issue #75

[click here to read the indies]

Five Iron Frenzy Quantity is Job 1 (Five Minute Walk) Always susceptible to snappy titles and cool music, the band is still loaded to the gills with energy, as is evidenced by their rigorous touring schedule and the wild enthusiasm displayed at each show. This EP finds the band with increased tightness and more texture and variety in the horns. Lyrically, the band is still clever, but pointed. Songs like “One Girl Army” are such great songs in themselves that you don’t need the fact that they’re ska to be impressed by them. There’s even an authentic cover of ELO’s “Sweet Talkin’ Woman.” So many ska bands rely so heavily on horns, off beats, and checkerboard patterns to define their image and sound. Five Iron stands up, with or without these things, and consistently emerges as one of the more highly respected ska bands in the scene. (BVM)

Ashley Cleveland You Are There (Cadence) This soulful singer is back from a too-long break from recording, now with an album of various live tracks from the past few years. Still evident is Cleveland’s semi-raspy croonings, and husband Kenny Greenberg’s masterful guitar work. Included are Cleveland classics like “Henry Doesn’t Care,” and some rocked up versions of hymns like “Soon and Very Soon” and “Revive Us Again.” If you like good roots rock, a listen to the laid-back sounds of Ashley Cleveland is in order. (BVM)

Various Propska One (Essential) Okay, already, we still don’t know what “propska” means, but judging from the sound of the word, and from the red packaging with stars and pictures of circa 1940’s military men, I’d say it’s something to do with communism. But look out McCarthy! First up is Third Day’s “You Make Me Mad,” followed by a tune from the Insyderz’ praise album, “Oh lord, You’re Beautiful,” and then the overly poppy “Smash Hit,” by All Star United. And what’s an Essential comp without the obligatory Jars of Clay song (“Fade to Grey”)? Plumb also makes an appearance here, with a remixed version of “Endure,“ though I’d have rather heard the album version. It was cool to hear Caedmon’s Call in a live setting (“Another ten miles”), where they turned a mid-song 180, creating a long blues jam. Highlights include the MxPx staple “Do Your Feet Hurt,” “The Force,” by Kosmos Express, and Miss Angie’s “Hands.” (BVM)

Delirious? Live & in the Can (Sparrow) That this band continues to be so popular always surprises me. I guess it proves that if you copy a popular band with a high enough level of quality, no one will care that you’re copying; rather, they’ll be so impressed with your musicianship, songs, and worship vibe to even notice the obvious Bono cloning. Well, U2 never sang “I’m not ashamed of the Gospel. I’m not ashamed of the One I love.” Maybe that’s another reason for the band’s popularity. This record could almost be described as one big worship service, complete with audience sing-along. Sounds great in head phones, like being there. Closing the eyes may cause the listener to enter some full-on Delirious praise & worship. (BVM)

The Merbabies Indio (Jackson Rubio) The sophomore disc from The Merbabies displays a long jump of growth, both musically and lyrically. Vocals are as varied as bands like Radiohead and Pedro the Lion, and there is even more songwriting diversity than the Merbabies’ self-titled debut. Many have even called these guys the “cowboys of indie rock,” because of their country leanings. “The Fix” is a touching, reflective song that could serve well on a soundtrack for a movie about drug addiction. “Sovereignty” exemplifies well the possible theme of the record, which may be to take your lumps and get over the bumps. (BVM)

Blame Lucy Gong Show (Bulletproof) Not quite dated, these boys pack a punch, along the lines of, perhaps, a modernized Idle Cure, because of the smooth vocals and harmonies. But there’s also a lighthearted urgency and rawness. In fact, the chorus of “Telecast” even suggests some punk influences. “Lonesome” is a very appealing track, with a catchy, mood-inspiring melody, and an overall cleanliness about it. This is followed by the very messy “Saturate,” complete with low bass grooves and some whispery vocals. This is a pretty fun CD, full of top-quality modern rock & roll. (BVM)

Various Happy Christmas (BEC) Ever wanted to hear the Supertones do “Joy to the World?” Sounds very joyful, with the horns and Morginsky’s trademark vocals, but sometimes sounds more straight ahead rock & roll than ska. That’s cool, I don’t mind. Plus, it breaks into jazz toward the end of the tune. Want more ska? Listen to Five Iron Frenzy’s version of the Rich Mullins classic neo-carol “You Gotta Get Up.” Joy Electric’s “Winter Wonderland” was a treat, but pretty much what the JE fan will expect. “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” performed by Chasing Furies, is especially beautiful, as the sweet distortion-filled guitar and vocals exude more light and passion than the glow from that tree standing in your living room. Several original songs were included, making this disc even more unique: Puller’s “Savior of the Fools,” Starflyer’s “Holiday Song” (which is also on their latest record), “Heaven’s Got a Baby,” by Sarah Masen, Huntingtons’ “It’s Always Christmas at My House,” and Switchfoot’s “Evergreen,” etc. This disc also affords us the opportunity to hear the first recording from the new Plankeye incarnation (Eric Balmer and Luis Garcia), performing a rousing “Away in a Manger” with the help of Fold Zan’s Frank Lenz on drums and BGV’s. Pep Squad’s “Feliz Navidad” sounds very little like what you may have heard the band do, with the latin beats, Spanish guitar, and trumpets. Also on the ethnic end of the musical spectrum, One Eighty’s “Mele Kalikimaka” explodes upon the ears, energetically breathing blazing life anew into the cheesy old song. There’s so much variety on this disc, there literally is something on here for everyone. (BVM)

Microskapic Scraping the Culture (Rugged) Complete with the horns and off-beats, this newest addition to the Rugged roster displays quite a bit of prowess in the intensity dept. Perhaps this is due to the influence of their musically affluent home town -- Knoxville. Believability is challenged, though, when it is realized that the horn players on the record are merely studio musicians, not band members. But thankfully, Microskapic is one of those bands who doesn’t rely on horns to be called ska. They’ve got enough swing, spy, rockabilly, and punk rock sounds mixed in there, you forget their name, and focus more on the cool, energetic music. “Face to Face” will rock you, with its big swingy opening guitar, which segues into a nice Dogwood-style punk rock. (BVM)

Supertones (Video)Supertones at the Movies (BEC) This 60-minute product serves as a fantastic opportunity for both old and new fans to get to know the Supertones, how they started, where they are musically, and who they are as people. While some of the live footage suffers from poor sound quality, there are several concept videos to appease the more discriminating. And dispersed throughout everything are plenty of behind-the-scenes fun and zany antics, as well as some more personal moments, with each member sharing the vision of their hearts. Each member comes across as nothing more than sincere and honest, which is one of the things a lot of folks like best about the Supertones. (BVM)

Various (Video) Tooth & Nail Video, Vol. 4 (Tooth & Nail) Here’s another look into the absurdly demented minds of the T&N video dept. (aka: a guy with a camera bugging the staff, and the staff playing along). Aliens and cover-ups is the unofficial theme of this video, and it even features some Area 51-inspired footage that cuts in & out like a spy transmission. Frodus will make you laugh. Yes, you read correctly. Just watch the end of the video, after the credits roll... Also here is a way-too-long segment, featuring a T&N staff trip to an amusement park. Pretty neat if you don’t mind at least 10 minutes of Brandon Ebel riding a roller coaster. But what’s the purpose of the video? That’s right -- music. And some of the year’s best made it on here, like The Supertones’ “...Strike Back,” “Reject,” by Living Sacrifice, Plankeye’s “Someday,” and a great look at Stavesacre (“An Eclipsing”). MxPx is also featured, with “Buying Time,” filmed in what looks like a practice room. In fact, Slick Shoes’ “Joe’s Sick” looks to be filmed in their garage. One of my favorite songs of the year, Outer Circle’s “It Must be Wonderful,” is not easily forgettable, featuring the band members driving around in a car, running over clowns, you know, stuff like that. I’ll admit that Danielson Famile’s “Rubbernecker” was pretty cool, as it probably took a lot of time to film. It’s nothing but claymation and construction paper animation. Creativity and versatility continue to surround the compilation, as evidenced further by bands like Training for Utopia, Joy Electric, The Dingees, Fold Zandura, etc. (BVM)

Jeni Varnadeau No Hesitation (Pamplin) One may not expect this name to be associated with rock & roll, and with many of these songs taking on a very radio-friendly format, you may even wonder why we reviewed it. But the rousing “I Need You” says it all, from the Hendrix-influenced guitar to the commercial rock chorus featuring Jeni’s passionate full-lung singing. Songs like “There You Go” could even have been heard on a Petra record, with some similar melodies, BGV’s and organs! Also nifty is the funk-laden pop of “Shaken” and the Southern rock in “Over Again.” (BVM)

Chasing Furies With Abandon (Sparrow) This eclectic and very talented new group takes seriously the need to present non-Christians with quality art. Sounding like nothing you’ve heard in the Christian market, the band brings to mind groups as varied as Radiohead and Over the Rhine. A beautiful piano interlude and earthy dueling vocals (a la Sarah Masen) are, on occasion, interrupted by the freedom of a rock guitar, none of which are given to a specific genre, but rather, great music. While some of the aforementioned vocals take on some nearly Point of Grace-like harmonies, and some of the instrumentation may be best suited for the coffeehouse, it is the adventurous guitar and overall versatility that makes this band so notable. (BVM)

One Eighty Crackerjack (Tooth & Nail) The first thing I thought of upon my first listen was, “Okay, I got it... like, Dakoda Motor Co.” But there’s more here than love songs set to simple quick-tempo surf pop (although that’s much of the ingredients), because some ska and swing (“Tick Tock”) seep into the stew. The constantly harmonizing voices of Kim Tennberg and Madelyn Mendoza are very strong and on-key. However, by the end of the album, I feel like hearing something with a little more vocal variety. The horns are full of life, and the guitars and rhythm section prove their worth with the groovy change-ups in songs like “405,” etc. Definitely a chunk of energy on this record, along with plenty of catchy hooks. (BVM)

Blah (Bulletproof) This punk rock band is back, but with more than punk rock in its arsenal. The style is what has come to be known as punkabilly, that is, a mixture of rockabilly and punk rock. James Jenkins’ quick bass working concurrently with the more than able drumming of Jameson Becker seems to tie the rhythm knot here. Alex Rosas’ singing is well-suited for both styles, just as Jeremy Carlson’s guitar playing jumps effortlessly between the two. (BVM)

Black Cherry Soda Back On The Map (Bulletproof) This is one of the Via Records bands that some thought wouldn’t surface again after the death of the label. Well, with a new Bulletproof deal, Black Cherry Soda returns with some nicely repetitive guitar parts and a bunch of catchy songs. Style wise, I’d call this pop- and punk-influenced modern rock. While some of the aforementioned guitars and the down-tuned bass get a little dark, production lacks a bit and the vocals are a little unconvincing. I guess I was expecting a little more grit, but I’ll still have to make a cassette copy for the car. (BVM)

Squirt Huge (Absolute) A record, at last! It’s good to hear these young men again, after having heard their enhanced maxi-single early this year. Stirring up an even bigger sound, this trio -- which is best known for the ages of its members -- seems to have matured even in the few months since I last heard their stuff. Don’t think the band is just Jordan Dickerson and some friends... Thirteen-year-old Blake proves himself as a good guitar player, but not just “good for his age.” I’ve certainly heard worse playing come from professional guitarists. Vocals aren’t bad either, passionate, but without much grit. Lyrics vary between the confirmational and the unashamed-of-the-Gospel variety. (BVM)

Various Eclectica2: a taste of indie electronica (N•Soul) Just as this issue’s cover feature proves that DIY isn’t limited to punk rock, this disc proves that electronica isn’t limited to club and dance music -- even though lots of those genres have made the scene what it is. Some of the coolest indie electronica made it on here. Artists like Leonard Zimmerman have more subversive instrumental stuff like “God Made Orange,” while Erinfall’s “Land of Venus” is harder, with guitar, and wears Prodigy as a possible musical influence. It was also cool to hear the rock & roll guitar in “Atomic Murmur,” by Smelling Salt. But my favorite, perhaps, is the unexpectedly airy vocals and piano amid the frantic beats in Divine Rhythm's “Enraptured.” While most of this stuff is most appropriately suited for the whole N•Soul vibe, others could probably make the jump to the Flaming Fish end of the genre spectrum. The electronic cross section here is the beauty of this disc. (BVM)

Mortal Godspeed (KMG) The combination of Jerome Fontamillas and Jyro Xhan has always been, and continues to be, ahead of its time for the Christian market. Who else has put a timbale solo in the middle of an impassioned, yet straight-forward driving electronic hard rock song... back in 1994? Yes, one of the best Mortal songs ever, “Paradigm One,” kicks off this best of. But next is one of the seminal tracks (“Alive and Awake”) from what many believe is the band’s most momentous album (Fathom). Also included from that record are the amazing “Rift” and “Godspeed.” Also here is some stuff from Lusis, as well as all other recorded Mortal product, including “Bleeder” (from the first Browbeats record) and “Lift,” from the Intense Live Series, Vol. 5 (which included the work of Jeff Bellew, Bryan Gray, Jim Chaffin, etc.). And unlike so many other best of’s and re-releases, this CD includes some very interesting and informative liner notes for each song. (BVM)

Insyderz Fight of My Life (KMG) In just a few short years, this group has become one of the most highly respected ska bands in the Christian market. Joe Yerke’s gritty, yet variety-conscious vocals can compete with the likes of the Bosstones, etc. Songs like “Forgive And Forget” and “The Hunted” have the coolest rock guitar I’ve heard yet on a ska record, and the latter includes even more vocal variety (rap, chant, and reggae). Lyrically, “Forgive And Forget” might remind some of Everclear’s “Father of Mine,” but with a more forgiving attitude toward an absent father. There’s more than just energy here (though the band is never lacking in that area); musical excellence is also draped from every spire, from the Spanish-flavored instrumental, “Trinidad,” to the aforementioned guitars. Fresh horn sounds meld with the unexpected twists and turns in the rhythm section and other ingredients. Fine record. (BVM)

Se7en (Infiniti) With a pretty safe and tame sound, this quintet squeezes out some energetic power pop, with the occasional hit of distorted guitar and rap vocal. Lyrically, nothing too deep here, but everything is very Christ-oriented. I guess the closest example to something you may have heard of would be Reality Check or circa 1992 dc Talk. (BVM)

Big Dog Small Fence (Eclectica) Amidst the proliferation of ska music these days, it’s starting to become necessary to be discerning in your tastes. You want to avoid the genre-jumpers that don’t sound good. Thankfully, oh so thankfully, this outfit isn’t one of those bands to avoid. In fact, they sound quite good! The first three songs rule, the middle four keep the album going, but the last three seem to drag a bit. There’s a lot of variety expressed within the ska umbrella. The vocals of Missy Sortino are really cool. She seems to express lots of personality (is that attitude?), without coming off like she’s trying to be cute. Frank Loaiza adds his fine vocals to the mix as well, trading off for several songs. Ska purists (well, maybe diluted slightly by a wave or two) will appreciate all the horns and upbeats. There’s some very skankable melody a la reggae here. “Finite” and “Stand Tall,” which dips into the Jamaican well with lyrics encouraging us that, “Jah love will see you through it / So let Jah be your strength in the eye of the storm.” Supertones and Five Iron fans might miss the punk flavors absent here, but will still dig this a lot. Besides, some of the start/stop hard vocal lines will pump the energy into the listener. Lyrics vary from the humorous “Rikki Fake” to the street-wise “L.A.” Two thumbs up. (BVM)

Stir Broken Tongues (Kalubone) Grunge is happenin’, baby! If you like low tunage and dirty but full guitars a la The Bleed and Promise Man-era Holy Soldier, you’ve found a new disc to spin. Michael Wagener did a good job of coaxing the right sounds from these guys. I’m quite attracted to this disc, with its soulful vocals and heavy riffs. The vocals sound uncannily similar to Eric Wayne’s on the Promise Man album — especially in the verses to the song “Still.” The band does a great job mixing melody with a current sound scape. It’s melodic metal that doesn’t come off as cheesy outdated music. “Little Love” reminds me in every chorus of The Brave’s song of the same title. There’s two bonus tracks here of note — “Hi Jo De Jose” and “Alto,” which are, obviously, Spanish versions of “Joe’s Son” and “Higher.” Nice touch. The title track uses a powerhouse wall of BGV’s for each chorus line of, “We’re a nation.” The lyrics on this tune are pretty indicative of the whole album — lots of Scripture, woven into thoughtful lyrics that get to the point without being trite. “Water into wine / a fish split thousand times / a broken bottle of ancient sweet perfume / the moral of these three, it’s what you have, you see / given to the Lord for Him to use.” If Creed can rule the airwaves today, I see no reason why Stir can’t mix it up on the radio too. (DV)

Various Classic Archives (KMG) While a parade would be a bit much, a special thanks has been earned by KMG, who purchased the entire Frontline Records catalog. Many of Christian hard music’s classic albums (the lion’s share, in fact) were released under this umbrella. Many of the roster’s best releases are doubled up here and re-released to right the “wrong” that let these titles go out of print years before their time. The only disappointment is the artwork and CD inserts. The original art and/or a collector’s tribute was nixed in favor of a one-page description of the band. Disappointing decision. Sometimes getting two discs for one low price was a great decision, though. Hottest picks? Probably Vengeance Rising (Human Sacrifice & Once Dead), Mortal (Lusis & Fathom), and Tourniquet (Stop The Bleeding & Psycho Surgery). The most desirable was probably the inclusion of Scaterd-Few’s Sin Disease and the previously indie released (only) Jawboneofanass. Worth checking into for those that have either lost their archive copies or wanted to upgrade to CD format only to find these titles out of print. (DV)

Echo Hollow Diet Of Worms (Geneva Records) Here’s the long-awaited project from these two longtime friends and bandmates Guy Ritter and Gary Lenaire. As Echo Hollow, they haven’t strayed too far from the tastes they did explore in Tourniquet. In fact, pieces of the title track lend several sound/rhythm comparisons to the earlier days. And besides, there are those distinctive vocals that scream of the mens’ earlier work. I guess it’s sort of like when Les Carlsen did vocals for Tourniquet; there was no mistaking in the minds of longtime fans which band exactly that singer was in. What results nowadays, though, is a guitar-heavy mixture of modern rock and metal. Everything’s very tight and well-played, but jumps clear of the traps that could label the band dated. (BVM)

Various (Video) Ten: The Birthday Video (ForeFront) A corresponding product to Ten: the Birthday Album, this video includes a lot of the label’s hit videos from throughout the past decade, like Audio Adrenaline’s “Big House,” “Feels Good To Be Forgiven,” by label guy Eddie DeGarmo, and Grammatrain’s “Peace,” among several others. But also here is a long (perhaps too long) behind-the-scenes look at the label. It’s pretty cool, but also likely that the average fan will fast forward just to see the videos. One good thing, for those who just want to see those videos, is that they’re all together in a row after the final credits roll: No sifting repeatedly through self-indulgent yammering. (BVM)

And now for the indies...

BUSHBABY Here’s some excellent melodic modern rock. Try mixing some of the radio friendly music of Everclear or Third Eye Blind with the grunge element of Stone Temple Pilots or even Collective Soul. Definitely pro and definitely ready to be heard by a broad audience. This is quite a good leap for the band that used to be called Gethsemane Rose. We’d have these guys on a Pick Of The Litter comp any day. For ordering info, write: 46 Olive Rd, Southampton, S016 5FS, England (Doug Van Pelt) SANTUARIO Lyrically, I’m not the one to judge this record, since, even though I had the best two high school Spanish teachers in the state of Montana, that education only took me so far with this record, so I am limited to reviewing it on mostly musical merit. I do hear a lot of references to God, and judging from context, most songs are praise & worship. This Mexican band soars in the classic metal/arena rock dept., but they have, strangely enough, included a blues/rockabilly song (“Eclesiastés 11-9”). I don’t hear anything incredibly creative here, so perhaps it’s sheer novelty that makes me appreciate it. For info write: Angular Comunicaciones, SA DE CV Dr, Vertiz 9218 Col, Navarte, DF 03020, Mexico (Brian Vincent McGovern) TWENTY-FIVE According to the info sheet, these teenagers had only been together for three-and-a-half weeks at the time of the writing. I guess with a good drummer, any band can sound tight. These guys sound like they’ve been together for at least a month! Seriously though, I hear a trainload of potential here. Put more practice and a better recording (this one was live in a church building) with the evident pre-existing energy and talent, and you’ll have a cool acoustic punk band. For info, write: David Minne, 4501 Addy St, Washougal WA 98671 (BVM) FISHNET Is this supposed to be, like, techno or something? An unimaginative Scripture-to-music formula doesn’t seem to work here, and the tinny electronics don’t stack up to the already-in-place quality we see in either the mainstream or Christian markets. For info, write: 90 Miller Ln, Ft Thomas KY 41075 (BVM) DEAR EPHESUS Just like all the modern rock you hear from these guys’ full-length records, this six-song EP, A View of Epic Proportions, is emotion-drenched, and resplendent with passion. The bluesy spy vibe of “Wood And Dirt” is a departure, but turns into something you’d hear Rocketboy do. Pretty cool. For info, write: Daddy-O Records, 700-D South Air Depot, Ste 350, Oklahoma City OK 73110 (BVM) RUBY MOON While some cool rock guitar makes an appearance (a la Guardian’s latest), I can’t really say that any of this sounds incredibly original. Some screaming ego solos travel up & down the fret board, and sort of a whiny, pretentious Dream Theater vocal spouts a few clichés. Overall, this tape doesn’t excel as a heavy metal album, but the song “Celestial Seas” does, however, have a really cool driving blend of acoustic/electric riffing and a tricky time change. To order, send $5 to: 4503 E. 5th St #66, Vancouver WA 98661 (BVM) BOLDER The standout track would be “Inertia,” where guitars remind me what modern rock is all about. Sarah Siegand’s vocals are pretty strong, only slightly searching to fit the rock guitar context. This and “Absurd Lemonade” are about the only rockers here, as the others are safely mellow and jangly. To order, send $17 (CD) or $10 (cassette) to: PO Box 39582, Tacoma WA 98439-0582 (BVM) JONAS AND THE BIG TREE This is some pretty cool, energetic pop. Decent songwriting sensibilities here, both in lyrics and phrasing, and the relatively explosive guitars are a little unexpected for this radio-oriented style. For info, write: RK Associates, 16890 Co Rd H, Wauseon OH 43567 (BVM) GLENN SCHWARTZ AND THE ALL SAVED FREAK BAND You wanna talk retro? Well, the early days of Jesus rock are once again brought back to life, this time with the record My Poor Generation, which was recorded about 25 years ago. Vocals with a non-credible blues rasp are all over this, as are some saucy old blues-rock guitars, along with some era-common bouncy rhythms. To order, send $23.95 to: Hidden Vision Records, PO Box 23508, Tucson AZ 85734-3508 (BVM) THE EXKURSIONS Not much different than the aforementioned record, this one’s also a never-before-on-CD album, originally made in the early 70’s. This one’s got similar vocals, which likewise do not impress me, but the guitars are nice & fuzzy, along with the groovy bass, and the underlying wah wah. To order, send $23.95 to: Hidden Vision Records, PO Box 23508, Tucson AZ 85734-3508 (BVM) THE FAILURES This tape features some dark, almost surfy- sounding goth, with timpani style bass drum and an emotive Euro-vocal. For ordering info, write: PO Box 30572, Oshawa, Ontario, L1J-8L8 Canada (BVM) UNDER THE INFLUENCE Here’s some melodic hard rock with good, solid production. While the guitar riffs and lyrics are probably too predictable for their own good, the simplicity of these songs and the quality vocals begin to salvage the tunes. This band would have had a fairly strong underground buzz 12 years ago. For ordering info, write: UTI Music & Television Ministries, 2301 Bellevue Ave, Los Angeles CA 90026 (DV) VISIONAIRE I knew there was a reason we had Klank on the cover of our “Industrial/Goth” issue last January. It was so we could compare his vocals to this project. Imagine progressive, classic metal goth with Klank’s grunting, growling vocals. This stuff is really good! Beautiful guitar tones, ocasional noise samples, bombastic, big, and dramatic drums. Very cool. For a sample, check out his cut on this issue’s Hard Music Sampler CD. To order his CD, send $15 to: James Allin, 413B 19th Street #237, Lynden WA 98264 (DV) OCKHAM’S RAZOR This band stays active! Here’s 3 brand new songs on disc. “Whipping Boy” sounds the strongest of the three, with its throbbing bass line and beefy low end. Grunge-like with pop sensibilities. “Opinion” is more laid-back with an organ sound. Imagine Hootie singing an Alice In Chains ballad. The chorus focuses on the “Liar, Lunatic, or Lord” argument. “Sea of Glass” finds the band a bit too moody and mellow for me, but it’s mostly the vocals that sound tired to these ears. To order, send $6 to: PO Box 36711, Canton OH 44735 (DV) THE DANES This band is ready for prime time! Using dreamy sonics as a backdrop to their pop songwriting, these guys have created a totally professional album. Fans of Fold Zandura will surely think, “Wow!” The hooks here are immediate and big. For ordering info, write: PO Box 202390, Arlington TX 76006 (DV) Bootleg This album is a big tribute to Joel Pierce, a musician going to Greenville College that was killed in a dormitory fire. The idea for the album is awesome, but the tunes don’t stand as tall -- at least in the hard music category. There’s some funny moments of Joel on the radio and a really cool parody about Joel’s music collection put to the music of the Lost Dogs’ “Breathe Deep.” There’s one emo-ish hardcore attack on here by Genuine Chili with cool dynamics. There’s also a song that Joel wrote that Larry Norman recorded with brother Charles. For ordering info, write: c/o Shane Matsomoto, PO Box 69, Witt, IL 62094 (DV) Lethal Injection Buy this CD now! Here’s a collection of 13 great industrial tunes. The bands here really turn in an impressive performance. Fans of Circle and Klank who just can’t get enough will be glad to be introduced to 13 worthy new bands. Standout cuts include “What If?” by Level’s (which had its guitars + vocals produced by Klay Scott), “Transgression” by Audio Paradox, which mixes some cool Middle Eastern sounds for cool effect. If you want to juxtapose all of the acoustic music in your collection, this is just the electricity to energize your world. Another cool thing is that, while the lyrics aren’t printed here, they list a website for lyrics. For ordering info, write: Flaming Fish Music, 9 Koidern Ave, Whitehorse, Yukon, Y1A-3N7 Canada (DV) GLISTEN Produced by Steve Hindalong and Marc Byrd, this 3-song EP is a preview of a full-length soon to come, which will also be done by Steve. Fuzzy guitars (with some lighter moments) and vocals that are melodic yet hollow pretty much characterize these tracks. Check out their song, “Spotlight,” on this issue’s Hard Music Sampler CD. For ordering info, write: 401 “A” Huffman, Euless TX 76040 (Chad Olson) THIRD CROW Due to a printing error, this band’s review in the last issue didn’t get its name printed in red ink next to their photo. We apologize and are reprinting their review for your reading convenience. Here’s some straight ahead metal circa mid to late 80’s. The vocal treatment and lyrical content would fit nicely into the same time frame. Check out their skillful playing on the “Piercing The Darkness” instrumental on this issue’s Hard Music Sampler CD. For ordering info, write: 1411 Hampton Dr, Sunnyvale CA 94087 (CO) REGULATORS Whoa nelly! Pull up yer boot straps ‘n’ git ready for some Southern Fried Rock! An interesting thing ‘bout these good ole boys is they seem to have no problem swearin’ on their albums and talkin’ about “needin’ a dirty woman.” At the same time, they talk about “calling out for the Nazarene” and how Jesus is the “Real Deal.” Funny contradictions that strangely seem to fit in with some in the Southern culture. The music’s top quality, solid Southern Rock and their lyrics about the Lord pay Him respect, but their approach will make their music fit much tighter with the partying Jackyl crowd than the fun-loving Christian crowd. For ordering info, write: Southbound Records, 12841 Hawthorne Blvd, Ste 62, Hawthorne CA 90250 (DV) SEA OF DREAMS Here is a very good prog metal offering from Norway. High, operatic vocals are accompanied by flutes, classical embellishments, and tight ‘n’ competent playing. Fans of Helloween, older Queensryche, Sacred Warrior and Veni Domine will have a new band to enjoy here. Very good songwriting and performances. Of special note is the five-part epic “Illusions.” For ordering info, write: Star Studio, Blaklokkevn 1, 4350 Naerbo, Norway (DV) MICHAEL KNIGHT Here’s an interesting disc. It’s a CD-single from the movie Evil Street. The song is “Necropolis,” and it’s a heavy romp with some killer chops. For ordering info, write: Knight Music Productions, PO Box 651, Floral Park NY 11002 (DV) RICH ADLER This guy is primarily a bassist looking for a band, but this music is a four-track with some ethereal instrumental guitar/bass compositions. Sounds pretty relaxing, though it doesn’t necessarily show off his low-end prowess, but rather, his soothing electric guitar capabilities. For info, write: 488 East 329th St, Willowick OH 44095-3306 (BVM) Music To Cuddle To Awright!! This 12-song compilation is a refreshing collection of good material. Variety abounds, with the melodic pop punk of Restricted Division and the pseudo swing of The W’s “The Devil Song” (demo version of the song before they were signed), girl-fronted swing from Moffett, plus the ska-influenced punk rock of Five Men Down. My favorites are probably Against The Flow’s “Keep The Faith,” the modern hard edge of Human Industry’s “Nearer To Your Sphere,” and the infectious “Life Story” by Restricted Division. A good collection for sampling a dozen deserving indie bands. Very impressive. For ordering info, write: Cuddlefish Recordings, PO Box 2663, West Lafayette IN 47906 (DV) TEFILLA Imagine the technical proficiency and tightness of Believer with the Godzilla-like hugeness of Sepultura. You have a brutally hard outfit that deserves the HM Mag red carpet treatment. These guys simply slay with their power grooves and sound. This album, Grievous Anguish, was originally intended to come out in 1996, but that label failed. Their new label has rescued this too-good-to-die album for us lovers of metal. The label is called Fear Dark, but I say “fear Tefilla!” Be afraid. Be very afraid. To order, send $13 to: Fear Dark, Chopinlaan 30, 2742 BJ, Waddinxveen, The Netherlands (DV) KERRY LIVGREN Here’s some very tasty progressive rock. Kerry originally released this album ten years ago and many of the songs were old Kansas and AD songs that he had hanging around that never saw the recording light of day. They were brilliant then, but Kerry felt these songs needed a better treatment, thus Prime Mover II. Fans of Kerry’s will be delighted to find that he’s added five songs in the process. The new treatment of the old songs is sonically sound and has a bit more of a full sound (aka beef), but it seemed to have lost some of its high-end crispness. One of the five “new” songs is a new rendition of “Fair Exchange” (from the Vinyl Confessions album). If you’re like me, a new album from Kerry is almost a non-option (ie. you have to get it); and, as usual, it does not disappoint. For ordering info, write: Numavox, PO Box 44, Berryton KS 66409 (DV) STEAMBOAT This 11-song disc is worthy of major distribution, due to its top-quality packaging and production. But forget the outer layers. If we dig in, you’ll be confronted with some of the most unique, and well-written music in the indie scene today. While “Delimma’s End” is on the more mellow end, the whole of the record demonstrates what might happen when you take some guitars from Puller’s first album, some songwriting from Stavesacre, and add a rich cello sound and a delicate flute. Quite a robust, yet refined, mixture. For info, write: The Red Crown Empire, PO Box 737, Denton TX 76202-0737 (BVM) DIRGE Packing more groove than John Gibson’s old band (Aeturnus), this disc also displays even more talent. Thick metal guitar soaks every time change, every quick stop and start, and every metal/hardcore/rap vocal. Check out “Taken” on this issue’s Hard Music Sampler CD. For info, write: John Gibson, 6165 2nd St, Odessa MO 64076 (BVM) NOTHING DOWN While some of these vocals are like Alice In Chains, others almost remind me of a slightly beefier Soulfood 76. Musically, the guys are a heavy-hitting hard rock, ranging from the plodding to the quick and sprightly. For info, write: 4431 W. 154th St, Lawndale CA 90260 (BVM) SHEPHERD'S PIE Somewhat eclectic, this mostly acoustic band uses everything from a tin whistle to a trombone, to a wah pedal and distorted vocals. Some of the music here even sounds a bit like Bare Naked Ladies, but without the lyrical wit or creativity. For info, visit: (BVM) Manna 2 Go The follow-up to Fifty 280’s acclaimed Green Manna Compilation again brings to the table some of Colorado’s best independent bands. Copilot starts things off with their brand of mellow modern rock. Also here is the infamous but lovable Rackets & Drapes, and their song “Disease of Me,” (a song that was written before Marilyn Manson’s first record was even out). The hyped up “Rockabilly Song” by Trump Mother Jones hints that the band has taken some lessons from fellow Denver folks Five Iron Frenzy. Speaking of which, that band makes an appearance here, with one of their old ones, “Every New Day.” Blah takes advantage of the moment to show us their new-found energetic rockabilly sound, and Green Ribbon contributes their eerie gothic Europop, which gives me a desire to hear their record. I really liked Trunk Full of Daisies. With additions like The Fraidy Cats, SMA, The Guys, etc., this is a worthy compilation, with plenty of signable bands. To order, send $12 to: Fifty 280 Records, 4752 Peak View, Erie CO 80516 (BVM) LIAR'S PARADISE There are few albums we’ve reviewed in recent history, which we can honestly say are “all out weird.” This is one of those albums. When you find the info sheet and see the name Matt Frantz, though, somehow you’re not so surprised by the industrial noise that marches forth from the speakers. Spoken word spouts truth and thoughts that we’d rarely let escape our lips, yet usually ends up finding itself realizing ultimate Truth. All manner of electronic noises and tape manipulation are included here. In some cases, all that happens are added echoes, but in others, it may be hard to decipher the words. Yet, the emotion behind the writings is certainly conveyed. Besides, sometimes the fun is in solving the puzzle. To order, send a check or m.o. for $12 (payable to matt Frantz) to: PO Box 31248, Cincinnati OH 45231 (BVM) STONES IN THE FLOW The sonic clarity on this disc is slightly impaired by a few weak vocal performances. Thankfully, there are several different lead vocalists. One high point (or low point, depending on the listener’s personal taste) is variety. They do some fairly mellow modern rock with some nice, semi-technical guitar solos in one song, and then jump into a smooth pop rap type of sound, before playing an acoustic rock ballad. Nothing tremendous here, but the songwriting and production make for the few performance glitches here. (You may recall hearing one of his songs on the Hard Music Sampler CD that accompanied the September/October issue) For info, write: c/o Mike Joiner, 303 Cedardale Dr, Griffin GA 30224 (BVM) TRUMP MOTHER JONES Sometimes sounding hardly anything like their track on the Manna 2 Go CD, and other times just like it, these folks produce a gnarly, energetic blend of ska, swing, and rockabilly, with some decent horn blowin’. So you can get a feel for the lyrical vibe, one of these bouncy songs proclaims “I wish I had Fabio’s pecs,” as it presumably talks about life in an ocean setting. Pretty interesting, eh? For info, write: 2945 S Vine St, Denver CO 80210 (BVM) PHADRAH TORELLE While the packaging suggests a contemporary pop sort of thing, the music, for the most part, actually rocks. Rock guitar solos here and there aid this vibe, and her lyrics will conjure a question in the listener’s mind as to that listener’s spiritual state. More and more singers are adopting this soft, frosty warmth, similar to vocalists like Tiffany Arbukle. Sounds real nice. For info, write: PO Box 2359, Rowville Vic. 3178, Australia (BVM) SAGE GREEN The modern rock distortion-heavy guitars in “I Fall Everyday” nearly prepared me for some heavier vocals, so Shelly Alberg’s ethereal singing — not unlike Leigh Nash or Delores O’Rioran — was a surprise. ”Hollow” is perhaps the most Cranberry-like. Everything on this five-song disc (which, by the way, was produced by Reflescent Tide’s Jeff Weiss), besides “I Fall Everyday” and “Too Close For Comfort,” are pretty much of the mellow variety, but successfully steer clear of being over-popped. For info, write: c/o Tony Hix, PO Box 362, Edgar WI 54426 (BVM) SEVEN I think this is supposed to be a ska band. Well, while the very talented horns display some nice sounds, the acoustic guitar just doesn’t do it for me, and neither do the drums, which sound like they’re straight from the keyboard. Some clever lyric-writing rescue some otherwise blah songs. For info, write: 701 Lyncrest Dr, Lincoln NE 68510 (BVM) ANONYMOUS PROPHET Some electronic drums back up a tinny guitar on this disc, and toe vocals are a little too upfront, but well done, nonetheless. Styles range from an 80’s sounding arena rock to Europop, and there’s even a dance mix of one song (“The Journey”). For info, write: PO BOX 1732, Buckley WA 98321 (BVM) STAIRWELL Whoa! The “ba-bada-pa!” reminded me a little of Up With People, which was a surprise, but then I heard some quicker, up-tempo post-hardcore pop-rock, with gritty vocals not unlike those in the late great Quayle. The musical difference between this band and the singer’s old band (Bloodshed) are comparable to the difference between Six Feet Deep and Brandston. This kinda tracks along with the whole “post-hardcore” thing. Lyrics are quite deep and thoughtful, as is usually the case with this style. For info about this 7-inch, write: 6432 Hughes Dr, Huntington Beach CA 92647 (BVM) THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY With a name like that, I had no idea what to expect. A long, monotonous guitar part, with an equally repetitious bass, shrouds the thoughtful spoken word on the first side (“Left Cold”). The second side, “Look Inside,” is actually a pleasant song, rooted deep in the underground, and like with most 7-inches, it goes without saying that you’ll probably never hear this on the radio. Soft and smooth, with an airy female vocal, the song is tenuously interrupted by Tim McCready’s tormented shouting and guitar playing. Pretty neat. For info, write: Ghetto Blaster records, 727 Kildare Rd, Windsor ON N8Y 3H1 Canada (BVM) Not From Around Here? I finally got a chance to hear the much talked about band Freeto Boat. Not bad, actually, though the vocals could stand a few more guts. Amid the other tracks on this compilation, like some adequate songs by Shady Blue, etc., are some neat rarities: Left Out came into the studio to record the medley, “Love in the Last Quarter of the 20th Century/Social Studies” (remember Breakfast With Amy?), and a song taken straight from Craig’s Brother’s 7-inch made it on here: “Dear Charlotte.” Also fun were the Starflyer meets Smashing Pumpkins sounds of a band called Till 7 Years Pass Over Him. Not a bad comp, and the price is right. To order, send $8 ($10 overseas) to: 17735 Redwood Dr, Castro Valley CA 94546 (BVM) CHAMPION BIRDWATCHERS Ooh, hear the rich woodgrain in that cello, underlying where a passionate vocal floats, and random rock guitar sounds have their way with the mixing board. Always a fantasy-laden story, calling on some CS Lewis/Eric Campuzano tendencies, this record seems to be a continuation in the previous record’s musings. “Overswept” is basically a song in Hebrew, and is said to be II Kings 18:6. Every second of this disc is very intellectual and artistic, though much of it goes right over my head. To order, send $14 to: Red Shift Recordings, PO Box 30244, Spokane WA 99223 SHADRACH Acoustic-based, but with a ton of variety, Shadrach’s debut CD is fun-and-a-half. “Wine Into Water” would be an interesting mix of grunge (complete with a nice cello), and “Nothing to Do” has all the right elements: quality guitar playing, good melody, original vocal, and well-balanced harmonies. Plus, Mike Roe produced and played on three of the tracks here. Easily one of my favorite indies this issue. Check out their song, “Style,” on this issue’s Hard Music Sampler CD. To order, send $14 to: 304 Arroyo Dr, So. San Francisco CA 94080 (BVM) GLOBALWAVESYSTEM Back and better than ever, this band’s live set is said to have stolen the show at C-stone ‘98. Well, their latest project, HypercriteP, is nothing to yawn at. “Cardboard Box” is a sarcastic, yet non-judgmental finger pointed at those who try to fit God in their pre-fabricated role for Him in their lives. All the while, the music is a plodding electric format, complete with the expected samples and distortion on the clockwork vocals, though the words are surprisingly easy to understand. For info, write: Flaming Fish Music 9 Koidern Ave, Whitehorse Yukon Y1A 3N7, Canada (BVM) THE CLAN Nope, not a white supremist group, but a really cool band. At first listen to these powerful vocals, I was going to make references to Eddie Vedder’s passionate screams, but I also hear some Chris Scott in the otherwise smooth parts. The music is decidedly modern rock, with some unique twists. For info, write: 8783 Pence Hwy, Blissfield MI 49228 (BVM) SEVENTY TIMES SEVEN The driving beat, with intricate starts & stops, will drive you right into the ground. Like the heavy stuff? This is death/black/metal core, with the kind of guitar heaviness in which fans of the genre will revel, and the vocals to which they’ll be screaming along. And these guys have only been playing together since August! You can hear their tune, “Undercurrent,” on this issue’s Hard Music Sampler CD. For info, write: c/o Jay, 5876 Roby Rd, Philpot KY 42366 (BVM) NEW DAY These guys are pretty safe and tame, but the guitars in the upbeat love song, “When You Look At Me,” stray a little to the dirty side. This major-key band, for the most part, reminds me of the first few Newsboys albums. For info, write: John Zelenski, 909 Battle St, Scranton PA 18508 (BVM) NOIZ With some deep, guttural death vocals, the rest of this tape is plagued by a lack of low-end tones. What’s there, though, is pretty well done. Topics are typical; in fact, almost cliche in parts, but the downright biblical lyrics never fail to deliver a message of hope. Just beef up that bass! For info, write: Stefan Schulze, Nordstraße 49, 38106 Braunschweig, Germany (BVM) SONIC KOLLAGE The vocals in this project are versatile, anything from an EDL style rap-core to a traditional modern rock, But the former sounds much better than the latter. Music ranges from simple rock & roll to a tighter modern metal. Pretty cool, though the production was a bit muffled. For info, write: c/o MD & LR Kelly, 14 Dey St, Mangawhai Heads, New Zealand (BVM) STRANGE OCCURRENCE Here’s some driving hard rock from the Northwest, though the sound transcends most regional stigmas. The music, however, is decidedly modern rock, with very gutsy singing, heavy guitars, and some nice melodic hooks. For info, write: PO Box 856, Buckley WA 98321 (BVM) MUD EYE JOE This three-song disc is an audio hammer, pounding home a hard, bluesy biker rock message of hope to those who’ve “fallen through the cracks.” The low, crunchy metal guitars work powerfully thru some muddy production and strong, impassioned singing. For info, write: 314 West Grant, Hartford City IN 47348 (BVM) THE BLAMESHARES Here we have a band who seem to have influences as varied as Adam Again, Cake, and Mike Knott. In fact, this is some of the most unique and eclectic music I’ve heard in a long time. Most songs, lyrically and musically, could fall under the oft misunderstood (and mislabeled) indie rock classification, because of the relaxed low-fi sounds, and the mostly forlorn-edged lyrics. For info, write: SFP Recordings, PO Box 1482, Scottsdale AZ 85252-1482 (BVM) INNOCENT BLOOD With the help of some crystal clear production, Innocent Blood proves to be fun, relevant and... uh, they rock! Struggle is the track with all the cool guitar sounds, utilizing a neat wah, with good ol’ American rock hooks. Vocals range from a soulful hard rock to a low-fi Mike Knott or John Cooper (Skillet). For info, write: 63A Donegani, Pointe Claire QC, H9R 2V9 Canada (BVM) THE MAGIC ELF You like those crazy rhythms and time signatures that make it so you have no standard by which to clap the hands, snap the fingers, or even tap the foot? The Magic Elf has some very interesting instrumental music, along the lines of Scheetz, Vai, and Satriani, etc. But these guys don’t appear to take themselves too seriously, but they can afford to smile (and be enthralled with elves), since the music itself is of very high quality. For info, write: PO Box 604024, Bay Terrace NY 11360-4024 (BVM) DAVID WILLIAMS There’s a lot of cool groove going on in this flat-out rock record, while the songwriting and vocals lack creativity. The low-end guitars and bass compliment the soloing and leads rather well. For info, write: 2272 4th Place Circle NE, Birmingham AL 35215 (BVM) KEITHEN RUFF Definitely not the flavor of the month, this disc is very clean, and the vocals are well-trained, with a vocal style not unlike the nasal qualities of Michael Sweet. The rock guitar has some great tones and decent playing, but are very monotonous and suffer from being a little dated. For info, write: Ruff Productions, 4055 Ruff Rd, Pinson AL 35126 (BVM) From Kaamos to Midnight Sun This Finnish Metal Compilation brings to these shores the best of the hard music that this country is known for. The death/unblack -- sometimes gothic-influenced -- metal of Immortal Souls screams of high grade musicianship and quality production. Manifestum also impressed me with their creative textures, keys laying a smooth foundation for the variety-conscious vocals (which are sometimes similar to early Vengeance Rising). We’ve heard the harsh realities of Deuteronomium before. We even put ‘em on our sampler CD! Their song, “Abortion,” is quite powerful, driving along at a quick pace with some occasional stops and starts. Scream belies their name, and actually has some melodic vocals, though they could use some help. In all, quite a harsh compilation. To order, send $20 (the label suggests sending “well hidden cash”) to: Little Rose Productions, PO Box 533, FIN-40101 Jyvaskyla, Finland (BVM) LIQUID MESSENGER With an obvious classic rock flair, Liquid Messenger doesn’t take this whole rock & roll thing lightly. “This is Not a Test” portrays a heavy Zeppelin feel, while not coming off as a simple Led Zep rip-off. “Mama” is a funk-laden look into the sound of Aerosmith, as is “What’s Up With That?” Hear “This is Not a Test” on this issue’s Hard Music Sampler CD. For info, write: 2231 East Joanna, #A, Santa Ana CA 92705 (BVM) EAST WEST I’m impressed... This is some cool modern rock, with some rap-core in it. Or is it the other way around? Heavy guitars compliment vocals in “Reason,” while the only ballad in this four-song demo, “Everything,” even sounds a bit like a softer, more melodic Puller. For info, write: PO Box 6877, Corona CA 91718-6877 (BVM)


[go to top]
[go to current issue]