Label Reviews

STAVESACRE, Speakeasy, Tooth & Nail
When a group makes music that strikes a chord with its listeners, an anxious anticipation overtakes the audience every couple of years, as they wait for a new collection of songs. The wait is finally over for Stavesacre fans . . . and this fan is grateful. This gratitude took a while to develop, though. Friction the band’s debut, was an "instant like" for me. The follow-up, Absolutes, took awhile before its mellower songs, like "Sand Dollar," became favorites that stood up there with great tunes like "Threshold" and "At The Moment" I had to keep Speakeasy in my disc player for several days, pouring it into my ears until I was completely familiar with it. This is a good practice for any review, especially those noteworthy releases, but the real test comes long after the review has been printed. The true test is: Does it get played again strictly for enjoyment? It would’ve been a surprise if this release had not passed this test, but the quality herein makes this concern a no-worry situation. This album is showing the same promise of soon becoming a staple in this reviewer’s musical diet. This band crafted its own identity right out of its starting blocks, leaving behind the stigma and trappings of the previous bands the individual players came from. Stavesacre has never been a band that’s just chased riffs, trying to be heavy. This identity and direction towards melody was pronounced even more clearly on Absolutes and continues to push its way in Speakeasy. The band’s melodic leanings are explored more fully here. The opening track, "Minuteman," for instance, takes a plodding tempo that allows the swelling bass sounds and solid drumming to breathe. Vocalist Mark Soloman shows restraint with passion, which surely departs from his delivery in either Crucified, Native Son, or Outer Circle material. What’s great about a band like this is the fact that, even though they aren’t trying to prove themselves in the muscular metal arena, they don’t depart from heaviness when it’s needed. When this band wants to rock, they blow you away. It doesn’t hurt that they play tight together; and it’s kinda fun to hear some punk influence creep in during fast songs like "You Know How It Is." The coup de grace of the album is cover of "Fascination Street," a tight tribute that bears the Stavesacre stamp as much as it does The Cure. While fitting more closely to creative bands like Orange 9mm, Stavesacre still has many similar characteristics to its emo cousins, without easily being lumped into that category. Little tiny chiming guitar pickings, like the ones in "Keep Waiting," make sure the connection isn’t lost. Lyrically, the band seems to open up its heart for surgery, as well as those of its listeners, without hitting anyone over the head. Poets would appreciate the lyrics here, while the realist would not be offended either. The 9th track; which according to the advance disc title list, doesn’t officially exist, states over and over that "No one knows the words we’ve spoken, the path we’ve chosen..." It’s not listed as a track on the album, yet it serves as a 3-minute, 37-second declaration that seems to confide that the audience doesn’t really know this artist, nor should it try to. As much as the audience does know, however, they have much reason to embrace this band. (Doug Van Pelt)

TRAINING FOR UTOPIA,
Throwing a wrench into the american music machine, Solid State Records Following an EP, a full-length, and a split EP with labelmates ZAO, Training for Utopia finally releases their second full-length CD. However, unlike the 3 previous efforts, this one will most likely not be found in your local Christian bookstore, as it has no such distribution. Don’t take that as a negative, however, as this is an awesome CD. I’ll start by attempting to describe the sound. Solid State Records had been calling this electric hardcore, or something along those lines. I didn’t know exactly what to expect from such a description, and I only partially agreed with it after giving the disc a few spins. My feeble attempt to classify this CD requires me to invent a term: "electro-industrial / chaos"-core. The music is still primarily hardcore in nature, but Training for Utopia makes use of sampled sounds and effects, and they rely heavily on techno beats and programmed drums for the more industrial feel. As for the chaos portion of my description...well, that pretty much sums up what the sound is like on this CD. This may be one of the most chaotic, most frenetic albums I have ever heard. The listener never knows what is going to come next, as the band performs lots of speed and style changes, almost without warning. One of my favorite tunes, "Burt Reynolds Vs. Godzilla," showcases this perfectly, as the band switches back and forth between acid techno with "normal" vocals and a super-ultra-distorted wall of sound with screamy hardcore vocals. Lyrically, this is a bit different. Most songs are short as far as the lyrics go, and many of the lyrics seem a bit enigmatic to me. "Burt Reynolds Vs. Godzilla" says: "I can’t be your everything / I could be your anything / My world is dead / Our world is dead," and the line "Our world is dead" is repeated a lot throughout the song. Perhaps the strangest song on the CD, "Everything, Including the Stars, Is Falling (Baby)," due to the fact that it is a slow, beautifully played and sung song, carries a sad feel: "Hey...have you lost the will to be? / Hey...Did you take me for a fool? / Was that you inside of me?" One of my other favorites is "New York City Is Overrated": "Big nights / Big city / Bright lights / No Life," and it ends with a continual chorus of "New York City is overrated!" Reading into some of the songs, I believe the band may be speaking of spiritual themes, but it is hard to know for sure. Overall, this is a very unique CD. Though I won’t understand why any hard music fan wouldn’t like it, I can imagine that a person would fall into one of two categories; either you’ll like it or you’ll hate it, just due to its uniqueness. I have yet to hear a band that melds sounds together like this. I absolutely love it, and I hope that Training for Utopia continues to mold this sound. (David Bixler)

GRAMMATRAIN, Live 120798, Forefront
1998 brought a sad occasion, the break-up of a fantastic band...Grammatrain. This album, recorded live at Christmas Rock Night in Hagen Germany, sums up the trio’s career very well. Pete Stewart’s strong vocals matched by the equally strong bass of Dalton Roraback, kept together with the guiding beats of Paul Roraback’s driving drums. Production, done by Trevor Michael of ICC Studios, is top-notch. The mix was done very well, unlike some live recordings. Playing songs from Flying, Lonely House and covering Larry Norman’s "Six O’Clock News," I don’t think the audience was disappointed; I mean, all my favorite Grammatrain songs are on here! Starting out with "Less of Me," "Execution," "Pain," and "Fuse," I thought I was in Heaven. Then came "Flying," "Believe," and a wonderful speech by Stewart and how he has grown through the band. He also explained that he is on the stage not because he is something wonderful, but because of the grace of God and the gift God has given him and the Roraback brothers. They do what they do -- for and because of God. Stewart let the audience (and listeners) in on a secret . . . he knows almost no German! The crowd went wild over "Jonah" . . . not a big surprise. Before playing "Six O’Clock News," Stewart made it known how much respect he has for Larry Norman . . . quite a lot! Anyway, this is a definite must. You may have Lonely House. You may have Flying. What you also need is Grammatrain Live 120798. This is a great completion to a great band.(Gordon (a girl called))

BLINDSIDE, A Thought Crushed My Mind Solid State
After nearly two years since their stunning debut album, the Swedish heroes of emotional hardcore have finally unleashed their sophomore album upon an increasingly impatient public. With this release, a new musical direction is pursued. Gone are those grooves that you can’t help but move to, and the majority of the mellow singing parts that make you want to cry. Instead of creating melody in the midst of chaos, the band pursues a much more straight forward hardcore / punk sound complete with faster upbeat verses and scream-along choruses. Occasionally, there is a hint of the artsy hardcore the band used to play; they even have string arrangements for a couple of songs. But overall, the grooves and melody are almost completely replaced by frenzied hardcore. It’s as if someone slipped some speed in their orange juice just before they went into the studio. The vocals sound a lot more strained and hoarse in this one, but still powerful and convincing nonetheless. Check out track eight ("Nara"). The boys give a nod back to their native roots as vocalist Christian sings / screams the whole song in Swedish. Hearing the difficulty he had making the words fit, would lead me to believe that English is a much easier language to sing in. To be honest, I miss the schizophrenic instability of the first album; the painful melodies that would suddenly explode into monstrous grooves. This is in no way saying that this is not a good follow-up release; on the contrary, this latest release from our favorite Swedes will blow hardcore fans away. But for those of you expecting more of their debut, prepare yourself for change. (David M. Pogge)

EXTOL, Mesmerized, Solid State Records
After the tremendous success of Burial, the mighty Extol has released a very interesting EP. This version by Solid State is basically just a repackaging and U.S. release of the European version that has been available since June. What’s cool is that Solid State didn’t skimp on the packaging or anything, keeping the fancy digipak and great artwork. So, if you don’t have the European release, you are getting essentially the same thing. The first song on the CD, "Enthralled," is a brand new track, and it is nothing short of terrific. For those of you who were unable to obtain the Japanese pressing of Burial containing the bonus track "The Prodigal Son," this has been included as the second track. I always remember wondering if the bonus track was as good as I had been told. Well, I think that it is, as it displays some amazing black metal. The third track, which also happens to be my favorite, is a leftover from the Burial recording sessions. It kind of reminds me of a cross between the heavier Extol sound and the melodic sound of Schaliach. The diversity between the lush singing and the harsh black metal vocals makes for an awesome song. I can’t understand why this wasn’t included on Burial. The next three tracks are what truly make this CD "interesting." They are industrial remixes of three Extol songs, but not metal-influenced industrial like you might think. Instead, two tracks are remixed by Sanctum, giving forth a noise industrial black metal mix that you will have to hear to believe. If you are a fan of either Sanctum or Mental Destruction as well as the mighty Extol, you will appreciate the fourth and fifth song. I don’t particularly care for the last song, which is a remix done by Raison D’etre. To me, it sounds like noise with near muted Extol underneath. If you weren’t told it was an Extol song being remixed, I don’t think you’d ever be able to tell. Overall, I love this CD. It is always nice to get new tracks, and the industrial remixes provide a very unique twist. You’re missing out big if you don’t buy this disc -- plain and simple. I mean, they are the mighty Extol, are they not? (DB)

DENISON MARRS, Holding Hands (@35,000 ft), 6x6
This is emo core at its finest. Denison Marrs take the space rock of Humb, combine it with the raw emotion of Dear Ephesus, and melt it all together into a puddle of emotional bliss. If you’re like me, and you love the emotion and power of the emo sound, but hate the fact that the vocalists can never sing, your days of whining are over. Denison Marrs has arrived to finally master the full spectrum of emotion and talent. This CD has 12 songs that will put you in a state of euphoria with its huge overwhelming wall of beautiful yet chaotic tones enveloping everything in its path. There isn’t one song that seems better than the rest; all of them melt together into one continuing journey of melodic brilliance. That is not to say that any one of these songs couldn’t stand on their own; it is only to say that all the songs are so good that you won’t ever want to hit the skip button. This isn’t a "skip to your favorite song and then take it out" release. This is one you want to take in as a whole; it’s just that good. Lyrically, the same approach is taken as the music. Very poetic yet worshipful lyrics pour over the listening ears like soothing oil. Most of the songs are cries for help to the Lord or just pure adoration for Him. If this is a sign of what Six by Six will be putting out, then we definitely need to keep our eye on this new label; we’ll have a lot to look forward to. If you have been waiting for that perfect emo album that seemed would never come, do yourself a favor and buy this CD. (DMP)

WOOKY, Pseudo, 6x6
Hmmm, metal ska...no thanks. Those were my thoughts as I approached the venue where Stavesacre was scheduled to play and Wooky was on stage as the first of what seemed like a million openers. I had seen their advertisements a few places and had already decided that whatever "metal ska" was, it wasn’t for me. So, I did what any open minded, well rounded music critic would do: I stood outside and talked to my friends. Shame on me. Judging by this CD, I missed out on quite a treat. Hailing from the home of Royal Mounties and William Shatner, Wooky deliver a brilliantly unique style of ska-core that would have even the toughest of rudeboys skanking their guts out. Chewbacca would be proud. As far as the metal label, in a way it has merit, but I think 6x6 should have thought twice about marketing them under that. You see, quite often we new schoolers have a tendency to see the word metal and run screaming out of ignorance of the wonderful rocking goodness that a metal influence can be. If I were them, I would have just advertised this album as ska-core, and once the catchy ska hooks had taken hold, I might mention a slight metal inclination. So, all labels aside, I think this is the best band that Canada has brewed up since Our Lady Peace; and the best Christian ska band since Five Iron Frenzy. While we’re on the subject of Five Iron, I think that would make the ultimate tour; Wooky and Five Iron Frenzy. Brilliant. While I’m sitting here patting myself on the back, you should be rushing out to buy this album. (DMP)

HANGNAIL, BEC
While their name may suggest nerve-wracking anguish and irritation, Hangnail deliver quite the opposite with their soothing blend of quality pop pleasure for your well tuned listening ears. As is becoming the trend for the Brandon Ebel / Tooth & Nail empire, this album is melodic punk rock through and through. Luckily, for all of us who are growing weary of the recent excess of this genre, Hangnail pull out of the tide of common three-chord punk and establish a signature sound that truly stands out among the throngs of MxPx clones. These guys’ CD towers must be packed with metal classics. There are times where, if you added some fog, lights, a little bit of hair spray and some operatic vocals, you’d have Cinderella all over again. Don’t let that stop you from giving this disc a chance, though. While they definitely dabble in some old school metal sounds, Hangnail don’t in anyway back away from their punk rock roots. There’s no cheese here. The only way these guys may wander off from the path of nonconformity is that they show an unusual amount of technical proficiency in their music. These young punksters have a lot of creative elements that the average band in this genre would only dream of having. Lots of monster riffs, tight harmonies and larger than life sing-along choruses saturate this CD from start to finish. From that description, you’d think it was metal, wouldn’t you? Complimenting the pop melodies are the uplifting lyrics. Sometimes serious, sometimes tongue in cheek, these lyrics display a great sense of humor, but more importantly a devotion to Christ that could touch the most jaded of hearts. Imagine if the vocalist for Craig’s Brother (a little less nasal), got together with Slick Shoes’ Jackson and decided to put out a catchy pop punk album with Jackson’s shredding leads and riffs to complement the melody. Hangnail would be the result. I give two thumbs up to this latest wave to crash ashore in the ever-growing tide of melodic punk rock. (DMP)

BLEACH, Forefront
If you are like me and the name Bleach conjures up nightmares of pizza party youth groups that mosh at Carman concerts and think that DC Talk is definite hard rock, do yourself a favor and get over it. In their third attempt, Bleach surpass both previous releases with luscious pop melodies and straight-forward, uplifting lyrics about a loving God that hopefully each of us knows. The only downside to this album is the production. When you take a young band that knows how to rock and put them in a studio with your average Nashville / CCM producer, the result is less than spectacular. Any attempt the guys make to truly rock out is viciously processed away into smelly ricotta cheese. At least it’s good cheese. That’s why I prefer the acoustic cuts; not because I’m a yuppie, but because there’s not as much the producer can do to ruin it. Bleach need to pull out of the Nashville sludge and get a producer that will do them justice. Overall, this is a great album, with insanely catchy songs and moving ballads that will bring tears to your eyes time and time again. The songwriting is top notch, the guitar work is excellent, and the vocals have far surpassed anything they have done to date. This disc could quite possibly end up in my personal collection, but don’t tell anyone; it might ruin my anti-corporate image. (DMP)

STARFLYER 59, Everyone Makes Mistakes, Tooth and Nail
This is what you would call a masterpiece; a way to remove all remaining doubt in your mind of the pure pop genius of Jason Martin’s song-crafting. With their seventh CD release to date, Jason and Co. once again deliver the goods without disappointment. Soft, dreamy vocals, 70’s style drums and an overall relaxing, atmospheric vibe all have their place here, taking Starflyer’s signature sound to the next level. The only fans that will be disappointed are those who are still lamenting the loss of the massive distortion and endless feedback characterizing Starflyer’s earlier releases. Instead of drowning a mediocre song in overwhelming guitars layered on top of each other, Jason allows the much stronger dynamics of his new songs to stand on their own on this one. The results are nothing less than amazing. While sounding much more stripped down, there are still some subtle hints of electronic instrumentation. But, before all of you gung-ho guitar-only enthusiasts write Starflyer off as another wayward rock band caught in the tide of the new electronica, listen for yourself and try appreciating the songs for the beautiful works of art that they are. The wispy electronics and programmed drum loops will pull you helplessly into the music before you realize what’s hit you. Once you’re sucked in, your only hope will be to bask in the melodies that envelope you. After you’re nice and relaxed from all nine songs the CD has to offer, sit back and wait for the hidden track at the end to finish off the job and put you in a complete state of euphoria. The most relaxing instrumental piece you’ll ever hear will fill the room like a sweet perfume as the smooth saxophone sounds pour over the guitar and piano. Amazing. With this latest album, Starflyer 59 have quite possibly surpassed all of their previous material while adding an irreplaceable gem to their treasure chest of releases. (DMP)

WYRICK, Aggressive State, Rugged
The sophomore release from Rugged Record’s electronic axeman, Wyrick, has arrived, delivering some intense industrial noise that’s sure to be a hit with fans of Stabbing Westward, Circle of Dust, Chatterbox, and Klank. While the similarities to the aforementioned bands are clearly present, Wyrick has his own streak of originality that sets him apart as a legitimate musician and not just another wannabe. Everything from the top quality production to the intricately arranged programming and instrumentation on this album are excellent, displaying the multifaceted talents of the artist. The only song that I don’t really care for is "Second Coming." It’s a decent song, but the lyrics are delivered in a rap style sounding as if EDL teamed up with Klay Scott (Circle of Dust). While I am an avid fan of rapcore and any type of experimental music, I have come to the conclusion that rap and industrial mix about as well as milk and lemon juice. Apart from this one setback, though, this is a very strong release that should have cyber kids everywhere banging their keyboards with glee. (DMP)

BEAN BAG, Free Signal, Inpop
There’s been a lot of buzz around the office about this new band, and I had decided that it was high time I find out why. Lucky for me, this CD ended up on my desk to be reviewed; so not only did I get to finally check them out, but now I get to tell everyone else what I think of it. There is no doubt as to what the guys in Beanbag believe, as the first thing you hear on the CD is, "Jesus will never let you go!" screamed out at full volume in a thick Australian accent. Immediately following this passionate cry, an enormous groove will take you by surprise and slap you silly with its shredding guitar riff. Since this disc is laden throughout with hardcore riffs, dangerously contagious grooves and often rap style vocals, the easiest thing to do would be to lump it into the ever-growing rapcore category and be done with it. But the truth is, this band is way too multi-faceted to be stuffed into one category. Yes, the infectious grooves and tongue-twisting rhymes of the rapcore sound are definitely present, but along with these are some mellower songs where singing replaces the screaming, as well as some poppy sounding songs that go back and forth between the hard and the soft. Diversity is definitely a strong point with this album, as no song really sounds like another. While maintaining an extensive diversity among the songs, consistency is maintained just as strongly, giving the album the balance it needs to be taken seriously. The guitar playing is superb on this record. The riffs are brilliant and the sonics are very experimental, adding to the overall fresh and diversified vibe. On the downside, the album’s production is rather overdone at times and the music lacks some of the bite of its rapcore cousins. Other than these very small setbacks, this is a great debut album that displays a lot of promising potential. We should all keep our eyes on this young group as their innovative sound and fresh approach should definitely put them on the map. (DMP)

DAMASK ROSE, Point of View, Planet
This is what happens when a corporate rock band modernizes its sound. The result is squeaky clean modern rock that can appeal to old and new schoolers alike. With their first Christian market release, these guys have put together a strong collection of tunes that bring back that nostalgic corporate feeling without sounding too glam. The sonics of this album are excellent all around and have a definite 90’s feel to them. The guitar tones are pleasant and soothing to the ears, as they dabble with the best of old and new sounds and the vocals are right on, with well placed harmonies often complimenting the melody. In addition to the accomplished musicianship, is the top quality production that gives the record a very clean, polished sound without sounding cheesy. This album could very well bridge the gap between the corporate sounds of yesteryear and the modern rock sounds of today. Imagine if a group of seasoned musicians from the 80’s were heavily influenced by Third Day and Collective Soul. Damask Rose would be the result. Extreme music enthusiasts should probably approach this record with caution. However, this record may find a loving home with rock fans everywhere. (DMP)

POINT OF RECOGNITION, The Admiration of a Son, 316 Records
Fans lamenting the loss of the early 90’s hardcore to the new metalcore sound need not despair any longer; Point of Recognition is here to fill the void. 11 songs of ferocious old school hardcore are included on this CD, bringing new vitality to what seems like a dying genre. Critics, put the toe tag away for now; this scene has life in it yet. Guitars are shredding in that hardcore style that we have all come to love; slamming riffs, chugga-chugga choruses, well placed power chords, and even occasional mellower parts all have their place here. The drums are insanely intense, giving this album the edge it needs. Often a hardcore band can be made or broken by the drummer, and in this case the drummer only adds to the frenetic energy of the music. Complimenting the accomplished musicianship are the angst-filled screams that border on growls with occasional spoken words thrown in for variety. The easy thing to do would be to compare these guys to Focused or Strongarm, since that is the style they play, but POR have enough originality and diversity to establish a sound of their own. Lyrically, these guys leave no question as to what to believe in, as every song boldly delivers straight-forward lyrics about Christ that could rival those of Unashamed. Take for example, "Unlawful Burden": "True purity is only from Jesus Christ, come to reality, open your eyes." With words like these, and a sound that is scarce among the new hardcore bands coming out now, Point of Recognition should fill a void in the Christian scene. (DMP)

FIVE IRON FRENZY, Live: Proof That the Youth are Revolting, Five Minute Walk
For all of you that have had the pleasure of seeing one of Five Iron’s wacky performances over the past few years, you will be pleasantly surprised to know that the energy and pure insanity of their live show was somehow captured on something as one-dimensional as a CD. For those of you who have never seen them live, because: a) you still think that the Supertones are the only Christian ska band, b) you’re way too punk rock for ska-core, or c) you’ve been spending your life as a nomad, herding sheep in the Himalayas, this CD could serve as one more reason to add to the list of about two hundred and seventy eight, why you need to catch them in your area. For all of you in group "c," unfortunately there are no plans to tour Central Asia at this time, but if there are, rest assured that HM will keep you posted. From start to finish, this record is packed with the band’s signature hysteria, complete with everything from their performance of "Kingdom of the Dinosaurs" to their moving cover of Vegas star, Tom Jones’ "It’s Not Unusual." The surprises never end, as whenever you think you know what’s going to happen next, the band will turn around and do something completely unexpected. I would love to mention all of the humorous moments on the CD, but I’m not going to ruin the surprise. Playing songs from all three releases and a few new songs to boot, these guys deliver the goods with unmatchable energy. Sonically, the band is as tight as they’ve ever been; Reese’s intonation is at its finest, and the sound is studio quality. Trust me, if you even consider yourself a casual fan of those crazy clowns known as Five Iron Frenzy, this CD is a must have. As a matter of fact, I think it should be mandatory. (DMP)

LUGNUT, ...like the dickens..., Screaming Giant Records
A lot of bands these days are playing punk in all sorts of different flavors. The harder old school sound has had a resurgence in recent years, and Lugnut is one of many bands to try their hands at it. And, with a name like Lugnut, what else are you going to play but punk? Overall, this CD has a decidedly punk feel to it. The songs are very short, the drumming and simple chord progressions are played insanely fast, and the vocals are comprised primarily of the fast "chopped talk" style, for lack of a better term. Musically, absolutely nothing stands out to me. There is nothing I haven’t heard before, and the musical arrangements I find to be quite mediocre. Granted, these guys are tight while they are playing, which can’t be said about a lot bands in this genre, so their sound is cohesive. In my opinion, however, that is the only thing going for it. Lyrically, there is a potpourri of ideas. The CD starts off with "Pointless Education," with a line that states: "I can’t help but sit and wonder / what’s the point in all this trouble / I’d rather be wastin’ money / on B.K. Tenders or the local Wendy’s / . . . / I hate skool". Sounds pretty immature to me, but this is punk rock, right? They also have a tribute to Indiana Jones ("Jones Chronicles"), a song about the pains of growing up ("Growing up Sux"), as well as several songs about girls. There are also several songs that have Scripture references included, which is nice amidst most of the generic punk lyrics. They even do a version of "I Love You, Lord" punk style, but the singing comes across as very insincere, producing a very anticlimactic reaction to a very good praise and worship song. If it isn’t obvious already, I find nothing spectacular about this disc. It is, at best, just average old school punk. If you just can’t get enough punk to whet your appetite, you will probably like this CD. I believe I will shy away though. (DB)

MICROSCOPIC, Rugged Records
When I first looked at this CD, I honestly did not know what to expect. The cover and artwork were very enigmatic. When I actually started to listen to the CD, I was even more surprised. Microscopic is pretty short, comprised of just five songs, and one of those songs is a radio edit of the first song. Two of the songs are songs with which I am already familiar—catchy praise songs in cool minor keys—namely "Jehovah Jireh" and "Celebration Song." What makes them different than the way you might hear them on Sunday morning is that they have this funky / reggae / Caribbean feel. In other words, a lot of funky bass and accented guitar upbeats, supplemented by a saxophone, characterize the sound, not unlike ska, except that this is more of the purist sound that ska stole from. The other two songs are similar in that they, too, are praise and worship oriented. Overall, the entire album feels like a cross between funky reggae and punchy rock. It’s quite different, but they do a good job with it. It took a few times for this to grow on me, as I couldn’t truly appreciate it through the first few listens. And though this isn’t quite what I normally listen to, and though I probably won’t listen to this on a regular basis, when I want to get down to some funky praise tunes, this CD will find its way back to my player. (DB)

FLIGHT 180 Lineup, BEC Recordings
Attention all "swingers!" This album should be in your player at all times! Flight 180 (formerly 180) has proved themselves the pinnacle of swing music. With 6 guys, 2 girls, you’d think it was a ska band. Not a chance. These cool cats and chicks pay homage to some pretty hip people: Brian Setzer ("Look at That Cadillac"), The W’s ("The Devil is Bad"), and a bunch of wacky monkeys ("I Wanna Be Like You"). Don’t worry this is not another album of covers, there are plenty of fun Flight 180 style songs. Lineup contains 11 songs that are full of good, clean fun and a little laughter on the side. Maddy Mendoza and Kimmy Tennberg have the sweetest, harmonious 40’s-style voices the 90’s have to offer. Backed up by your typical 6 talented guys who are too hip to be afraid to dance, swing, and sing, the songs of Flight 180 keep me bouncing in my seat and receiving strange looks from the others in the office. I am sure that you will get the same reaction! (G)

THE W’S, Trouble with X, Five Minute Walk
The boys from Oregon are back with another fun swing album. These guys have been practicing, it totally shows. They are more together and have been concentrating more on the improv part of their music. Brett, Val, and James are showing their band-geekness talent and sound like they are more comfortable playing with a guitar, bass, and drums. Todd and Brian show off their usual talented abilities of keeping the rest of the nut jobs in time. Little A, well, what can be said . . . his voice is deep and clear, definitely a swooner. The guitar, while great doing the swing / rock-a-billy thing, could stand to branch out with a bit more creativity. With the help of musical / producing genius Masaki and Dennis Culp (Five Iron Frenzy), The W’s have put together an album that reflects the fun that they have in concert. (The hidden track is perfect!) Different varieties of swing are experimented with. They not only stick with the traditional swing style in songs like "Rather Be Dead" and "Play the Game;" they also touch on the country / folk by covering "Country Roads," originally sung by John Denver; Rock-a-billy is hit on with "Saturday" and "Where Should I Go." Does anyone remember Steve Taylor? Although he didn’t write "Stupid," his sarcastic influence shines through -- what a giggle! The last track on this project is called "The Rumor Weed Song." Now if this sounds familiar, then you are a Veggie Tales watcher. The W’s were invited to be a part of the video and soundtrack for Larry and The Rumor Weed. The song is played under the closing credits and can be found on the soundtrack. This is an album that is fun to listen and to dance to. Have a blast! (G)

STEREO DELUXX, So Clearly, Organic Records
Just wait til the WB and Fox get a hold of this CD. This is perfect high school party background music! Good thing too, this band has targeted you young uns, and they hit the mark. Don’t get me wrong, this is good music for all ages, but the style and lyrics seem to be more for those that are searching and going through times brought by being a teenager. I know . . . I remember. It’s a tough time and getting worse and Stereo Deluxx is here to help. "So clearly, so clearly, You speak Your peace to me So clearly, So clearly, Though I’m full of worry You open up my eyes for me to see." What a wonderful phrase. This enhanced CD also includes a video game called "Stereo Speedway." It’s a lot of fun! They also have a comic book with an accompanying cd with a music montage and the comic book dialogue . . . very cool! Okay, back to the music . . . pretty good. This trio make neat-o music using a lot of guitar and synthesizer. They seem to enjoy the crunchy sound a distorted guitar has to offer. It is a good sound and is complimented by Stacey Tiernan’s clear Miss Angie-esque voice. If you want to be the first on your block to beat the TV networks, buy this album before they try and charge you an arm and a leg for it just because you can hear it on Dawson’s Creek or Get Real. (G)

DAVID HEAVENER, Outlaw Prophet, Henner Music
Attention all those out there that enjoy good Rhythm and Blues. David Heavener has an album that will satisfy those aching souls. He delivers God’s grace in a way that will comfort any hurting spirit. "You gave your life that I might live, you suffered Hell for me. Lord I have nothing to give, all I have to offer you are praises endlessly." The rest of the lyrics on this project stay in the same vein of being an outlaw and being on the outskirts of society because of it. The theme of the small conquering the great is seen throughout his songs as well. Listening to this CD was almost like listening to a Guardian album. All of the songs were written by David Heavener, although Tony Palacios and Jamie Rowe fill in with guitar and background vocals. The riffs and beats are in line with the R&B genre of today. Guitar solos are seldom seen, but when they do peek out . . . rock ’n’ roll comes along with it. Heavener also called on the efforts of Jerry McPherson (usually seen playing guitar for Amy Grant), Phil Madeira (seems to have played for just about everybody), Chris Donohue, Steve Brewster and Tony Miracle. All of these musicians prove very fine, talented and well-rounded. From the rockin’ of "If God Wills," to the sweet praise sounds of "Thank You For Loving Me To Death," Heavener proves himself a fine artist that knows what works. This album definitely works. I was a little skeptical to begin with, I have to be honest, but after one time through, I can honestly say I really like this album. One other piece of information for you, David Heavener is also a movie star! He has a movie out called Outlaw Prophet. He is planning on making another movie and has a contest to win a part in the next movie. Details are listed in the CD jacket. (G)

THE SKADADDLES Thanks For Laughing, Eclectica
Having viewed the Skadaddles as one of the excesses of a new bandwagon, I had never given the band a chance, much less actually listened to them. As always, my cynicism and narrow-mindedness has proven to be nothing more than a hindrance to discovering quality music. With this latest release, the Skadaddles have taken me by surprise and proved that newer ska bands can have just as much originality, if not more than their predecessors. Whether they came first or not, the fact is they are good at what they do and bring a true freshness to an oft-stale seeming genre. If you’ve seen the ads for this release, you’ll know that it has been pushed as "punk and emo." While this is still definitely ska in its essence, the punk and emo elements shine through to give this album a unique twist of its own. The upbeat happy pop melodies with strong power chord progressions and melodic harmonies are apparent from start to finish, giving the Skadaddles punk rock edge, not uncommon among bands of this genre. But, the real jawdropper is how they managed to incorporate the emo elements into their music. Soaring choruses, screaming octave chords, emo-esque breakdowns, and even Appleseed Cast-like pauses with ringing harmonics filling the void all have their place here, giving validity to their tongue in cheek advertisements. Don’t get too excited, though, Mr. Emorocker; the only thing depressing about this CD is that I didn’t give these guys a chance before. The downside to this album is it starts to sound a little repetitive toward the end, but it doesn’t come anywhere near being able to overshadow the striking qualities the disc has already displayed. If the Supertones are starting to bore you, or perhaps if you’ve ever wondered what would happen if the Get Up Kids put out a ska album, you should probably grab this one up at the first chance you get. (DMP)

ALL ACCESS Rock n’ Roll Show, Ionic
Being that two of the members of this band are under 15, the Hanson comparisons are inevitable. Lucky for all of us, Middle of Nowhere is the last place these young rockers would be and there are no Olsen twin look alikes in sight. Instead, what we have here is some fun upbeat alternapunk rock ‘n’ roll that could beat out the bubblegum pop sounds of the Mmboppin’ boys any day. The guitars are loud, the songs are energetic, and the vocalist, while struggling a little with intonation, sounds like he has actually hit puberty. While it is relieving, to say the least, that we don’t have another cheesy pre-teen heart throb pop group, I think that these kids still have a little growing up to do before they can be taken seriously as a band. The musicianship is excellent, especially when considering their age, but the songs still leave a lot to be desired. It seems that they are way ahead of their age as musicians, but as songwriters, they are still 14. However, these three young prodigies still have a lot going for them, as they have put together a record before they were even old enough to get their driver’s license. How many of us could say this? When I was fourteen, I sucked so bad at guitar that my brother would beg me to stop playing; I don’t think anyone will be asking them to stop anytime soon. Overall, these kids display a great deal of talent and are going to be quite a force to reckon with in the near future. (DMPTooth & Nail Television

(Video)Tooth & Nail Records
Get ready for T&N TV at its best! The latest collection of T&N bands has hit the shelves with bands that we all know and love. An added treat are the cameos of friends, i.e. Halo Friendlies, Dirk Lemmennes, Brandon Ebel himself, etc. Some bands have bits of another of their video shown before the real one, or some toys from around the office are featured in the segue between songs. Sometimes a strange guy, let’s call him "Cowboy Bob," is touring around Seattle asking people if they have ever heard of Tooth & Nail, and if they have, what is their opinion of the label and its music. It was a sad occasion . . . most of the people had no idea who T&N were. He was able to meet a guy with a really cool name though . . . Henry Mockenheimer. Wow. ANYWAY, and now to the music. Starting this well-mastered video is "Chase the Sun" from The OC Supertones. What an odd Mexican / Western concept video. Photography was good, but what exactly is the point? I really dig the wigs seen on Jason Carson and Daniel Spencer! Next, a personal favorite of mine was Ghoti Hook’s cover of Katrina & the Wave’s "I’m Walking on Sunshine." The video was pretty funny, in true Ghoti style. It seems the boys have a fondness for America’s Funniest Home Videos, 3’s Company, and eating. Project 86 pops up with an industrial thematic background for the song "Pipe Dream." The formerly named 180 (now Flight 180), appropriately does the dancing in a bowling alley thing in black and white film for "Tick-Tock." "Feel the Burn" from Dogwood is what will please your eyes and ears next. On the positive side - great facial shots of Russell (drums); on the negative side - scrap the blue and red square frame. It’s old. MxPx is up next with "Money Tree," followed by "Rock & Roll Star" by Fanmail. Both of these videos show the evolution and life of a "Rock Star." The final video that I was expecting to see was the first T&N video, but never seen before, by Mike Knott, entitled "Tattoo." Mike in a room, swinging lights, him singing, a girl looking confused, and a guy. That’s it, enough said. But, wait! Just when I thought it is over, Plankeye’s "Goodbye" comes up. Literally . . . they are in an elevator. I won’t spoil the rest of the surprises the staff at T&N have in store for you, but I will say one thing . . . so what does the Furbee do? Get the video, pop it in, and sit down for an enjoyable evening. That’s what I did! (G)

Creed, Human Clay, Wind-up
"Hey! What are you guys doing, compromising? I thought this was a Christian music magazine! Why are you reviewing a band like Creed in here? They said they weren’t Christians in an interview . . . C’mon! Are you just trying to sell out, so that you can be cool in the eyes of Creed fans?" Think about that one for a minute: Why would a fan of Creed pick up a copy of HM Magazine, thumb through the back and find a review of Creed, and then think we were cool? That’s ridiculous! If we put Creed on the cover or something, and said, "Creed is cool!" Then maybe you could say that. HM Magazine covers a lot of ground and meets a lot of needs. One of those needs is being a resource for people who have faith in Jesus Christ, where they can learn more about music and music-related items that might have something that pertains to their faith, reinforces their faith, and Creed would fall into that, just like The Alarm, U2, The Call, and other bands who make music that, lyrically, focuses on faith. The members of Creed have said recently that they’re not Christians; and they’ve also said that they’re considering it and they’re searching, but they’re not ready to make that commitment, because they’re not ready to live up to the standards of it right now. A lot of our readers would really like to know more information about this band, because they hear them on the radio, and they hear lyrics about Jesus, the Bible, and faith. Wouldn’t you rather hear about this band from somebody who pledges allegiance to Christ, rather than somebody who could give a rip about that part of the band? So, here’s a review of the new Creed album: Creed is a funny band who, like Collective Soul in 1999, they refuse to believe the rumor that grunge is dead. They rely a lot on melody, which gives them a wide scope of fans. This album follows much along the same lines as their multi-platinum debut. You hear a lot of different instrumentation as additives. I hear a lot of Soundgarden here. It’s very heavy. There’s some blues influence, plus the vocals don’t extend a lot of notes, like Chris Cornell did. Songs like "Say I" have a really heavy, heavy crunch feel to ‘em, not too unlike Tool, as far as the tones go. "Never Die" is like a Metallica song, with huge, chunky riffs. I think I like this album better than My Own Prison, where I felt like I was getting the same song over & over again. With this one, I feel like I’m getting a nice variety from song to song. I like it a lot. Lyrically, we get more introspective, searching questions and a hint of the Answer. Questions like, "What if your words could be judged like a crime?" ("What If"); "What makes you unclean?" ("Wrong Way"); and "There’s a peace inside us all . . . Oh, can’t it be your friend?" ("Inside Us All"). In addition to the question, there’s also some forthright speaking: "Hey Mr. Seeker / Hold on to this advice / If you keep seeking you will find." Is this music that a Christian could or should listen to? You won’t find no flies on these lyrics. Vocalist Scott Stapp does a good job of making you think, and Creed does a great job of making you rock out. (DV)

SEVENTH DAY SLUMBER, Matthew Twenty-Five, Afinia Music
It seems this band could be compared to a lot of bands in the melodic pop rock genre in almost every way, but that would be doing the basics of this band an injustice. They have a heart for this country; dedicating this album to the "lives touched by the recent tragedies plaguing our nation’s schools." It seems the lyrics, throughout this CD, mirror the sentiment of a nation crying out for God. "Mama sits at her bedside with watery eyes, her son ain’t been home in a week, she tries to tell herself that everything’s alright but I can see the pain in mama’s eyes, mama grabs her Bible and she reads another verse and prays to God her boy will be home soon." While listening to this album, their faith in God was very clear. "I was blind but now I see the light the life I lived, oh Lord I know it wasn’t right I feel my heart slowly pumpin’ up again and I’m a miracle." The titles on this project are simple and to the point; Jada, Miracle, Matthew 25, Thank You, Mama Won’t Give Up, Bow Down, My Best Friend, Blind Man, What I Need, I want to Believe, and I Believe. Musically, this band is good. They pay attention to their sound. They are together and melodic. They are a bit mellow, but this should not hinder your interest in Seventh Day Slumber. The album’s recording is just a bit shallow sounding, but easily over-looked once you get into the lyrics. I can not stress enough what an emotional trip these 4 guys put me through with their simple words and I am sure they will do the same to you. Enjoy! "Well, I know these times are changing and it’s hard to tell the good from the bad, but just keep your eyes on Jesus and the mess will all just fade to black." (G)

JOHN ELEFANTE, Defying Gravity, Pamplin
As a fan of Kansas, Mastedon, and John Elefante himself, I was pleased to review this album. Sure it is going to appeal to the Adult Contemporary audience, but don’t let that stop you from listening to a very well put together project. You would be missing out tremendously if you did. First off, I received this in vinyl as well as CD form . . . nice touch! Second, Elefante’s voice has always intrigued me. He has a very clear tenor voice that can get rough when called for. In the song "Don’t Leave the Band," he lets the passion show in his voice in the chorus, simply "I said, Don’t leave the band I said, don’t leave the band, Don’t leave the band..." The harmonies and "do-do-do’s" are very reminiscent of the band, Chicago. The song "Exit 39" tells the story of a man that, while on a road trip, finds Jesus and forgiveness at a church located at, you guessed it, exit 39. Each song has, somewhat hidden, that touch of metal melodic ballad guitar. I am not sure an Elefante could do an album without it. Speaking of which, John’s brother Dino adds his special touch by co-writing songs and co-producing songs with his little brother. Some songs have a country twang to it, such as "Pass the Flame," with the addition of a banjo to the repertoire. Some songs have the classical feel with a string orchestra providing the melody. My favorite song on this project has to be "The Stream," track 3. Using full string orchestra and band, the words add to the beauty of the whole event. "And I stand beside the water with my feet upon the sand, And I watch it as it flows like the blood from His hand, And it gives me my direction that leads me home again So I will follow the stream." The imagery in all of the songs make listening to this album a treat, no matter what kind of day you are having. (G)

SHIFTER 5, Stranded in Coolsville, 6x6
Prophecy fans, don’t let the name deceive you; this is still the indie wonder that blew you away with the M&M debut Super Natural and their own self published Stranded in Coolsville. The only difference is that now they have changed their name and signed to 6x6. For all of you who have the indie release, don’t buy this one unless you’re one of those diehard fans that likes to collect every possible release of your favorite band to prove your loyalty. Aside from that, there is not enough of a difference to merit going out and buying this release in addition to the last one.
Musically, this album is quite a departure from their debut. It seems that they’ve gotten over whatever it was that they were upset about and moved on to a lighter, happier, much more radio friendly sound without going CCM. If you’re like me and the term "radio friendly" means crap to you, hold your horses; there is much more to this CD than a catchy hook or a trite chorus that’s guaranteed to sell. Imagine, if you will, if Dave Grohl grew up listening to Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley, and watched a lot of western TV shows like "Bonanza." Stranded in Coolsville, would be the result. While not being the most innovative band in the world, Shifter 5 successfully pull off a great mainstream debut of catchy candy coated sing-along pop music that is as much original as it is fun. None of the lyrics provide material to philosophize over but there are plenty of good points to think about while you’re styling your pompadour. Instrumentation is both skillfully done and well arranged. These two qualities combined with catchy, luscious pop melodies make this release a must have for anyone who enjoys good, fun music that makes them want to twist and shout. (DMP)

Various Artists, Rockabilly & Western, Gospel Hymns, Jackson Rubio
With the sounds of rockabilly sweeping the nation as the next big fad following swing, it is only right that someone capitalizes off of the waywardness of teenage loyalties. In all seriousness, the folks at Jackson/Rubio have done a great job putting together this collection of rockabilly favorites and remakes guaranteed to bring families together as Grandma and Grandpa right on down to little Bubba will be out on the dance floor swinging their partners round and round to no end . Thee Spivies start off the cd with "I dreamed I Searched Heaven," a classic hillbilly tune that sounds like it belongs on an old Hank Williams record. Havalina Rail Co. is up next delivering their version of "Train 13" in epic Havalina fashion, complete with Matt Wignall’s signature vocals and the band’s rockin’ skillful and highly diverse instrumentation. I can’t wait until I can get a hold of their new album. Song by song, thirteen bands, including The Calicoes, Ruby Joe, Upside Down Room, punk rock heroes Blaster the Rocketman, and tons more deliver sixteen tracks of nonstop foot stomping rockabilly fun. My favorite cut would have to be Matt and Johnny Ray’s rousing version of Amazing Grace; an oldie but a goody, played in classic rockabilly style. If your idea of a good time is an all night square dancing jamboree in Uncle Jeb’s renovated barn, or maybe if you’re a swingster that is finally growing weary of zoot suits and swing lessons with your girlfriend, this CD should be next on your musical hit list. (DMP)

AUDIO ADRENALINE, underdog, Forefront
Your youth pastor’s favorite modern rock band is back with their latest release, "Underdog". While this release is still a little too much in the realm of "safe" music where "WOW!" compilations are a vital part to a fan’s collection, I have to give credit where credit is due. I have always found the boys in Audio Adrenaline to be the most bearable of the big three of CCM (DC Talk, Newsboys, Audio Adrenaline) and with "Underdog," I am reminded why. Within the confines of the box that the GMA has put them in, these guys rock out to their fullest potential. Audio Adrenaline is a great pop band with some ultra-catchy hooks and shredding guitar riffs (in a Nashville sort of way) whom I would probably enjoy if I heard them on the radio. Vocals, instrumentation and songwriting are all equally strong on this album, forcing me to swallow my nonconformist pride and admit that they have done a good job. So, is this a good radio pop album? Without a doubt. Hard music classic? Not quite. (DMP)



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