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smashes -- the best of guardian
Whenever a band leaves a large label, that label is likely to do the "Best Of" thing, allowing the label to reap a financial harvest one more time from the artist they've signed. Often times, of course, the band has left to another label or some other awkward situation surrounds the possibility of said band working with label in a positive manner. In simpler terms, often the band isn't consulted on the track selections. I venture a guess that this was the case here.
You take a band as good and adept at songwriting as Guardian, and you're flat out going to have a killer "Greatest Hits' package. The lion's share of material here is from the blockbuster album (at least in my opinion) Buzz. Tunes like "Lion's Den," "State of Mind," "Lead The Way," and "This Old Man" are a good reminder of how great that album is. Unfortunately, nothing was culled from the band's first two albums. It would have been really nice to hear about four songs from Fire And Love.
Since most Guardian fans have every album the band has released, they will be looking for that rare, unreleased gem. There's five attempts at such a gem, but me thinks they fall flat on their face trying. I mean, it's kind of novel to hear a dance remix of "This Old Man" or "Bottlerocket," but one listen is probably enough for Guardian fans. This is kind of what I'd expect to hear in some surreal dream about Guardian music being played in a karaoke bar in Japan. The "Acoustic Remix" of "Babble On" and the "Mellow Remix" of "Queen Esther" actually work the best in the special treatment category.
Since this great band is history, let's hope that the special team of Jamie Rowe and Tony Palacios carry on the fine tradition of writing super songs.
Doug Van Pelt
Fleming & John
the way we are
I've been waiting for this record to come out for so long, I almost got sick. This band is so stinkin' great, it's just insane that they're not all over the radio, MTV, and people's t-shirts. If you haven't heard this creative new sound, just imagine the serious rock of Zeppelin with the flighty and cute female vocals of Olivia Newton-John on top.
The cute little girl starts the album off with an a capella performance of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," which sounds like it could've come from a Dictaphone a goof thirty years ago. "I'm So Small" kicks in next and makes being quirky cool. "Sssh!" comes romping up next, with a big phat disco type sound behind the song. Imagine The Beatles doing disco on LSD. This is probably what would've happened (minus the falsetto vocals). The first single, "Pearl," effectively mixes a flat-out pop melody with all the fresh elements that sets Fleming & John apart.
While the band's debut album seemed to immediately grab my musical attention and make me fall in love at first listen, this album takes more than just a few casual listens to experience what's really here. Did I mention that I like this band? Oh, I did? Well, I like this record a lot, too. It's taking me longer to appreciate than the first one, and the remake of "Rain All Day" doesn't sound like an improvement to me, this will stay glued in my stereo for a while.
Oh yeah! Do you need your wallpaper or stucco ceiling removed? These boys get the job done! Like any good band in a genre with the root word "core" in it (as in rapcore), you almost expect spit to come flying out of the speakers. These nice boys from Arkansas sure play some mean tunes! Those of you who totally dig the common ground between P.O.D., E.D.L., Project 86, and Disciple (at least in a few songs), must give some overdue props to Spoken.
While having more than four members might spell too much aural traffic for a band so dependent on the groove, these five craft tight and heavy riffs that stay in sync. While I liked Spoken's debut, On Your Feet, this one sounds like more care was taken in the recording. The sounds are beefier and stronger. The man behind the production helm was none other than Jyro Xhan. Anyone who had doubts about this man's knowledge of the heavy riff will be forever silenced with this record. There is a cool departure in the song "Fly With Me," with cameos from Jyro and K2S, offering some rap to the core. There's even a wild cover of the classic "People Get Ready, Jesus Is Coming." You've never heard it like this before! Imagine the shock you felt the first time you heard Unashamed attack "Awesome God." This will prepare you for the chorus to this song. The guitar tones in this cover, and the song "New Life" are dripping with that psycho sound found in bands like Korn and Prong.
Tunes like "When I Fall" have the whole arresting start/stop thing down. It's hard to imagine which band member here will have the most fun with this material live. No one will have a problem finding the groove, that's for sure. It just slams over and over again with the precision of a machine, but with the passion of a real human being.
Spoken has arrived with this album. Be afraid. Be very afraid. According to the imaginary hard music book I keep nearby, Metro One hasn't had something this good under its umbrella since the reign of Precious Death. This album will rock your world.
the pieces fit
Considering Lily's second album takes a turn for the worse as far as hard music fans are concerned. While their first album was a mix of pop and rock with promising glimpses of hardness, personnel changes have sent the group in a softer direction. Jeanette Herdman now joins Pearl Barrett on lead vocals, and despite some song writing by husband Bob Herdman (Audio Adrenaline), bass by Will McGinniss (Audio A) and production by Barry Blair (formerly of Audio A), the band does not move in the direction of harder music like Audio A. Considering Lily is now an entirely pop outfit (most likely found in the contemporary/inspirational section of your Christian music store). "We want to utilize components that would create more of a pop sound, more drum-loops and keyboard programming," says Jeanette. It's well done a good album if you like modern pop.
All Star United
international anthems for the human race
This sophomore project doesn't move very far from All Star's first record. The guitars and lyrics have the same hint of Steve Taylor and early Newsboys that their debut had, and its pop influences (whoo-hoo!) hold it back from really rocking out, despite the punk tinges that show up here and there. The opener, "Big Rock Show" is one of the better songs on this disc, along with the straight ahead rocker "International Anthems." There are some other highlights though, "Popular Americans" could be a Blues Brothers song, and the ballads are nicely done ("Thank You, Goodnight" and "I Need You Now"). From blues to lounge to the Beach Boys, there is a lot of retro rock nestled between the layers of synthesizer, which makes for an interesting combination.
The lyrics address some poignant issues, from the daily need for repentance to the shallow judging of socialites, but often get caught in cliché and lack bite by themselves. Most of the songwriting rests on Ian Eskelin, and despite venturing down several avenues of genre, the lack of diversity begins to show here. Certainly a strong record, but it does not have the development you want in the follow up to a smash debut (unless you are Aerosmith). (DJ)
moms like us too
This label's growing roster is showcasing 22 songs from 12 quality bands. In addition to the well known tunes by many of these bands, there are also a few previously unreleased tracks, like this version of "Numb" by Project 86, "I Love You" by Pep Squad, "Serena" by Fold Zan, "CalmDown" from The Dingees, and "Girl From Rosewood Lane" and "Electric Car" by Joy Electric. We also get introduced to two new projects Swing Praise (a swing version of "Amazing Grace") and a song from Not For The Crowd. The overall impact of this compilation, however, is how easily it shows you the strength of the BEC label's roster.
The album that's been hinted at for nearly two years is finally here. By all estimates, it sounds like the wait was good for the band. My memories of the band's live shows were good, bordering on intense, but not riveting. This release, however, finds the band fulfilling its potential. These four guys sound not like they're only on the same page, but on the very same letter. While not exactly Primus or anything, their start/stop skills are appreciated.
The band also stretches beyond these boundaries, laying down some nice modern rock bass lines in "God-like," coupled with processed vocals a la Marilyn Manson. The rapper with the growing image, Dirt, makes a cameo on "Inner Fire," but it's not a token rap song or anything. Nailed Promise gets somber in "You Let Me Go," which tells a tale of betrayal from the perspective of a condemned one heading down talking to a believer who could've warned him. The mood is somewhat melancholy in the closing "Realize," which acts as a simple invitation to know Jesus. Sweet.
The best moments come when the band takes on this heavy groovecore identity and just rocks out. "Black And White," "Stand Tall," and "Transparent" are good examples. Now that they've finally come out of the starting blocks, this band might be the next one to put Rescue back on the map. This reviewer is just like one hard music beggar telling another where to get bread here.
one nation under god
I was very curious to see how Tragedy Ann would settle in to their new sound. Having made the drastic jump from its muscle heavy grungified Sometime Sunday music, Mikee Bridges and company practically made Tragedy Ann a bonafide Southern Rock band (minus the slide guitars and references to whiskey). Mikee's voice really fit the music, and the songs were done well. Now that they've established something, how well will they swim in it? Album number two tells the story.
Mixing the passionate vocal delivery in true postpunk fashion, the riffs pay homage to legends like Molly Hatchet, The Outlaws, Blackfoot and Skynyrd, but the muddy guitar tones brand too much Northwestern smoke on these boys not to be identified with their region as well. I'm a little surprised at the song, "You Are Mighty," though, due to the use of the cliche echoes of "Hey!" in each chorus, along with a junior high Kiss plodding rhythm. The lyrics are pure worship, though, and it's fairly catchy. Watch this be a hit.
Having been constantly involved with music and ministry for several years, Mikee's lyrics are loud proclamations of what God's grace has done and can do. In the same way that many "revolutionary" grunge acts have now found a home in classic rock radio, Tragedy Ann's music can successfully bridge two or three generations together. It's accessible, the songs are hook-driven, but they're also dirty enough and real enough to be played in the street. These boys have done well. Tip your hat to em, son.
where i wanna be
Most of the vocals here are rap; a little nice harmony here and there. This is the first album The Channelsurfers have made with their new singer, Aaron Scantlen, and bring us their unique sound once again. The song "God is Bigger" reappears on this album (they refer to it as "Boogey Man") and you can tell they spent a little more time on this rendition than on the one that appeared in The Mother of All Tribute Albums last Spring. The song "Beach Bum" really rocks and the lyrics are fun, like... "My brother is an artist... he lives in a van, but as long as he parks it by the beach, he'll always have a tan." Now if that doesn't make you smile, the rest of the album will.
It's a quality performance from the Channelsurfers and, in my opinion, surpasses their last project, Tunnel Vision. My favorite song has to be "More Lonely Guys." There is a hidden track that we've heard (a parody of metal), that may appear on the CD; and we really hope it does... it's very entertaining.
The solo debut of Grammatrain's lead singer/guitarist still has that grunge sound, but that doesn't mean this is a grunge album. Producer Michael Tait (DC Talk) adds some drum loops, horn samples and an assortment of other non grunge sounds, and Pete comes out sounding more like the work he did with DC Talk on Supernatural than Grammatrain. In fact, the chorus of "Up in the Sky" sounds a lot like the chorus of "Supernatural" (come to think of it, the lyric to "Little Country Church" reminds me of Michael W. Smith's "Kentucky Rose"). There is a lot of diversity here, both within the songs and between tracks. "Out of my Mind" stands out as one of the harder cuts, and it alternates between a soft clean groove over a drum loop on the verses and a crunchy chorus.
Pete pulls no punches about praising God on this album and there is a lot of good rock and roll and good worship songs to showcase his singing and playing. The songs are very well written, with cutting grooves and a big, well balanced, powerful sound you don't always get from a solo project. From the voice / piano / drums / strings of "Waiting for the Son" to the electric power of a hard driving guitar ("Don't Underestimate Me"), Pete Stewart shows excellent musicianship with his tightly worked melodies and well-crafted power.
I have to like this band before I even hear a lick. I cannot remember anyone else having the logic to sample Monty Python in their music. I know I'm at least going to bond with these people if we ever hang out. Now, I just hope I like the music... First impression is fun pop punk. Production is kinda raw, but the band writes some good hooks. It's not as slick as the Supertones, or as insane as Five Iron, but their horns are not all off-key, like some indie ska bands we hear these days, so I say this would be a pretty good addition to your ska collection. One of my favorites is "Shoe Fetish," with its hilarious lyrics about a woman's weakness and the infectious vocals of Carrie Schmidt.
While I don't predict these guys will take off like their name, they're off to a good start.
This man has had quite a journey through rock and roll and, thankfully, he is still traveling and making great music from the journey. A few years ago, in fact, he was diagnosed with lymphoma (cancer), to which he fought with everything he had to the point of wearing army fatigues to outwardly express his quite literal inward battle. Praise the Lord, the disease has left his body! This guy certainly knows how to write a great song, and this 14-tune collection is just a glimpse of things to come (as well as a glimpse of his solo offering from the past few years).
Rise covers a wide range of sounds, from the Lennon-esque "In Circles" and "Transcendental" to the Alarm-ish anthemic "The Wasting Land," "I Want You" and "My Calling." There's even a down-stroke guitar strum in "First Light" that sounds like the same crashing crescendo we hear in a lot of Starflyer songs. The John Lennon comparisons are no joke, either. In fact, the "In Circles" tune relies on a very familiar Beatles-like guitar tone, and "Transcendental" uses a cool organ sound that would fit well on any Lennon disc.
For the uninitiated, Mike Peters is a professed believer in Jesus Christ and was the frontman for 80's punk/pop/anthem belters The Alarm, whose faith quite often finds its expression in his pen. His name is well known among fans of similar believing artists like U2, The Call, Lone Justice, Maria McKee, Bruce Cockburn, and Sam Phillips.
I'm pretty bummed out about one of the better songs, though. "Ground Zero" marries a great melody with some swearing. Taking an almost Go-Go's and B-52's approach (a la "Round the World") to each chorus, where Mike laments he has "gone to ground zero, ground zero, with the losers, creeps and the (cusswords)..."
The problem is, in my journey as a Christian, I am endeavoring to be pure. Part of this effort (a good portion, in fact) involves the use of my tongue. I can use it to bless or curse. If I choose to make repeated listenings to a song that drills this cussword home like this, it will surely impact my efforts to keep the words of my lips holy in God's sight. Now, I know that believers from other cultures (Europe) have other views on using certain language, but I'm also very aware of the culture that I am part of (which would reflect the vast majority of HM readers). I'm sure that those wearing a WWJD bracelet would make a similar decision and skip over track 5 on this album, and maybe track 2 as well (which uses the s-word in a spot about troubled times). I do not condemn the man for using this kind of language, nor anyone else. I judge myself and my own tongue, and I simply wish to warn others with a similar goal that these two songs probably won't help their efforts.
Lyrical problems aside, this album showcases the strengths of this killer singer/songwriter. This man and his catalog would be held in high regard if there was justice in the music world. This disc has been stuck in my stereo for weeks. There's moments where it reaches the greatness of The Eye Of The Hurricane and other spots where the passion of Declaration turns up. If this solo album sounds this good, I can't imagine what his new band with former Cult guitarist Billy Duffy (Coloursound) will sound like.
jesus rides harley too
I'm impressed with the band's evolution since its last release. Remember how Motorhead's Lemmy had a vocal sound that transcended the whole classic metal realm to attract punks? Cornerstone's vocalist, Kent Franklin, sounds like a cross between Paul Di'anno and Sir Lemmy. The music, while faster than biker rock, maintains a phat low end that links the music to the blues. It's kinda like the rhythms of early British metal, minus the ripping metal guitar solos.
Some of the songs, like "Moover," sound a ton like pre 75 Kiss. This song could've easily been on Hotter Than Hell or Dressed To Kill. The vocals, the guitars, the rhythms, everything. Now, if that wasn't enough, just close your eyes. Imagine you're listening to your old copy of Kiss Alive and you hear a hidden track that you've never heard before. Paul Stanley comes up to the microphone and wails, "Ya know . . . We all have to get ready Jesus is coming soon!" Then the band romps into a rousing rock version of the Blind Willie Johnson classic, "Jesus Is Coming Soon." This song, right here, is worth the price of the CD. I think both Darrell Mansfield and Gene Simmons would be proud (evangelistic lyrics and all!) somebody give them a copy.
While some of the songs tread familiar territory, which make it easy to think cliche, these guys play it so well that you can't dismiss this as cheap imitation. These Swedes have discovered the blues and made it their own. You'll get a glimpse of the band's sound by listening to the title track on this issue's Hard Music Sampler CD, but you'll want to venture beyond the first three tracks here if you get ahold of this album. Like a concert setting, Cornerstone seems to settle in after a couple and just get better as they go along.
west coast madness
Here's a sampler CD showcasing new talent at this cool new label. You'll hear their first three bands Freeto Boat, The Kreepdowns, and Noggin Toboggan, but also the hilarious ska outfit, The San Diego Big News Bears, and hardcore band Anguish Unsaid. The three songs by Anguish Unsaid, "Comfort Zone," "Battle Cry," and "Confession in Times of Tribulation" are intense. This little set makes the economically-priced compilation worth checking out (plus the cool sticker inside).
The folks at Gotee decided to go really retro and re-release the Original Cast Recording of this Broadway Musical. It really brings back memories of the Jesus movement and the sounds of 60's guitar. The lead off track, "Prepare Ye The Way," is a cool worship tune, as is "Day by Day," but the rest of the album could just as well be a memory I'd let fade. The sonics and sounds on this album just don't get these feet a tappin' (at all). Some really great bands were making some killer sounds in this era (Hendrix, Zeppelin, Beatles, Deep Purple, Sabbath), but this was just a time when television soundtracks and Christian music was a good seven years behind the times. (DV)
run joseph run!
Dave, Mark, Eric and Mark deliver a solid performance for the Tasty Snax' debut CD. If you like Weezer and the Presidents of The United States of America, you should give Tasty Snax a try. The title song, "Run Joseph Run," tells the story of the attempt by Potiphor's wife to seduce Joseph. There is also a reenactment of the story on the album's cover... Joseph running away while Potiphor's wife is left holding his clothes... Does that mean Joseph is?... you'll have to see for yourself!
If variety is what you want, I would suggest listening to this CD intermittently with a few others. But although the sound is basically the same throughout, the guys' talent is evident through the creative lyrics and instrumentation. "Ode to a Bob" adds a little something different with a trumpet solo from Darren Mettler of the O.C. Supertones. The cool lyrics found in songs like "Wonderbread," "Run Joseph Run," and "Screw Up," and a good instrumental performance make "Run Joseph Run" a worthwhile addition to your alternative collection. (AN)
chase the sun
It's hard not to like the O.C. Supertones' new album, Chase the Sun. There is a lot of talent between these six guys. The Supertones made this new album minus one trumpet; although Daniel Spencer, trombone, and Darren Mettler, trumpet, manage to hold their own just fine. Have these guys been to the islands recently? There is a kind of Caribbean feel, especially in the song "Away From You." "Hallelujah" is a cool praise song; kind of a chorus, and the song, "Old Friend," has lyrics written by Tony Terusa and Darren Mettler, and is a nice acoustic sounding song with no horns. It kind of sounds like something the Supertones might sing if they were on a cattle drive. I didn't like the title song, "Chase the Sun," as much as most of the others. The Supertones end the album with a song called "Refuge." It's like a prayer and it has a great string sound (is that a cello?)... in my opinion, a reverent way to end a great album. (AN)
Plumb's new album has a warm and wonderful airy quality. The vocal performance is also top notch. The title song, "Candy Coated Water Drops," is a beautiful song lyrically and musically. A little girl opens the song "Here With Me," by singing "He's Got the Whole World In His Hands." The contrast of the little girl is very effective, because "Here With Me" is one of the more intense songs on the CD. "Worlds Collide" and "Point of View" are pretty upbeat, while "Solace" has kind of a quirky, garage band sound. "Drug Store Jesus" is a really cool song with a flute in the background, while "Late Great Planet" has a spacey, techno sound and talks about the end of the world. Overall, the latest CD from Plumb has a lot of variety and some really cool and interesting touches.
Tooth & Nail
Pep Squad delivers a cool new CD, Yreka Bakery, through Tooth & Nail Records; not nearly as dark as their previous project and a little more fun. "Freak Show" is just that; a bit freaky but really playful. "On That Day" is very spiritual with lots of Bible lyrics, and much more mellow than I expected, and "The Fabulous Moolah" is a really cool song that I can't stop singing to myself. The beat picks back up with "Black and Blue" and "A Beat," and then gets interesting again with "Erik's Got a Girlfriend" and the cool disco beat of "Kandigram" (I wish there were a few more songs like this!). I think Pep Squad can do anything; their maturity as a band shows through their musical performances and their versatility... Pep Squad rocks.
Transparent is a cool rock CD. Lead singer Kylie has no problem carrying the vocals; she has a nice pure quality to her voice. The overall sound is excellent with a good rock balance; plenty of songs that hard fans will really like and a few ballads. If you liked their first album, you should feel the same way about this one; it's definitely a step in the right direction for Broomtree. The band puts on a great performance; Brian on guitar, Jonathan on bass and Rusty on drums. There is a lot of variety on this album with the addition of some musicians on several songs. Drew Powell steps in on bass in "Reckless," "Shattered," and "Human After All," and Marc Byrd plays acoustic guitar on "For Dear Life." Overall, a great second album for Broomtree.
against all odds
Radical Christian Music
King David delivers a great, modern rock CD, Against All Odds. There are two cool instrumentals, "Let Me Love You" and "The Pierced One," performed by guitarist Rudy Morales. Some fairly heavy sounds from "A Train A Comin'" and "Just Come Home," and really cool guitar in the title song "Against All Odds." The guitars are especially good in "The Pierced One." Overall, a great release from King David.
The Juliana Theory
understand this is a dream
Tooth and Nail
Lately, some of the best music is being made by the artists who make hard music. Maybe those who really know the power of a good riff have a deeper appreciation for beautiful melody. In this case, Brett Detar of Zao is writing and composing all this great emo-like pop music. The difference between the unblack metalcore sounds of Zao and The Juliana Theory make for a totally dynamic transformation. Like many of the bands today that go from hardcore to either emo or college rock (Brandston, Stairwell, to name a few), it's almost as if the melodies are just waiting to flow out of these guys. If you like the infectious pop of Plankeye, and appreciate that it's dirty and groove-filled rather than compressed and polished (the "Nashville treatment"), will love The Juliana Theory.
"DJ," from the split CD (reviewed in this issue's Indie section) becomes the full name title, "Duane Joseph," here. It's a little slicker and fuller on this album. All ten songs on this disc sound great, making for a nice listen track for track.
The Juliana Theory borrows from what has come before and writes simple pop music for the future.
Get ready to feel energized. Well, Prophecy has unleashed another album. I am sure punk fans will enjoy the somewhat Green Day sound in Stranded In Coolsville. You'll notice throughout the album there are a lot of different beats and cool sounds. They again added another instrumental song for your listening pleasure. Ending this well put together album is "The TV Next Door," a little similar to Weezer and a very 60's feel. You could also say this about the rest of the cd. For ordering info, write: 211 S Dallas, Moore OK 73160 (Kevin Olson)
This guy is just stinkin' amazing! You'll hear one of his songs, the industrial-crazy "Lament," on this issue's Hard Music Sampler, but this is only one (wacky) side to this prolific player. Frank Hart once called this guy the best bass player on the planet. He certainly could be argued as so. He alternates between ambient noodling on bass with vocalized songs of varied genres. Fans of Fourth Estate and Under Midnight and even Fold Zandura should find something very pleasing here. For ordering info, write: 105 Lauren Ln, Sulphur LA 70663 (Doug Van Pelt)
And speaking of Frank Hart, this man has released a collection of demo's from the For Madmen Only era, which have never seen the light of day. Alpha and Oranges shows us the completely different side to many of the riffs and songs we've heard. You can hear the chugging riff of "Justice" showing up in a song that was probably called "For Madmen Only." We hear another completely different glimpse of what later became "FeverDream." These songs sound very much like the heavy and crunchy era of the band's mainstream label debut. Even though they're called demo's, it is very much worth listening to. It kinda shows the difference between a professional's definition of a "demo," which is usually head and shoulders above an amateur's "demo." To order, send $15 (make checks payable to Frank Hart) to: PO Box 91602, Houston TX 77291 (DV)
When Lemmy of Motorhead joins Biohazard for a jam session of early Atomic Opera covers, it comes out Torn. These guys from Canada have their guitar tones (karunch!) dialed in just right. The lead and vocal harmonies sound very tasteful, as is the songwriting. The lead-off track here, "Drowning," appears on this issue's Hard Music Sampler, which I'm sure will inspire many to get this 9- song full-length. Torn rocks hard and heavy, and sound like they could befriend a radio dj or two. To order, send $13 to: Massive Groove Productions, PO Box 250, Keokuk IA 52632 (DV)
UPSIDE DOWN ROOM
I've never liked this band. Maybe it was too straight-up old school punk for me. But this little 6-song EP, TV Baby, wins me over. It's old school, but it flies, baby! The band absolutely lays down a tight rhythm section, and they go after it. The quirky vocal lines in "Crazy Girls" reminds me of Rik Ocasek of The Cars, and the snotty delivery and pop riffs of "Midnight Lounge" remind me of The Ramones. I repent. These guys rock! For ordering info, write: 10240 Disney Circle, Huntington Beach CA 92646 (DV)
You'd never guess that this band was the remnants of the Queensryche-meets-Maiden rockers Sacred Warrior, but that is Jackson Flying V slinger Bruce Swift singing lead vocals and he's only playing an acoustic guitar! Drummer Tony Velazquez isn't smashing the drums like the old days here, but this five-member group is creating an easy-going rock that would fit well within the classic rock genre. I hear hints of The Eagles, Billy Squier, and maybe even Tesla. As always, these boys are singing about the Lord. For ordering info, write: 22 W. 371, Glen Ellen IL 60137 (DV)
Get used to that name right now Tribus. This guy, Carlos Soto, is a player's player. Instrumental riffing that has some Latin and Salsa influence. You can hear another taste of this spicy stuff on this issue's Hard Music Sampler with the song "Brain Damage" (Tribus also had a cut called "Picante" on the May/June 98 Hard Music Sampler). The sonics are clean; and, unlike some instrumental albums, the songs aren't too long. Fans of Primus and Trip will get a real kick out of this. This 15-song disc is essentially a re-issue of the last disc we reviewed, with five new songs added. For ordering info, write: 338 N. New Hamshire, Suite 8, Los Angeles CA 90004 (DV)
There's not as many bands doing melodic hard rock these days. Bombay Dogs mix this late 70's / mid-80's approach to their blues rock. I'm reminded of the slick Southern Rock that came out of .38 Special in the early 80's. Featuring plenty of spicy harmonica and tasty guitar licks, this band holds their own. Many of the background vocals remind me of early AD. In fact, I could swear that's Warren Ham wailing away there. Five songs all romp here. For a blast to the past that's worth taking, send $8 to: Mark Mohr, PO Box 72352, Newnan GA 30271 (DV)
Oh yeah! Hardcore in your face, baby! Anybody who names a song, "Isaiah Was Right" gets an "A" in my grade report! And they top that off with the song, "Their Blood Cries Out," which bemoans that "Every day over one thousand Christians are murdered for their faith." Musically, they hold their own. The drums are downright mean and the guitars are one step away from ferocious. I'm impressed with this young sextet. Imagine Unashamed with even more metal in their guitars. Available from the fine folks at GoodFellow Records, 762 Upper James Street, Ste 275, Hamilton, ON, Canada L9C-3A2 (DV)
This is a special album that started off the way a lot of cool albums do as just a side project for some restless musicians. Since X-Sinner has relegated its AC/DC cloning to a side project tribute band that plays in LA clubs, someone needed to kick out the jams Aussie style. Four guys (Larry Lee Dunbar on drums, Dennis Glasco Jr. on guitar, Matt Davis on bass, and Earl Wayne Davis on vocals) really lay down the grit a la Powerage / Highway To Hell era AC/DC. Whenever a band tries to boogie with its rock, they better do it right, or come off laughable. These guys lay down a tight groove and had some nice songs in their quiver. 77 man, Mike Roe, produced this album, and he done good. For those who doubt my word, check out their song on this issue's Hard Music Sampler. For ordering info, write: Ninety Degree Records, 2111 Research Dr, Ste 2, Livermore CA 94550 (DV)
THROUGH AND THROUGH / SUBTERFUGE
Here's some great tunes. Through and Through take more of a metalcore approach, with huge grooves and almost unblack vocals (but mostly hardcore screeching); while Subterfuge have roots in old school punk, albeit still pretty hardcore. I dig the power in T&T a little more, but both of these bands are solid and worth checking out. Cudos to Declaration Records for putting out this split CD. To order, send $10 (or $12 if ordering outside the US) to: Darrel Mikulcik (make checks out to him), Box 498 RPO University, Saskatoon, SK, S7N-4J8 Canada (DV)
A Punk Rock Commune
The folks at Communion Records have loaded a disc with 24 tracks from 21 punk bands. Everyone from Blaster The Rocket Boy to Speedy Delivery show up here with tons o noise and enough sonic clarity to make this a really cool compilation. Squad Five-O show up with the rare "Tonight's The Night," as do One-21 and Left Out. I really dig my introduction to the ambidextrous DPW, with their swings into skacore in the midst of Dogwood-like melodic punk. Other bands that are pleasant introductions for me include The Hypocritz, War Rocket Ajax (these guys rule!), and The American Culture Experiments. Plus we get to hear more of the hard-working, touring Maintenance Man, as well. This comp is great. For ordering info, write: PO Box 2293, Waco TX 76703 (DV)
This band is brutal. It's cool to hear the multi-textures going on. You hear an almost loop- ish thing going on in the background, screaming hardcore shouting, and incessant guitar noises carefully placed. All to a hypnotic pace. The lyrics don't sound evangelistic or spiritual, as much of the anger seems to speak to relationship betrayal and hurt. This is one of those "half the band is Christian, the other half isn't" bands. I need to see these guys live. Fans of Training for Utopia will be used to this kind of musical, cacophonous insanity already (it's not as busy as TFU). The song "Loneliness" is musically just flat-out metal, like the Bloodgood days, albeit with hardcore vocals. For ordering info, write: Pluto Records, PO Box 1201, McKinney TX 75070 (DV)
With a label name like Doubleplusungood, you need to sign bands with simple names, like Concrete. Starting off with a funny complaint message on their answering machine from a neighbor annoyed by the band practicing, the band launches into their pretty solid slab of..uh...concrete-like hard music. The guitars crunch and flail away with tightness. The chugging riffs could be a tad tighter drum-wise, but this band is not sloppy. The vocals get rapped out with some decent funk. This is a good record. I love it. Fans of groovecore, hardcore, and metal will find the power here! To order, send $6 to: dpu records, 368 Sudbury St, Marlboro MA 01752 (DV)
This guys totally rock. Mixing a start/stop delivery with all the intensity of a Helmet or Wish For Eden. The band can throw in variety, too. Sounding not too distant from Nirvana in the melancholy "I'm Sorry." Mixing fun with think grooves, this band should be heard. For ordering info, write: PO Box 292, St. Petersburg FL 33731 (DV)
This split CD features some decent industrial (9 tracks from each band) that relies on a mixture of ambient sounds and noise. This isn't your guitar-based industrial music. Something the industrial purist will enjoy more than the hybrid-hungry hard music fan. For ordering info, write: Torn Curtain Records, 251 Price Rd, Ocoee TN 37361 (DV)
IMMORTAL SOULS / MORDECAIB
Aahh, another split CD! This one comes from the very fine folks at Little Rose Productions, who have a great ear for excellent metal. Since these are the days that metal is almost completely untouched by the major labels, you have to look to indies like these guys for the good stuff. These two bands deliver. Immortal Souls are 90 mph, tight, and hallow screeching their way to the metal hall of fame. What's different about these guys are their classic metal influences. Even at this speed, their melodies are clear. The vocals fall somewhere in the death/unblack range. If these guys had come out during the days of Vengeance Rising, that band probably wouldn't have been kings of thrash. Mordecai, also representing Finland, are produced very well, showcasing virtuosity in playing and a cool combination of the instruments. The vocals here are much more unblack than their fellow countrymen in I.S. Musically, the band goes after a faster, more grindcore sound. To order this double-wammy of metal, send $15 (they only accept cash & credit cards, but you can also find these from the indie dealers that advertise in HM) to: Little Rose Productions, PO Box 533, 40101 Jyvaskyla, Finland (DV)
SPACE IN YOUR FACE
Hmmm. I wonder what band influenced these guys? Anyway, a high percentage of indie music we receive from foreign countries is heavy metal. But this stuff is, like, grungy modern rock and good, at that! Nice n' dirty sounding. Half of the four songs here have some French and English trade-off singing, and the other half are totally sung in English. For ordering info, write: David Zurcher, 10 route de Bessoncourt, 90340 Chevremont, France (DV)
These three guys from Illinois rock hard with a groove. More grungy hard stuff, but not depressing lyrically. Very upfront lyrics, but not in your face-isms. I like the separation between instruments, like the occasional bass and drum interplay. The vocals sound nice as well. You'll hear a sample of this band's flavor with the song "Fallen" on this issue's Hard Music Sampler. For ordering info, write: 1819 N. Center 3E, Crest Hill IL 60435 (DV)
Here's some solid modern rock. I really enjoy much of the material. Even some of the mellow stuff, like "Remember," is a pleasant listen. Reminds me of Mark Farner vocal-wise. The more rockin' tunes incorporate some cool guitar effects and creative beat patterns. The lead vocals are mostly sung, when a shout might sound better. One example of the vocals being right on is the rap-like "H.G.W.C." (Holy Ghost West Coast). Pretty cool stuff. I'd like to see them get a little more aggressive. For ordering info, write: Ninety Degree Records, 2111 Research Dr. Ste 2, Livermore CA 94550 (DV)
These guys bring some chunky modern rock to the plate. The vocals are pretty nice, and the music, for the most part, is a little less polite. This dichotomy makes for a pretty cool sound. Some of the music gits kinda funky, where the band feels fairly at home. I hear some relation to Third Day, but with more of an underground edge. For more info, write: Red Shift Recordings, PO Box 30244, Spokane WA 99223 (DV)
PARIS BY NIGHT
Jeanine Acquart's vocals wrap around this music that plods along at a meloncholy pace, kinda like lounge music with 60's bands. Some of her tunes, like the striking title track, "Dawning," have a gothic-like and gripping presentation. Most of the other material, I find, seems to move too slowly or in the same jazzy/60's pop vibe. I'd like to hear this music live for a deeper appreciation. To order, send $12 to: Seraph, PO Box 13110, Chicago IL 60613-3110 (DV)
Here's some hefty hard rock. I'm reminded of bands like Y&T and Contagious. The vocals aren't too distant from Sin Dizzy's Oz Fox. While these three lads from Kansas don't do anything spectacular to break out of this straight-ahead rock vibe, they at least lay down a heavy foundation. Best songs are definitely "Skeletons Dance" and "Bite My Lip," with some pretty good guitar licks. I think the droning vocals not showing much up and down dynamics hurt the overall sound, though. For ordering info, write: 5645 Park Hollow, Wichita KS 67208 (DV)
Not to be confused with the cartoon characters on the cover of this issue, these guys are literally called Bob, as in a guy's name. This outfit takes a kind of plodding approach to pop rock tunes. The guitar tones are kind of weak, in my opinion, at least in the first track. The second song is much stronger, with a slight rap/groovecore song with a decent, albeit subdued, funky groove. If these guys keep exploring the grooves, I think they'll come up with some real winners. These songs would simply serve as average demos on the way there. For ordering info, write: 2309 N. Main, Flagstaff AZ 86004 (DV)
Aaaaaaggghhhh! These guys scare me! Actually, taking a similar visual approach to Cradle of Filth and some of the black metal bands from Norway, this talented group of believers play a ferocious fury of metal with total unblack vocals. Mixing some organs along with the blast beats, these guys have orchestrated a pretty cool set of 11 songs. The melodic riffs of "Kongsblod" and "Battlefield" are good examples of their musical proficiency and songwriting taste. Much of The Return of the Black Death are sung in a foreign tongue. They make a pretty good case for the, "You can't understand what they're saying," argument! For ordering info, write: Cross Rhythms Music, 3030 N. Josey #101-212, Carrollton TX 75007 (DV)
Don't fall for the trick! These guys start off with a ska riff for the first half-minute of this album. Then they blast beat their way out of this spoof faster than you can say Horde! The vocals are about the lowest frequency I've heard with distortion in all of grind. Musically, the band really shines on this release, laying down some killer grooves and super tight and fast riffing. "Face to Face Again" and "Antigod" have some of those infectious Pantera-like riffs that just shake your whole body. Other riffs, like the lead-off notes in "Ashes," recall shades of Tourniquet's "Stereotaxic..." Powerful. The vocals throughout most of the album almost seem like just a processed accent to the sound, rather than a focal point. But the music here is so good, it probably doesn't want to share center stage with a vocal line. There's a few exceptions, like the rapcore strains of "Straight Up/Down," the screaming "Friends in the Skies," or the techno (yeah, that's right!) "Frank's Enemy Metro," but this description pretty much fits for 15 straight songs. For ordering info, write: Cling Recordings, PO Box 9033, Wyoming MI 49509 (DV)
Here's some straight-up rock with some good hooks. Rounding out their sound with some organ sounds, I'm reminded of Three Crosses meets Third Day, with a little bit of the sideways pop of All Star United. Throw in a few witty lyrics, like those found in "Jesus Revolution," and you have a youth group sensation. To get in on it, write: Dot Music AB, Box 1542, 701 15 Orebro, Sweden (DV)
No, that's not Carlos Santana pictured on the cover, but his playing isn't too far behind in quality. Imagine a Lance Keltner ballad or Idle Cure adding some Texas Blues sauce to their recipe. Clean vocals, clean guitars, and a nice rhythm bed underneath. You don't hear clean lead playing like this just every day, so check out Eddie Baird if you appreciate good playing or melodic arena rock or even classic rock. For ordering info, write: Conviction for Christ Ministries, 6301 Menaul NE, Albuquerque NM 87110 (DV)
THE JULIANA THEORY / DAWSON HIGH I couldn't wait to hear what Brett Detar of Zao was working with here. This is some killer melodic emo pop. Visions of Brandston come to mind, but these guys have a great sound of their own. I could listen to them all day long. Put these guys on the road with Dogwood, and they'd take over the world! Dawson High is just as good. Both of these bands could be one and the same, if you ask me. This is one killer CD. For ordering info, try writing: RD 5, Box 306, Greensburg PA 15601 (DV)
The long awaited return of Veil of Ashes singer, Sean Doty, returns (with The 77's as his back-up band, no less!) and it's a good, good thing. We hear a couple covers, including the groggly "Eve of Destruction," and several other glimpses of his musical personality. "You're To Die" for is an infectious pop / love song with all the swagger of a Rattle and Hum era U2 number. These backup musicians are pretty darn solid! The more I listen to this, the gladder I am that this singer/songwriter didn't give up after the hit "Without Eyes" came out over a decade ago. Yeah, this boy rocks! For ordering info, write: Ninety Degree Records, 2111 Research Dr, Ste 2, Livermore CA 94550 (DV)
This New York guitar player crams 16 tunes onto this disc, and, even though it's filling and satisfying, you might even ask for more when it's over! In a day when guitar noodling is a far cry from the flavor of the month, Rob sticks to his guns and shoots straight and plays smooth. Having listened to his material with Sevenfold and Corban, this is, by far, the best material I've heard from this talented player. For a pleasant instrumental trip, write: PO Box 681, Mount Sinai NY 11766 (DV)
Yo Momma Ain't Playin It
Wow! Here's a few indie bands I didn't know about, showcasing their good stuff on this Decoy Records compilation CD. Silverstar stands out with some quality modern rock. Oldcomer is a hot newcomer into my world of rapcore intensity. The Way Sect Bloom shows up, and we even hear Big Al's Swing Kids. All 18 songs are good quality, providing for a good listen. Worthy of your attention. Write: Decoy Records, 557 Meadow Green Circle, Gahanna OH 43230 (DV)
Oh my goodness! How did this gem of an album go unnoticed by us for so long?! I guess one good thing can be said of it Someone buying ads in our magazine can't buy a review (this CD sat on the shelf for a good six months after the ad ran!). Anyway, I think one of us here passed this one over because the lyrics were more about doubts and girls than faith and girls. There's even the verb "damn" used as a pronoun. The aural soundscape painted here is dirty in places and beautiful in others. Seattle would be proud, but so would Memphis or Atlanta. Many of you may have heard the loud n' boisterous grunge tune "Dirty Old Blind Man" on the Hard Music Sampler CD that accompanied the Nov/Dec issue. I recommend the full-length disc. To order, send $13.99 to: PO Box 9424, Newark DE 19714-9424 (DV)
Musically, this CD is rich. I'm reminded at times of the early Violet Burning vibe. This isn't a copy, but it successfully creates ambience and atmosphere. It's not all alternative, mellow moody stuff, though. The guitars have that 80's brightness to em. Very original. Very good. For ordering info, write: Bartholomew Productions, 51908 SW 4th, Scappoose OR 97056 (DV)
I watch a few tv drama's, like Profiler and Pretender on occasion, and I see what one ingenious character can do if he sets his mind to it. I'm not implying that Denis is a criminal, but he has done quite an impressive job all on his own with his equipment. While the style he's going after has long gone the way of the popularity parade, his brand of melodic hard pop rock is done very well. Fans of White Heart and Shout might have a new friend here. If you're looking for lyrics that don't beat around the bush (bold n' evangelistic), Denis is your man. For ordering info, write: 619 South Ballantine Rd, Bloomington IN 47401 (DV)
MARK NEEDS A CHICK
In search of a . . . uh, you know, a pop punk band? This band with the tongue-in-cheek name goes after the perfect pop song with total punk sensibilities. Mixed with fun lyrics, these guys achieve their goal. Now if we could just find a date for Mark... To order, send $3 to: Josh Reyna, 11306 Golden Ray, Cypress TX 77429 (DV)
With a name like that, no introduction is necessary. It's metal, right? Well, not exactly. These guys pummel their listener with a brutal hardcore attack. Three songs is not enough, though. We want more!!! For ordering info, write: Chris Plummer, 1310 Cherry Lane, Beaver Dam KY 42320 (DV)
Okay, it's still the "Name Game." This band is hardcore, right? Right! As intense as they come (on lo-fi cassette), these guys rip. Five songs of screaming energy. I don't know why they don't pump this music into nursing homes to kick start weak hearts (well, maybe I do know...). To order, send $4 to: Matt Salusky, 135 N. Fraser Dr, Mesa AZ 85203 (DV)
Aahh, another tape from Brazil. Most of the time, these are pleasant offerings of heavy metal. This is no exception, as this trio releases an onslaught of heaviness and riffing. While the sonics on this cassette aren't the greatest, there's some raw power emitting from it. There's only three songs on Mute Idols, but the price is right at $5. Send to: c/o Ary Fruhauf, Rua Pe. Cletus Cox, 46-Cid. Dutra, 04805-060 Sao Paulo - SP - Brazil (DV)
This signed band has released another mail-order release. This one is a video called Oddities. It's a look behind the scenes at the making of the "Under The Blood" video, featuring humorous band interviews and live versions of tunes from the Oddities album. Before MTV came along, videos were called "Promotional Films," whose purpose was to get people to want to buy the album. This video has done its job on me, though. I already own the album, but hearing the songs again and having a visual impact have made me want to pull this album out and listen to it again. To order, send $15 to: 295 Churchview Rd, West Point KY 40177 (DV)