for EP status in my opinion, but, then again, it is punk rock. The guitarist even breaks a string just before the last song of the set, so they go into a strange bass-driven with drums improv song while the string is changed. Definitely punk.
Furious? / Virgin
In 1996, with the release of Eric Champion's album, Transformation, the advertisement taglines were always "Forget What You Know." Well, with 1999's new June release of deliriou5?'s Mezzamorphis, ironically, the same tagline could apply. So, basically... forget what you know.
1998 saw a tremendous stage entry for this British-based band. You couldn't be at Creation without seeing something with their name on it. Signs were everywhere, "The British are Coming." And, they did. In fact, our Creation bracelets bore their name next to the Creation logo. Deliriou5? couldn't be missed.
However, to be honest, I found this to be overkill. The radio airplay was too much, the advertising was gagging, but it worked for most people. Not me, though. It did the exact opposite. I became anti-deliriou5?, so to speak. But when I had a chance to acquire their newest project, Mezzamorphis, I jumped at the chance to hear this band's newest musical helping. I was pleasantly surprised.
Like they say in their interview on the pre-release of the album, the album can't be compared to either of their previous works. It's a new step, but still not where they want to be. "Huh?" you may think. Enter the first song, "The Mezzanine Floor," which is partially inspired by that very observation. They realize they have more growing, musically, to do. But the growth is evident . . . and appreciated.
"Heaven" follows, a song that starts out aggressive and moves into a chorus hauntingly similar to the previous track. Not really a fault, but sorta ties the message of the two songs together, however, you're liable to have to look at your player to figure out exactly which song you're hearing.
Another album highlight comes next, "Follow," a melodic slow-rocker that simply talks about following God. Probably the hardest track on the album comes next, "Bliss," a song that most bands write as they get popular to reassure people that they're not going to lose their Christian message or "back down," like the song says.
The oddest, yet catchiest song on the album is the Bleach-esque "Gravity," which should be a great live concert song. But this album, while venturing into some more electric tunes, has its share of ballads. Well-crafted ones at that, too, like in the tremendous "Jesus Blood" and personal [to the band] praise song "Kiss Your Feet."
Take part in the evolution of this growing band and pick up a copy of Mezzamorphis when it releases.
It's that Time again to gear up for a new release from Atlanta's best: Third Day. These southern boys took Time out from their touring to record their 3rd CD installment C Time.
With 9 No. 1 singles (and counting), these 5 guys have perfected the art of creating quality chart-toppers, like "You Make Me Mad" and "Nothing At All." 3D continues their winning streak this Summer with the much-anticipated 3rd release, Time, their 1st on Essential Records.
Time trails away from Conspiracy No.5 and is most comparable with their self-titled debut released in 1996. However, more southern influences are evident on this project, including a well-done southern groove.
Oddly, the album kicks off with the rock ballad "I've Always Loved You," a love song written through God's perspective to us. The sound is very different than 3D's traditional rock-song-album-opener like "Nothing At All" or "Peace," which they had used previously. However, the new southern rock ballad (sounding a little reminiscent of Big Tent Revival's "Two Sets of Jones") does set the tone for the album, allowing many strong highlights to follow.
In fact, the southern groove-laced rocker "Believe," which follows directly, is one of the main stand-outs on the album, and a guaranteed No. 1 single for the Christian rock charts. "Took My Place" continues the rock sound on the album, with a more upbeat rootsy sound reminiscent of "Have Mercy," off their 2nd album.
Another Abound for the top of the charts" song and album highlight is "Never Bow Down," a song about the faithfulness of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the midst of a faithless nation. Some of the album's strongest faith-filled lyrics emerge with lines like the chorus:
"I will never bow down / Though I know I will be free from the fire / I will never compromise / All that I have and everything I hold..."
"Your Love, Oh Lord" slows down the tempo a bit with a sound different from that seen on any previous 3D recording. The bass-filled percussion and organ lay down the background as Mac Powell's vocals come in, delivering a praise song based on Psalm 36.
Time is an album of praise and encouragement. It's a "feel good" album for any mood you're in. If you need to feel close to God, just meditate on songs like "Your Love, Oh Lord," "I've Always Loved You," "Can't Take the Pain" (a song about how Peter must have felt after he had betrayed Christ), "Sky Falls Down," (a song the band describes simply as "a happy little ditty about the end of the world"), and the album-closer, "Give." Although not my favorite track on the disc, "Give" is a phenomenal piece of musical composure. Another praise song to our Savior about accepting not only His love, but the hard times as well, "Give" is a well-crafted song of 8+ minutes that will be a concert highlight and a great song to get your spirit "moving."
Third Day has produced and crafted yet another great record. Time is definitely one of the best albums of the year!
don't get bored
These kids fill up this disc with tons o fun. It starts off with a hilarious dramatization about some angry neighbors, who tell the rehearsing band to, "turn it down!" While fun to listen to, the music is nothing to laugh at. Those of you who heard the single "Fill The Gaps" from last issue's HM Hard Music Sampler CD will be able to attest that these four guys can lay down some hefty sounds. The gang vocals and tasty distorted guitars remind me of The Blamed.
Smiley Kids are into diversity, though. "Plants Are Dying" sounds wo-oh-oh-so close to The Ramones, while "Frowney Clowney" flirts with ska upbeats. The guitar in "Love Your Enemies" even takes an emo and melodic rock approach, while the vocals could be more associated with pop punk. Comparisons to Dogwood would not be too far off here.
In light of all the fun and diversity are some heartfelt lyrics. Calls to unity, love, perseverance and pure speech comfortably find themselves alongside an invitation to skateboard down a killer hill. These guys are fun, and they're the real deal.
|The Halo Friendlies
Since HM has gone on record to use the word "chick" in this issue's Hard Music Sampler CD, then I guess it's okay to call this "Chick Rock." While the last Halo Friendlies album was fun to listen to, it did not have near the maturity and sonic care that this 5-song EP does. The songs are solid, a little more serious, played better, and the production is top notch. Nice move by the band to fly past the "novelty stage" in the perceptions of the music buying public.
Another change is the lyrical direction, which goes beyond the silly "Flake-O in my scalp-o" tag to a slightly more eternal focus. "I don't want to see you that way again / Is there a fire in your soul?" ("Falling Away"). The title track seems to parallel the earlier warnings to other girls (a "watch out for these kinds of boys" vibe), but is less silly.
I'm reminded of the time that I saw a girl named Jana Payne skate vert in the pool at the infamous Concrete Wave skatepark in Anaheim many years ago -- it's so fun to watch girls tear it up and compete on a level playing field with their male counterparts. The Halo Friendlies are now doing that.
the fine art of self-destruction
This project, which has apparently been on the back-burner for awhile, is the self-produced work of Steve Curtsinger and Jerry McBroom (both formerly of Bride). Definitely a departure from Bride, this 10-song disc has a nice aggressive feel to its decidedly hard alternative sound. Rapid fire distorted guitars sometimes slam the brakes to float into some dreamy vocals. While the overall production misses a little bit of headroom (I can't seem to turn it up loud enough), the pieces of the puzzle are very good. I really like the guitar tones and vocals.
For a musical reference, think hyper Grammatrain or Alice in Chains covering Audio Adrenaline songs without the limitations of a "Nashville sound" to cater to. Lyrically, the band writes with a staccato delivery in mind, making it seem like the songwriter was drinking a lot of coffee while penning these tunes. Introspective, yet full of nervous energy and decidedly dark. While not of the billboard variety, it is obvious upon close inspection that these songs either cry out to the Lord or are prayers to Him for change.
welcome to the future
Since The Beatles and PFR are no more (slap yourself in the face if you didn't know these facts!), someone has to carry the multi-vocal harmony flag. These guys do a splendid job. Songs like "Flowers" cascade along inside your head like puffy white clouds, joined by sharp pop hooks. Those waiting for funny / quirky numbers like "Spaceman" will have to settle for a less-heavy "Easy Chair," which starts off with a subdued choral take a la the Stones' intro to "You Can't Always Get What You Want," and then kicks in with a real pop rock boppy feel a la Audio Adrenaline or Geoff Moore. Lyrically the band is very tight and sharp. Their wit and psychedelic sugary sweet melodies conjure up ./images of Jellyfish. "Ride The Wave" is sung in a Daniel Amos sort of way, while the lyrics bite down on the lack of creativity sometimes seen in the Christian music scene.
Finally, I can't leave out the fact that I'm disappointed in this album. I miss their heavy and progressive grooves, which only show their heads briefly on this release. But, like the Galactic Cowboys, they find a way to make sweet sugar pop cool again with just the right amount of solid state amplification. Case in point C the aptly titled "Sugar." One of the departure tricks they play is an ode to their old hometown C Minneapolis C and that famous purple man C Prince. The soft, pouting vocals are the first tribute, and then the lyrics bring up the "party like it's 1999" line. Nice tip of the hat.
Don't be fooled by the title, Welcome To The Future is a romp back into the past of sixties British psychedelic pop music. These guys belong in an Austin Powers soundtrack.
Power Jams. That has an uncanny resemblance to Jock Jams, doesn't it? Unfortunately, I believe that this is exactly what is trying to be done here. What essentially surfaces is a 21-track CD with a lot of dance / techno remixes as well as some songs in their original album format.
The first real song on the disc is "Super Good Feeling" by Bleach, which happens to be one of my favorite songs from their Static CD. The difference here is that this is the Abig beat euro mix" version. I'll admit, I think this song could sound good done as a remix, but here they absolutely butchered the song, layering it with ultra-cheesy basketball game sounding tracks. "I Will Carry You" by Rebecca St. James is also remixed, and though sounding better than the Bleach track, it still doesn't sound good. Deliriou5? is a band that should not be put through the pain of a dance remix, as evidenced by their track; the same goes for Considering Lily. The mix of "Shine" by the Newsboys is interesting, to say the least, but it is better than most. DC Talk's "Jesus Is Just Alright" appears in its original format, but then again, so does a song by Crystal Lewis. I guess I am not quite following the logic here.
Well, if you're wondering if there are any good songs on this CD, there is some hope. The remix of "I Need Your Love" by Raze is very cool, and "Quasar" by Smalltown Poets is also quite good. MC Hammer's well-known "Pray" also appears.
But this CD just reeks too much of old Velveeta. Whether it is the "Power Jams Spiritleaders" leading some cheesy cheer or Carman (no, I am not kidding) with a "power mix" of "People of God," I generally just cringe at what is entering into my ears. Maybe if this was a bit more original, and if the remixes had a bit of flare to them, and if the band selection was better, and...
Where has this band been all my life? What a great sound! To misquote my favorite film, Christmas Vacation, "If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I couldn't be more excited than I am right now." These guys have a modern, kind of Beatles sound, and the lead singer Del Currie sounds a lot like Sting.
This album starts off with a bang. The first song, "Collide," is very cool. The lyrics are simple and brief: "It's you . . . you make my worlds collide. You make my life complete. You let them see me, see me." The album continues in coolness throughout the next three or four songs like "Under My Skin," "Something Must Be Happening" and "Pretty You." Just before song six, you hear a man named Leon Whitey Thompson talk about going to Alcatraz. The song that follows is called . . . that's right -- "Alcatraz." Fono mellows up a bit with "Now She's 24" and finishes with "All Falls Down." "All Falls..." has a lovely string accompaniment. The beginning of the song sounds like the music they play on T.V. when someone's trapped in the house of mirrors at the carnival and they're about to get eaten by aliens, the blob, etc . . . a lot of different sounds going on at once. "All Falls Down" really starts to build, though, and crescendos into a really intense finish. I think I'll listen to it again.
Jump Up! Records
When I got this record in the mail, I almost placed it in the "secular / listen to once before filing" pile. I mean, besides No Innocent Victim, what other Christian band had distribution through Victory Records? Apparently, I was wrong! These eight fine musicians are all Wheaton College graduates, and are playing out and around the Chicago area quite a bit. Thus, the distribution deal with Victory. These guys and gal take a swing style slant at ska a la One Eighty, complete with the bouncy vocals and witty lyrics of Kelly Zouhary. Most all the songs are about relationships, but there's lyrics printed from Psalm 100, as if it's a hidden bonus track. I can't find it.
If you're looking for fun, then runforyerlife.
Here's some wonderfully heavy music. While not as insane as the first Embodyment CD, this band screams many a grindcore vocalist into the ground. The swelling hardcore groove that develops underneath is very contagious. It's no wonder why the indie label Cataclysm Records picked 'em up for this debut record -- Decrepit Lessons Crossing Imperfections. Fans of hardcore and metal would do very well to check these guys out. For ordering info, write: Cataclysm Records, 1028 Roosevelt St, South Bend IN 46616
--Doug Van Pelt
This band doesn't live up to their name, which is a good thing. While the production is of low-quality, the thrashy metal is fairly potent. For ordering info, write: Caixa Postal 1512, 301 23-970, Belo Horizonte - MG, Brazil
Another Bob (this one not an acronym) have emerged on the ska scene. These entertainers mix the fun of some rap and funk with the horns with some serious lyrics, tackling hate-filled racist co-workers, love lost, and seeing the real person behind the mask. The fun sound and lyrics come together in "Deer!" where the band talks about trying to avoid deer on the road. For ordering info, write: Frog Ska Records, Matthew Jenkins, 127 Hamon Drive, Scott Depot WV 25560
Jim cranks out some clean melodic arena rock on his '94 disc, Love Enough. Simple melodies and lyrics about the love and grace of God adorn the talented guitar playing and pleasant vocals. Much of the sound is safe enough for the Christian CHR radio format, which is the direction he pretty much exclusively goes for on his '99 release -- A Greater Love. For ordering info, send a SASE to: 524 14th Street South #3, Fargo ND 58103
This young band from Tyler, Texas has an infectious poppy and grungy sound. The first of these four songs has a melodic groove not too unlike the dc Talk song "My Friend (So Long)," but don't think the band is all pop. The dirty guitars and heavy vibe are all over. Even the melodic ballad "Can't Be With You" carries a Southern grunge sound. "Bent To Fit" hammers away with all the cylinders of this quartet. These guys are very promising, and are ready to deliver now. For ordering info, write: Plastic House Productions, PO Box 8841, Tyler TX 75711
This second album from this Arizona trio unsigned and indie. It's hard to understand why they're not being pushed by a label, as they have a really good sound. Imagine Plankeye, a little Puller, and Matchbox 20 in a Skillet, getting fried up. I really like these guys. Their "Anthem Song" is mine. Lyrics like this need to be affirmed: "We stand firm on God's grace / Forever in His presence / With hands raised to the Holy One." The big surprise hit of last year's Tom Fest hits back with a strong second release. I'd buy this in a heartbeat. For ordering info, write: 4636 W. Becker Ln, Glendale AZ 85304
|Youth In Submission
Now here's a band with a cool attitude about God! Fast and furious old school punk gets played here a little off-key (vocally), but with plenty of energy, which help make up for the sonic negatives. Sometimes it appears like they're having to look at each other to get the timing (almost) right on the BGV's. Sloppy but fun. To order this 11-song tape, send $6 to: Josh Seibert, 28079 Croco Place, Canyon Country CA 91351
Removed This, Kingdom Records' fifth sampler disc, is 17 tracks of indie hard music. Standouts include Candle, with their heavy groovecore sound; Face of Humanity's intense hardcore sound (love those metal guitars!); the trance-metal riffing of Paradigm Lost (AReason"); the chunky guitars of Soul Pool; the big bad ugly groove by Father Son ("Big B's Rhapsody"); and For ordering info, write: Kingdom Records, PO Box 210883, Columbia SC 29221-0883
Here's a collection of biker rock style hard rock by bassist/vocalist Marty Ruckle, featuring the bluesy guitar playing of smalltown guitar hero Steve Spayde. The vocals keep the music from crossing over to hard rock and pop circles, but the playing underneath and the melodic feel of the vocal lines fit the biker genre quite well. The instrumentals, "Dreams of Day One" and "Jammin With Spayde," have some very tasty playing between Marty's bass and Steve's guitar. Parts of the testimonial "Addiction" tune's vocal lines sound similar to that of the classic "Warpigs," only toned down a few notches attitude-wise. To order, send $9.95 (or $14.95 for the disc and a VHS video of the song "Addiction") to: 1003 John Sims Pkwy, Niceville FL 32578
Here's a Hootie / Third Day acoustic style mod rock band made up of the remnants of Monogamous Fish and Four Man Furnace. One non-musical moment that's very interesting is a short testimony about vocalist Clayton King being on a plane next to the Chili Pepper's lead vocalist while on a trip from India, where the conversation turned to God. Funny and melodic, but mostly mellow, laid-back rock. For ordering info, write: Hero Recording Co, PO Box 393, Boiling Springs NC 28017
Chugga-chugga-chugga. Pass the cheese metal, it's War Blade. While not bad, this outfit goes after a heavy sound that's rooted in basic garage sonics. You hear Sabbath influences, and you want to hear these Brazilians succeed, but the plane just won't take off and enter the arena of killer metal. For ordering info, write: A/C Eduardo Vaz-Rua Abolicao, 311 Centro, Nova Lima / MG, Brasil 34000-000
Modern rock with some radio friendly highlights, like the lead-off track ("Change") that bring to mind Collective Soul and Plankeye. The vocals don't sound as urgent as they perhaps would had a producer pushed Aaron Stone to tears prior to entering the vocal booth. This keeps the band from being over the top great, but good is still better than average. To order, send $15 to: PO Box 393, Sanford NC 27330
Their self-described style is "loop punk." At $3 a tape, these guys seem to realize that they're not offering a professional recording. The vocals sound just... well, let's say, "only a mother could love them!" To order this 10-song tape of punk rock, send $3 to: Steve Jackson, 8 Rutledge Ave, Greenville SC 29617
|Next In Line
These punks from Santa Cruz have only been together for about 8 months prior to this recording, but you can already tell that they have a purpose -- to rock your world, buddy! Utilizing good instrumentation, creative guitar lines and drum fills, Next In Line is ready to move up. For ordering info, write: c/o Jeff Hazen, 216 San Augustine Way, Scotts Valley CA 95066
|Never The Less
Oh yeah, come screaming out at me, you punk rock attitude! Those lovely distorted guitars and frenetic pace brings home the urgency. It's got the melody of pop and even old school punk, but the intensity of hardcore. I like it! To order this 8-song tape, send $5 to: 5301 US Hwy 27 S, Lake Wales FL 33853
This band, which stands for "Prayer Kills Demons," has a fairly good understanding of the metal groove. The fact that they seem to go all over the place here sometimes works against them. These guys, who state that 35 people have been in and out of the band since November, 95, show some real potential. If they could focus on some improved song writing, this mix of emo and metalcore could really kill. To order, send $5 (tape) or $10 (CD) to: 6425 Applewood Ct, Montgomery AL 36117
These modern rock popsters can keep a good beat and write a decent hook. Throw in a couple creative ideas, and you have a band that should get noticed. Some of the vocal lines turned me off at first, but their Collective Soul-like guitars reel me back in. I like it. For ordering info, write: Scott Whitehouse, 1822 Sunnyside Apt 8, Kalamazoo MI 49001
Wow! These Germans know how to create a brutal onslaught of death metal. The sonics + the musicianship are nice + crisp, and tight + clear. The tape starts off with some profanity, and one of the guys thanks Jesus as "the only solution in this (bleep) world." This disappoints an otherwise killer tape. To order, send $3 (plus postage for 4 ounces) to: c/o Oliver Tesch, Leinaeckerstr. 31, 71834 Weinstadt, Germany
This is the second band I've seen use this name, which was trademarked by the classic metal outfit from San Antonio over 9 years ago. The other Paradox is a techno / dance artist, but these guys are a metal band through and through -- all the way to the sometimes unblack vocals. It's interesting that the new co-vocalist, C.G., is not a believer in what he's screaming. Fans of extreme metal need to check this out. For ordering info, write: Tarantula Promotions, PO Box 21700, London E14 3YR, UK
|Towns / Dobbs Project
Here's some semi-melodic garage metal with female vocals. Due to the poor sonics, I can't imagine playing this on the radio, even if it's a show that plays old school metal. Some of the guitar playing is interesting, like the instrumental "Apollyon's Last Day." For ordering info, write: 2406 Clearwater #2, Bloomington IL 61704
Whoa yeah! Bring it on, boys! Here's some good ole hardcore, with screaming-like-it-means-something vocals. The instrumentation is tight, but at times doesn't match the urgency of the vocals. But that's only a minute part of the time. These four songs shred. I like the dirty metal guitar tones in the title-track, "Within The Guiding Hands." Set Apart shows real creativity in the breakdowns in ASufficient Grace," handling feedback well. For ordering info on this 4-song 7" vinyl, write: Finest Hour 12780 SW 26th St, Miami FL 33175
These young lads bootlegged their own ministry performance at an Alabama prison last January. This performance, though raw as heck, shows the band in high energy punk rock form. Almost a blues-inspired energetic punk show, as well as covering AI Saw The Light" and even doing a country polka-like "Jah-Shrine." To order, send $3 to: Arkam Records, 223 Ford Court Apt #3, Auburn AL 36830
|Rackets & Drapes
This band takes the tension felt in the shadows of our dysfunctional society and screams out in pain accompanied by guitars that convey the same feeling. The point gets across. The sick and twisted sounds of this band feel so good with lots of volume. This six-song EP (The Sick and the Beautiful) is a sneak preview at two songs from their upcoming Trick or Treat album ("Plastic Jesus" and "Kill Yourself"); as well as "The Haunted Remix" of the song "Love With A Fist," a new one called "XXX," followed by an interview with the band. This is a limited release on the band's home label, so order yours quick. Send $15 (includes shipping, but add $5 if Overseas) to: PO Box 100632, Denver CO 80250-0632 Make checks & money orders payable to Fred Meyer.
|Bad Little Duck
Here is a bizarre-sounding album with quite a prolific catalog. Funky are the two key words here ("fun" is part of "funky"), as the grooves are deep and the lyrical humor is wide. Cudos to their rhythm section, who keep churning out the big phat grooves in each tune. Danceable almost disco-like funk is going on, and it's cranked out rock and roll style. I hear very slight similarities to Living Colour and the ChannelSurfers. They are looney, but very tight. The song "Spiritual Warfare," featured on this issue's Hard Music Sampler CD, certainly showcases the band's harder side. For ordering info, write: c/o Christine Raymondaz, CharriPres 6, CH-2024 St-Aubin Switzerland
Here's a pretty fun ska band out of the St. Louis area. Song topics range from Mexican sombrero's to the return of Christ ("Heavenly Blitz," which is featured on this issue's Hard Music Sampler CD). Some of the performances are produced slightly loose, but the energy and tasty hooks keep the band going. For ordering info, write: Trent Hunter, 28 Burgundy Dr, Lake St Louis MO 63367
This talented prog rock outfit from Canada is back with another creative release -- Presents of Mind. The artwork is brilliant, featuring a brain flying across desert sands with a bow tied around it. The back cover shows a beat up DPS shipment with "organ donor" stickers all over it, then the back of the CD booklet shows a view of the contents from the top -- a large brain. The music inside is fairly similar to the melodic moments of Dream Theater, thanks in part to the fine vocals of Paul Rarick. The lyrics are very thoughtful and thought-provoking. Not an evangelistic band, per se, these guys get into some interesting subjects, like justice and truth ("Reasonable Doubt"). For ordering info on either disc or his compilation video -- Love Enough, write: Magna Carta, 208 East 51st St #1820, New York NY 10022
When I first looked at the picture of the band on this CD, I expected death metal. And though there are some growls, this is primarily speed / thrash with gruff yet clean vocals. These 2 guys and a girl can rock, though the mix does get muddy when they go into warp speed. Overall, this is a solid CD from a band I would like to see live. (Be sure to check out their song on this issue's Hard Music Sampler CD) To order The Dark Unknown, send $8 to: Jeremy Brown, PO Box 546, Lathrop CA 95330
|Sleeping by the Riverside / Carry the Dead
This split CD starts with an amazing emo-influenced hardcore track by Sleeping by the Riverside. Their remaining 4 tracks are pretty much in the hardcore vein a la Strongarm, but with more of an emo influence -- all very well-played. The remaining 4 tracks are played by Carry the Dead. This stuff is different. It's pretty much hardcore with 2 voices that either trade off or sometimes gang shout -- one primarily screamy hardcore, and the other shrieky black metal type vocals. There is even some deathy vocals in some songs. This is very eclectic-sounding hardcore. Overall, this is a pretty good CD. For ordering info, write: Takehold Records, PO Box 19831, Birmingham AL 35219
Well, after having heard rumors that these guys had broken up, here they come with a brand new CD. It seems like they decided to shrug off most of the Metallica soundscapes that dominated their first disc. What ensues is some seriously crunchy, very tightly played, thrashy heavy metal. Though perhaps nothing completely new-sounding, this CD sounds very good, with great song-writing and a very heavy groove throughout. To order, send $12 to: Godfather Records, PO Box 19786, OKC OK 73144
It's been way too long for another release from these guys. The new news on this release is that Jayson Sherlocke is not drumming here (Mark Orr is) and ex-Seventh Angel guitarist Ian Arkley played the guitars and co-wrote much of the material. The doom sound is still prominent here and much of the material is slow, but Ian's presence is definitely felt in faster tunes, like, AI'm Not To Blame," with its classic metal riffing. Many of the songs almost flow together to create almost an opus of doom. Look no further for heavy as stink metal. For ordering info, write: Cross Rhythms Music, 3030 N. Josey Ln #101-212, Carrollton TX 75007
Here's some hard alternative hybrid music with female lead vocals. The guitar tones are really cool throughout. The vocals trade off between the lovely of one and the growly thrashy vocals of another. Imagine Klank offering his services to Broomtree and you'll get a glimpse of the idea. Nice combination that works. For ordering info, write: PO Box 2663, West Lafayette IN 47906
These two bands (Embodiment and Embodyment) have always caused confusion with the joint use of their name. The "i" version is from Australia and, like their Texas counterparts, they started out as a death metal band. I hadn't heard much from these guys since the "y" version turned the world upside-down last year with its metalcore hyrbrid debut album. These Aussies have now taken a hardcore turn with their sound as well. They're not as fast and all over the place as the "y" version, and their "scream till veins pop in your neck and head" vocals sound more like another Dallas metalcore band -- Society's Finest. The wonders of the world never cease. In summary, you have one totally killer package here -- from the brutal attack musically to the fine artwork. For ordering info, write: PO Box 142, Daw Park, SA 5041, Australia
This fine Swedish band (featured on last issue's Hard Music Sampler CD) turn in a fine rock effort of the pop variety. They remind me quite a bit of Daniel Amos, in wit and vocal melodies. Attention is slightly more roots rocky than their quirky American counterparts, though. Some of the guitar tones, for instance, are reminiscent of the fuzzy wah of Collective Soul ("Up on the Mountain"). For ordering info, write: Feedback Records, PO Box 1542, SE-701 15 Orebro, Sweden
Here's some metal with influences like Metallica . . . lots of chopping riffs and angry shout vocals. The guitars, of course, have a definite bite to them. Sometimes the sonics come up short in showcasing all that's here. Tourniquet has had an influence on them as well, it seems. Pretty good stuff. For ordering info, write: PO Box 546, Lathrop CA 95330
This band, formerly known as Iron Faith, have come a long way. This new album is easily their best. The biggest improvement has come in the vocal department. Mostly throaty shouts, they fit the groove metal sound well. Some of the tunes, like "Repent," slow down to a British Steel pace, but the vocal lines come up short and there's not a wall of sound accompanying the guitars. Overall, I still get the feeling that Wrench is more interested in reaching the biker crowd than the Pantera crowd, let's say. For ordering info, write: 555 S. Glenwood, Independence MO 64053
Oh my gosh! These guys have come back with a wealth of attitude, metal bite, and intensity! I sure like this disc. Super fast guitar riffs pummel away, while thrashy vocals keep the pace going fast. There's nice variety here, as big deep grooves hammer away. There's cool sampling and just killer riffs, like "Child's Play," which starts off with the sounds of school. This riff would make a Marilyn Manson or Klank freak happy. The vocals overall are what make this album so hot. This one comes highly recommended for those that love it loud. For info, write: PO Box 14, Hurst IL 62949
These four Alabama boys unleash four heavy songs here, covering lots of ground, but keeping it within the realm of death metal with hints of the drumming and chunky grooving of metalcore. While the sonics aren't as brutal as the sound, this is still a good offering. For ordering info, write: 122 Rita Ave, Spanish Fort AL 36526
I like Driven's mixture of melodic emo-like pop that features nice screaming shifts into screaming vocals and dirty distorted guitars. Their track on this issue's Hard Music Sampler CD is a good example of the band's dynamics and penchant for rocking out when they decide it's time, and settling back into a pop groove when it's appropriate for that. These guys definitely have something good going. For ordering info, write: 101 Kent Ct, Niceville FL 32578
|Fountain of Tears
Okay, so you're like me . . . you've been wondering and waiting to hear from any member of Believer since their dissolution years ago. Well, that wait is over. Joey Daub has finally come out of hiding, and he's playing with Erik Ney and Mike DiDonato of Sacrament and Jeff King from Sardonyx. Coming from their respective thrash backgrounds, you might be surprised with what they've come up with. The band is focused around the beautiful vocals of Anna DeRose, who reminds me of that vocalist who appeared on Bjorn Stigsson's solo album ten years ago. The music behind her vocals is of the Dream Theater / prog-rock variety. The instrumentation is exceptional -- especially the luscious guitar tones coming from Mike DiDonato's machine. So, the suspense is over for Believer fans, but the word is out to prog rockers -- get into Fountain of Tears. You will not be disappointed this way. For ordering info, write: PO Box 9016, Lancaster PA 17604-9016
These guys keep cranking out the songs, and evolving in sound, as well. This emo band is discovering more and more the joys of pure pop heaven -- mixing it, of course, with those lovely guitar tones you hear in the emo scene. If The Juliana Theory cannot prove the theory, I'm sure these guys can pull it off. The first two songs here, "Just Dropping (A Line)" and "To The Concerned" a simply gems that will be heard over and over again. These guys rule. For ordering info, write: TakeHold Records, PO Box 19831, Birmingham AL 35219
I'm shocked! These guys have completed revamped their sound, yet they come off as if they've been playing this style for years. Very confident and commercially-appealing stuff, here. While previously dancing around the heavy sounds of metal metal metal, these Aussies have ventured into the realm of modern rock without sounding contrived or wimpy. Fans of Circle of Dust, fans of techno, fans of goth, fans of the low vocals of Type O Negative, fans of Joy Division, fans of good hard music really have something to love here. It's very unique, very heavy, and produced extremely well. I'm totally stoked over this release and will probably play it more than any other I've reviewed this issue (signed or indie). For ordering info, write: Cross Rhythms Music, 3030 N. Josey Ln #101-212, Carrollton TX 75007
As you may have read in last issue's Hard News, Tim and Dirk have started a new label called Gun Show Recordings. This Focused retro release is the first thing to come out on it. Besides hearing some great-sounding demos of unheard songs, you get treated to some intense live recordings. It's been awhile since I pulled out my Focused discs and played them, and this collection reminded me of why I should do that more often. Captured in the live recording is both the tension that existed at their shows and the fan unity. We hear one audience member recite the preaching intro that starts off the Bow record. For ordering info, write: PMB 347, 5318 E 2nd St, Long Beach CA 90803-5354
These guys play a heavy style of hardcore with definite old school influence, like gang vocals. When the band dials in intensity, they strike it perfectly. While the vocals aren't your commercial favorites, the song dynamics and chord structures remind me a lot of old Crucified, although not as metallic. For ordering info, write FaceDown Records, PO Box 1202, Escondido CA 92033
Emo, emo, emo! How many emo bands have you heard lately? You know what's great about this scene? I just haven't heard any signed emo bands (indie or "major") that stink. Anyway, Recess Theory, while jumping on the emo and the "use the word 'theory' in your name" bandwagon, are very good. John Ralston's vocals are very melodic yet raspy. The two guitars give the overall sound a real fullness. For ordering info, write: TakeHold Records, PO Box 19831, Birgmingham AL 35219
These guys are back with another quality album. I'm reminded of Morella's Forest many times, due to the dreamy vocals of Magdelyn Waggoner and the fuzzy guitars of Jared Ostrander (the Pretender, perhaps?). There's a cool spy vibe in "Drive" that showcases this MF comparison well, although Maggie sings at a slower tempo than Sidney. Jesse Sprinkle makes a guest appearance here on percussion, as well as producing these dreamy sounds. For ordering info, write: PO Box 344, Axtell NE 68924
|Forty Five Degrees
Here's some good worship. Sonically I'm reminded at times of the Sanctuary Praise Band, and the worship team at England's Meltdown Conference. Some great songs are covered here, including ALight The Fire Again" and the swing-ish "Therefore the Redeemed." Some of the classics don't sound great, but the bright spots here shine. "Ain't No Rock" reminds me of the fast cowpunk of Dakoda Motor Co., and a real oldie like "When I Survey" gets some violin that takes it back to where it sounds like the soundtrack for a Civil War movie. To order, send $12 to: 316 Coraopolis Rd, Coraopolis PA 15108
Oh yeah! Nice 'n' meaty metalcore. Mixing eye-popping vocals with growling toughens up the sound tons. The guitars and drums sound great here, especially when the double bass is just blasting away. Corey really does a good job of holding down all the guitar duties, beefing up the rhythm section as well as spotlighting with solo crunching. This band rocks! For ordering info, write: TakeHold Records, PO Box 19831, Birmingham AL 35219
Wow! Here's a creative project. Someone's taken the chaotic and bizarre M.O. of a band like Frodus and has applied it to the realm of heavy (maybe gothic-like) industrial. Very trippy. Lots of lyrics about bountyhunting and killing. Lots of spellbinding samples, and loads of churning, distorted guitars with haunting, multi-layered vocals. An aural joyride into dementia. Very cool. For ordering info, write: PO Box 305, Dongola IL 62926
"12 members, 8 tours, 13 recordings, over 300 shows, forever DIY, endlessly broke, eternally blessed . . . so what happens now?" This line in the liner notes captures it best. These hardworking punks here lay down some different and new material with these four songs. "Tender" starts things off showing this band making the shift into emo-land. Then they slam back out into the middle ground between new school hardcore and old school punk with "Bloodwater." The guys are stinkin' serious on this recording, and they play like they mean it. I'm impressed. The fourth track, "Metal," even has a melodic punk pop a la Dogwood feel to the impassioned vocals. Awesome stuff! Maybe the band will get more of the recognition they've worked so hard to deserve... So, what now? For ordering info, write: Quietboy Recordings, PO Box 126562, Benbrook TX 76126
|Fools Rush In Where Angels Dare Not Tread
TakeHold Records has now fully arrived. Their roster of artists and their list of friends who are glad to work with them is long and loaded. Both types of bands are represented here -- from label standouts like Underoath and TwoThirtyEight to friends like The Blamed and Stairwell. This 17-song disc runs the gamut from intense hardcore you've gotta hear (like Sleeping By The Riverside), to some lovely emo pop to fresh and dreamy distortion overload (Through The Eyes Of Katelyn). One listen to this disc and you'll be convinced of the quality and seriousness of this new indie label. Write: TakeHold Records, PO Box 19831, Birmingham AL 35219
|Through the Eyes of Katelyn
What has Jesse Smith done? Did Brett Detar's departure for The Juliana Theory get to him? Did it make him sing, "Anything you can do, I can do better?" This solo project is lush full of dreamy vocals, deceptively trance-like raw romping that lulls you to mellowness one minute, then slams you with brick wall distorted vocals and guitars that buzzsaw your brains out. What a wonderful project! There's something for the Starflyer fan, the emo fan, the Puller fan, and perhaps even the hardcore "I can scream louder than Klank" fan (at times, like the song "Youth Minister With Boxing Gloves"). The wonderful achievement of this disc is not only the compositions, but the breathy vocal delivery of perhaps metalcore's finest drummer -- sir Jesse. For ordering info, write: TakeHold, PO Box 19831, Birmingham AL 35219
This prolific outfit is once again mysteriously out of a record deal, so they've released this 7-song disc called King Planet on their private-issue Nowhere Music label. The title track finds the band rocking as loud and straight-up as ever, with nice layered vocals and phat distorted guitars. There's definitely some reminders of the late great Mortal here... The band is sounding fantastic here. Fans of anything on MTV in the last ten years, from INXS to Depeche Mode could find something to cling to here. Purists will love the dreamy ALunar Wave," which could easily be the soundtrack of a new Volkswagon commercial or something. While always loving the music these guys have created, I've never fully embraced the Fold Zandura incarnation . . . until now. This stuff is too good for it's own good. For ordering info, write: PO Box 551, Bryn Mawr CA 92318
This band just plain shreds. Not as in shred guitar noodling, but simply amazing metalcore. The tune "Tell Me" has some very cool melodic background vocals. These guys are very, very heavy, yet fly at supersonic speeds with a hardcore edge and fury. To order this tape, send $4 to: JT, 108 Florence St, Lebanon IL 62254
Return to Current Issue