album reviews


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MxPx
let it happen

Tooth & Nail
You've heard about it by now — the big 32–song collection of MxPx b–sides, demos, and songs that were only released on 7 and 10–inches, and lesser publicized EP's. Here we have quite a selection of stuff from a variety of recording sessions. And the fact that this is one of the more prolific songwriting bands in the scene helps us realize why there are so many tracks on this disc.
You might wonder why some songs, like "Begin to Start" and "Swing Set Girl" never strayed farther than a double 10–inch. I wonder myself. "Why these, as well as songs like ‘Oh Donna’ (from the On the Cover sessions) have only surfaced here?" Well, maybe that was the plan all along, or perhaps there were just way too many songs to compete with.
"Lifetime Enlightenment," with its neat "Smoke on the Water" bridge is here, which appeared on the first I'm Your Biggest Fan comp. This record's title track was first heard on the "Punk Rawk Show" 7–inch; and, just like all the others, it's very cool to hear it here.

The stuff you've probably heard before would be songs like, "Do Your Feet Hurt (Critter Version)," an extended version of "Move to Bremerton," as well as demos of "South Bound," Christalena," and "Life In General."

The packaging is also a treat for fans, including live photos from a plethora of shows throughout the '94-'96 era, and very informative liner notes.
—Brian Vincent McGovern

Andrew Carlton
& the Swing Doctors
it's a swing thing

Rugged
The sad thing about this record is that it was conceived and recorded before the release of the phenomenal W's album, which cashed in on the swing craze. Unfortunately, the belated release of It's a Swing Thing might make it appear to be a copycat project. This is, in fact, not the case here. Swingy guitars and shiny horn blasts herald the authenticity. "Seeds" has a screaming clarinet solo to begin the song, as well as some o' those "George of the Jungle" type drums. This will bring a smile to your face and a tappin' to your shoes. The chorus, however, sounds like a rip–off of "It Don't Mean a Thing if it Ain't Got That Swing." The only problem I see is a less than believable vocal performance.
—BVM

POOR OLD LU
chrono (1993–1998)

KMG
Aaron Sprinkle and Scott Hunter went into the studio late last year and remixed a tune or two of Poor Old Lu songs. They wanted to put 'em out somewhere, and this ‘best of’ CD was as good a place as any. Here we have classics like "All Pretty for the TV," "Ring True," "For the Love of My Country," and one of my all–time favorites, the powerful "What if Uncle Ben Had Lived." But also here are tasteful remixes of "Where Were All of You" and "Chance for the Chancers." Everything sounds great, both from a sonic perspective and from the view of a longtime fan.
—BVM

ROYAL
my dear

Soulscape / Tooth & Nail
I remember reviewing this band when they were indie, and boy have they progressed. Sometimes the Puller / Stavesacre type guitars will drop out, and some much "prettier" tones underneath will rise and stretch. There are some nice female vocals (by Elvira Nikolaisen), which are at times reminiscent of Tess Wiley, with strength in a breathy, airy quality. Still, other vocals, by Elvira's brother, Emil, are slanted toward the hardcore end of the spectrum. Something truly unique here, for sure, and plenty hard when needed.
—BVM

Glisten
starlight wishlist

KMG
Do you remember echoing vocals? What's cool about Glisten is how they can take 80's vocals and throw in modern guitars. New wave meets modern rock. The greeting is well done, a successful venture. Who would have thought?
The vocals are pretty standard throughout the album, reminiscent of Duran Duran (or just about any 80's new wave / pop singer). Guitars are nice and hard to peg. They are at times ethereal ("Rejoice"), sometimes chunky ("Encourager"). A bit simple at times, but that may help it connect with the 80's vocal style. Drums, bass, and guitars follow the same pattern. This album does a great job at bringing together other types of music and making it into their own. Some bands it takes a while to get even close to "their own" sound. But don't be misled, the uniqueness is fresh because of its mating power– bringing together alt–pop (The Choir, Between Thieves, Sixpence None the Richer), modern rock (Fold Zandura, Morella's Forest, Stavesacre), and the 80's. Not absolutely stunning in its innovation, but a nicely done blend. This album is particular (not complex, variant, or deep) and best heard by the ear that turns fondly towards pop memory. This is an 80's album with a 90's feel, both musically and lyrically. These guys make new wave more accessible to those who dig the guitars of today.

Starlight Wishlist is very well put together from the sound quality to the printing of the cd booklet. The lyrics are straight–forward and some are downright beautifully worshipful. Read them carefully and see what you think — they're very focused on spiritual matters. Cheers to the production of the work. The sound quality is high. Nothing holds back the listener, unless you just can't get into this new variation.
—Ben Mengden

Selfmindead
Solid State
Scandinavia is going to take over the world through their hardcore / emo. Another great release from Solid State and from Sweden. This release is a modern metal guitar album with singing hardcore and lots of cymbals. Lots of time changes, pauses, feedback, and speed. Fitting well in the Solid State family, Selfmindead is similar to the likes of Embodyment or Blindside. This is melody through complexity. The vocals are an easy win. Not the high pitch and not the growl. They fall between the two— very hardcore, while retaining a singing quality. Passionate and genuine with quick speaking / singing and the drawn–out yells. Technical music, which is the kind of hardcore that was born out of the passing of old school metal and hardcore. While a pleasant marriage, this formula may grow weary. But, until then we should all subscribe to the incredible metal–core which seems to be taking us into the next millennium.

This self–titled work is a bit redundant, but every song is strong, making the CD an entire album. There is something to say about a record you can enjoy all the way through. Selfmindead's strength is not in the diversity of sound or in diversity of songs, but in its repetition of excellent musicianship. It brings the entire album together. Easy listening (in a way), with gorgeous, nice touches. This is the art of blending thousands of junctions and tones and changes.

Breakdown: some hip hop a la Rage Against the Machine, and Blindside ("Three")."Nothing Inside" starts out sounding like a beefy Outer Circle song, but then changes into kind of a Within song. The last track,"Racket," is very cool, but seems to end prematurely. Lyrics throughout are extremely thought– provoking, rich, and intense. These songs first came out in 1997 on Soulscape Records, a Swedish label which has also worked with Royal. This is a solid album. Extremely well recorded, performed, and put together. Selfmindead wins another battle in this world domination. Onward Scandinavia!
—BM

Sonic Flood
Gotee
Come and praise God. This is accessible praise. Modern pop rock praises. Straight–forward lyrics with music that doesn't stray far from a CCM sound. Sonic Flood's self–titled album brings many recognizable praise songs and some unheard songs all brought into the realm of young melodic pop.

This is a pretty mellow album. There are some nice guitars in "My Refuge," and a nice intro to "Open the Eyes of My Heart" (which has some nice guitar tones), but don't expect this album to rock. Well performed, well recorded music with all the harmonies of Between Thieves and the Waiting put together. You'll find good vocals, which is a must in this genre. The album is comparable to the above mentioned bands with maybe some hints of Michael W Smith, Oasis, Smalltown Poets, faster Steven Curtis Chapman, and slower dc Talk. The music has nothing amazingly new even within its genre. While the music seems pretty standardized, the key is its eagerness to praise God. This eagerness is even mentioned at the end of the album in a spoken word section communicating their earnest intentions.

So, pop music lovers, unite. Praise seekers, look into. Hard music lovers, approach with caution.
—BM

Various
machines in the garden
collapsing structure

Blacklight
Remember back in the 80's, when some well–meaning person would label a band like Petra "metal?!" To the purist, the same can be said when someone labels Nine Inch Nails or Circle of Dust "industrial." The guitar–based hybrid music of NIN and Klank certainly borrow from industrial, but the ambient noise art that translates smoother to various movie soundtrack settings are closer to the mark. That said, Blacklight Records is to be thanked for gathering a myriad of industrial and/or darkwave artists on an ambitious trilogy that will culminate in a box set later this year called The Cataclysm Singles. (The third part of this series is called Terra Firma Vs. The Atmosphere, and was just releasing at press time)

Those that want rock, move on to the popular hybrid music of the guitar– dominated bunch. For those that want a mood or, better yet, for those that want to dramatically take over the vibe of a room, crank either of these two compilations up in a dark room. The great and often–overlooked Blackhouse makes an appearance on each album, which is a great way to pay homage to the forefathers of this music within the Christian realm of thought.

What these artists do very well is weave a pulsating and ambient soundscape within which to trip out on, basically. Close your eyes and you can imagine yourself traveling at the speeds of the atomic particles in the sound waves. Movie soundtrack? Yes. Mind soundtrack, oh yes!
—Doug Van Pelt

Ballydowse
the land, the bread, and the people

grrr
Flash back to the Cornerstone festival (any of the last three years will do): You're freshly toasted after four hours of intense skanking, moshing, surfing, pogo–ing, and screaming your face off to some killer hardcore sets at the Underground Stage. You head over to the food vendors to quench your diehard thirst with a lemon shakeup. Besides, that tongue piercing you got the week before itches so much that you've cause your upper lip to become chapped. Anyway, you are heading up to the vendors and you come upon the most amazing sight. The Crossing is jamming at the Compassion Stage, and there's hundreds of people cutting a jig out in overflow areas outside the tent. You have to move along or get danced on, so you begin to skip and dance a jig yourself over to the stand. All of a sudden it hits you: Someone should marry the fun and melody of this kind of Irish music with the brash energy of street–wise punk.

A day or two later you happen upon a similar experience at The Electrics' performance. You say to yourself, "This is the beginning of the answers to my daydream idea.

Won't you be surprised this year when you see Andrew Mandell co–fronting Ballydowse, a crazy hybrid gone wild but nary too far from the Irish influence. Every few songs on this 13–song disc cuts loose with a tightly– played jam that may just be too fast to jig in any "proper" sort of way. The songs in–between are slower and more melodic. This fine band of eight experimenters do a swell job of playing a proficient line that converges with the others in a full and glorious symphony (ie. those violins and whirligig sounds mesh well with the guitars, bass and drums!). For a good example, give a listen to "The Banshee Song" or "Walkin' On" (which features multi vocal lines that could have been found on an early Rez album); or, better yet, take a listen to "Sails" on this issue's Hard Music Sampler CD.

Can punk be eclectic? Sure it can. Look at emo or indie rock. The occasional distorted guitar adds the spice to this mix that will unify the old school punk fan with the coffee–drinking poetry–reading beard–wearing Irish music lover. Me thinks the results of this experiment are wonderful. The odd mix isn't cacophonous nor is it a big mess. If you're wondering who wins the "battle" between the two styles (as far as which sound dominates). I'd have to say it's the Irish. Another characteristic it shares with its punk brothers is that it requires commitment. It's hard to just sit down and listen to this music. You kinda have to just jump right in.
—DV

Huntingtons
the good, the bad and the ugly

Tooth & Nail
I always loved that Clint Eastwood movie — The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. And speaking of movies, this live album (the first live album for Tooth & Nail Records, by the way) could very well be a soundtrack for an old movie called Rock & Roll High School. It's fast, raw, and simple — just the way that other band would've liked it.

Unlike the Huntingtons other album that is coming out in April, this one features 90% originals. They do cover The Queers ("Wimpy Drives Through Harlem") and that other band ("I Don't Want You"). The sonics of this live album are good, in my opinion. You don't lose the low end, nor are the guitars and drums too dominant or lost in the mix. And the vocals are strong and bratty. One thing that this album pays tribute to (besides the obvious) is the Huntingtons' ability to write good, solid songs with plenty of hook. They drive home great rhythms, and the vocals are pleasant. The songs performed are pretty evenly distributed between High School Rock (8 songs, including the fun "Dies Saugt" and "Jeannie Hates The Ramones"), Fun And Games (7 songs, including the cool "Allison's The Bomb" and "Goddess and the Geek"),and Sweet Sixteen (5 songs, including the sing–along–a–thon "She's Alright," and the anthemic "Veronica," which almost sounds like Elvis Costello on lead vocals in each chorus).

Like serious jokesters, they start practically every song with a "1–2–3–4" count and/or an apey but lightning–quick song intro. This is the perfect album for the Huntingtons, as it showcases them with no restrictions. The mix and sonics back them up capably, allowing the band to rollick in their raw and fun element.
—DV

Huntingtons
file under ramones

Tooth & Nail
This is the eighth Huntingtons CD to add to my collection, and I hear there's two more to follow within the next year! I get worn out just trying to comprehend this feat. The Huntingtons rock, and they rock hard.

This album could be called both a "tribute album" and a "covers album." The Huntingtons certainly pay tribute to the Ramones by performing their songs, but they do it so accurately close and straight–ahead that it would be more fitting to call this a "covers album." Besides making the choice to perform the songs straight–up like this, the band needs two key ingredients to pull it off — musicians who know the material and can play it; and a singer who is on key and doesn't sound too drastically different from the original. Thankfully, Mikey's bass, Cliffy and AJ's guitars, and Mikee's drums fit the bill. And most importantly, Mikey's lead vocals are dead–on accurate.
This album is pure (punk) pop. At times it's even so clean–sounding that even your mom (if she was a teenager in the 50's) will love it (Give "She's A Sensation" a spin for her!). The biggest question left for this audience would be the obvious: Where is the spirituality? Why is this being sold in Christian bookstores (actually, it's not. We found this out after going to press. This is a general market release only), and why is a Christian magazine covering it? Good question. While not full of rebellion, vulgarity, or any other "R–rated" lyrical material, this is certainly a secular album. It's basically a piece of punk rock fun that's wrapped up and packaged by Christians. When a Christian artist makes an apparent departure from their previous work (which is debatable here), it is certainly an expectation from fans to read about it in their Christian rock magazine or see it in their local Christian bookstore. So, the reason for the attention here is obviously based upon the performers' lifestyle and faith, rather than the content therein. If this was a new band's debut album, I doubt you'd see this kind of coverage here.
—DV

B.O.B.
it's a ska ska ska ska world

KMG
This is a bunch of believers (B.O.B. — get it?) hooked on ska music and bent on a good time. You'll hear hilarious anecdotes, like the story of a youth group's trip to Mexico in the opening track, where they made a trade: "you get tacos, enchiladas, and tamales for me / and I got some Good News for you . . . Spread the Word, C'mon, let's go / on a mission trip to Mexico!" Another song declares: "I saw pastor dancing / it must be the last days!" These guys are fun. Not too distant from the Five Iron Frenzy sound, especially when the lead vocalist, Billybob, shares his vocal skills.

The key ingredient that makes many of today's ska bands enjoyable for me is the competent playing of the "rock band musicians" (ie. guitars, drums, bass), and you'll find some tight and muscle–bound rock riffs here. Like their ska– mates Supertones and Five Iron, many a song (like "I'm Going To Wait") will start off with a metallic, crunchy riff, before the horns kick in with the polka guitar beat.

One of the few weak moments would be the cover tune of the Newsboys' "Not Ashamed." The song gets a B–52's female lead vocal treatment, which is kinda novel, but the chorus loses me. Overall, though, this bunch of believers could easily sweep a crowd off its feet. I dig it.
—DV

Michael Knott / LSU
definitive collection

KMG
I really, really enjoy listening to this album! Some of my favorites are hearing that old, old material from Kiss of Life and Shaded Pain. This album certainly doesn't live up to its title, but it does pull from at least 9 albums' worth of material. Missing are hits like, "Tether To Tassel" and "Not A Cuss Word," as well as nothing from The Grape Prophet, Cash in Chaos, and Screaming Brittle Siren, but we still get a pleasant listen from track to track. Some of the gems that did find its way on here include: "The Bomb," "Rocket & A Bomb" (the solo version, of course, not the vulgar one from Aunt Bettys), "Shaded Pain," and "Bye, Bye, Colour." While it's easy to shoot at a compilation album's choices, it sure is nice to have a collection of Michael Knott material that spans so many albums. Hearing tunes like "Cool," "Deaf And Dumb," and "Double" remind me how cool albums like Fluid, Browbeats (I), and Grace Shaker are. Someone went to some trouble to collect these tracks, and I for one am grateful.
—DV

The Kreepdowns
take a spin

Bettie Rocket
To some people, pop music can never be mundane, or simple, or too sugary sweet. Many today find their outlet in layers of guitars, vocals, and a hypnotic backbeat. Call ^ em "post punk," call ^ em "modern rock," or call ^ em "weird." Just don't call ^ em normal. Such is the groovy Kreepdowns. Mixing heavy inspirations from the songwriting of Social Distortion, the dreamy and fuzzy tones of Smashing Pumpkins and NOFX, and the Brit–pop snarl of The Sex Pistols, this band scores well on their debut.

The lyrics are poetic and pieces of thoughts mostly offering commentary and emotional response to the way we treat each other here. Some of the tunes, like "Kut Me," remind me of a cross between the dreamy pop of Fold Zandura and the urgent passion of the Violet Burning. Those that purchased the band's indie release of the same title will notice that this is the same package, save for the remastering of the tune "Not Like That." This one builds upon a hollow guitar sound and a throbbing bass line that's infectious. It makes me recall the pulsating anthems of The Call, the subtle emotions of Simple Minds, and the chiming guitar tones of U2's early music. The vocals and full production yank me out of this retrospective thought, and drive the tune home. I get more out of this disc with each listen. Those who take the title seriously will probably come away happy they did.
—DV

Various Artists
the swing set

Essential
My old school readers would have died if they'd seen me reviewing this project ten years ago. But "old school" in this example would really be classified as "young'ns," because the creators of this collection are as older (and older) than our parents! That's right, Ralph Carmichael, that guy in the red polyester suit and white hair is finding his music being grabbed up by teenagers in search of that swingin' sound. This is truly an album reviewed in these pages that you can absolutely crank to your parents' delight! I think of entertainers like Tony Bennet, Andy Williams, Pat Boone, and Frank Sinatra.

Essential Records has realized that, in the midst of this new swing craze, that they've got a beyond credible collection of material that needs to be heard. So, they've taken selections from previous recordings, like Brentwood Jazz Orchestra's Rock Of Ages, Dave Boyer's The Swing Sessions with The Ralph Carmichael Big Band, and Strike Up The Band with The Ralph Carmichael Big Band. While there's no electric instruments plugged in, these ancient old school guys sure show how it's done.

In the vocabulary of early Heaven's Metal Magazine reviews, "It ain't metal, man!"
—DV

Bob Smiley
bob, out of mind

KMG
It's a shame there's not more comedy albums out in the Christian market — or more Christian comedians out there in the general marketplace. Bob, Out Of Mind joins a small group of Christian comedy albums — Edward Daniel Taylor's Miracle Faith Telethon comes to mind, as well as a few Mike Warnke albums (regardless of what you think of him now, some of his albums are funny). KMG should have a guarantee with this album — "If you don't laugh at least twice, we'll refund your purchase," because I doubt they'd get any takers.

Overall, this album isn't great, but it's worth several laughs. And we can always use a few more of those.
—DV

Adam Again
worldwide favourites

KMG
What do you do when you acquire huge catalogs of music? Why, re–release them to the frustrated–because–it's– out–of–print public. While many an Adam Again fan may have their entire catalog, this first best–of from this band showcases tunes especially from their dirty stripped–down post–New World Of Time era. Unlike most best–of albums, this one "goes backwards," saving the oldest material for the end of the cd, instead of starting with the old material first and chronologically moving towards the present. So, instead of an evolutionary look at the band, we get the devolution of Adam Again.
—DV

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

TOURNIQUET The pioneers of Christian technical metal are here with an acoustic album. Acoustic Archives is a 10 song disc full of classic Tourniquet songs done acoustically, plus one new "electric" song. The production is amazing. Everything is so clear. Luke Easter's voice sounds great in a lower, quieter register. Ted Kirkpatrick and Aaron Guerra's acoustic guitar work is pure mastery. Most of the songs are done like the originals, but there are a few twists here and there. "Viento Borrascoso" opens up the album, and Aaron's solo work is incredible here. Another big highlight is "If Pigs Could Fly." When you strip away the electricity and franticness of the originals, it becomes clear that Tourniquet knows how to write great songs that don't need to hide behind a bunch of whirrs and whistles. There's almost a bluesy sort of feel in some spots. "Trivializing the Momentous, Complicating the Obvious" is a HEAVY, aggressive, and very "electric" new track. If this is the direction of the next album, look out! Check it out on #75's Hard Music Sampler. The artwork is pretty neat-o, too. Tourniquet is indie now, so to order send $15 plus $3 shipping ($6 outside the US) to: PO Box 3427, Santa Monica CA 90408 (Chad Olson)

GUARDIAN The wait is finally over! Guardian's Stryper tribute is complete, and it was worth the wait! Everything, from the packaging to the performance brings back fun and warm memories of that ground-breaking band. One of the few differences you'll notice between Guardian's straight-up recording and the original is the guitar solos. Tony Palacios does some nifty shredding here. Jamie Rowe's vocals, of course, are noticeably different from Michael Sweet's. The frenetic and fast, fast, fast rhythms are pulled off with tightness, as is the crisp drumming and the solid bass playing. The double lead trade-offs in "From Wrong To Right" are missed, but Tony's one-man job holds up well. While it's nearly impossible to better the original, Guardian attacks it about as strong as anyone could. For those who miss Guardian's melodic metal days, this is probably the closest you'll ever get in a current release. For ordering info, see ad this issue. Write: G-Man Records, PO Box 680533, Franklin TN 37068 (DV)

HEADNOISE Passion. Pure punk rock passion. This Southern California quintet wears their hearts on their tattooed "sleeves." Utilizing an old school approach, Headnoise entertains as much as they pulverize your skull. Edie Goodwin's lead vocals feature the fun of the Halo Friendlies and the toughness of The Lead's Nina Llopis. In true DIY style, the band's lyrics speak to the destruction and sin around them, and try to address the issues head on with the Truth. Intense, yet fun. For ordering info, write: Sofa Records, 4643 Kendrick St, Philadelphia PA 19136 (DV)

Chords of the Grave Here's a Cross Rhythms sampler disc, put out by someone who knows extreme music — Alan Tregoning, who moved to Dallas from Australia 5 or 6 years ago to join Oblation. That's death metal loyalty! Here we get to feast on some meaty and solid metal. We get 4 tracks by Obliteration, 3 by Evisceration, 3 by Disencumbrance, 4 by Oblation, and a live track from Alan's old Aussie band — Flesh Walker. For ordering info, write: Cross Rhythms Music, 11408 Audelia Rd #4786, Dallas TX 75243 (DV)

SAM CUNNINGHAM Want some Larry Norman-esque acoustic balladry? Sam's your man, with wit and sometimes drums and bass backing him up. To order, send $11 to: 3001 3rd St, Bay City TX 77414 (DV)

ASHEN MORTALITY Those who know this band know what to expect — big, down-tuned gloomy guitars with growly vocals. The uninitiated will delight to know that former Seventh Angel vocalist, Ian Arkley, has been fronting this outfit for a few years. Quite a departure from his thrash days, he hasn't left the heavy out of metal here. Bands like this certainly benefit from the increased interest in the goth-hybrid music prominent today. Fans of doom originators Black Sabbath should find plenty to enjoy, as should the fans of Ian's ex band or even Vengeance Rising (thanks to the vocals). Lyrically, the pain of love lost is a reoccurring theme. To order, send 10.00 (or 20 US$ in concealed notes at your own risk!) To: Forsaken Records, 39 Grayshott Close, Erdington, Birmingham, West Midlands, B23 6JU, England (DV)

DEAR JULIETTE Wow! Here's a very eclectic record that switches gears a bit in the beginning and then settles into a nice ethereal and dreamy third gear and cruises. To order, send $7 to: 2075 Langhorne, Ste 113, Lynchburg VA 24501 (DV)

TWOTHIRTYEIGHT This outfit was Kevin Glass' original band from Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. Very cool emo sounds. If you're into the straining passion of Dear Ephesus, then you've gotta hear these guys. A nice tribute for Kevin exists as a hidden track that begins 2 minutes and 38 seconds after the last song. For ordering info, write: Take Hold Records, 225 Oxmoor Circle #804, Birmingham AL 35244 (DV)

ZERO TO ONE Oh my gosh! If you liked what you heard on last issue's Hard Music Sampler CD, then you'll have to get this 5-song slab of molten metal. Heaviness resides here a la black album Metallica. But don't think clone or rip-off. Think face-melting, stucco falling from the ceiling while listening metal. Good tones. Nice songs. Steady vocals. You must get this. For info, write: PO Box 115, Rensselaer IN 47978 (DV)

APOLOGETIX The princes of parody songs are back. Look out, Weird Al, you've got some heavy competition here! This time the guys take on 18 classic rock tunes, like The Eagles' "Hotel California" ("Hotel Can't Afford Ya," as in Joseph & Mary's story); Free's "All Right Now" ("Go Right Now"); and the Kiss classic "Rock & Roll All Nite" ("Love & Kisses"). Some really good laughs. The musicianship isn't bad. As a whole, the new lyrics take a chronological look at the life of Christ. To order, send $14.99 to: 32 Eighth St, Herminie PA 15637 (DV)

LARRY NORMAN / BEAM If you're like me, there's certain artists that you always buy their albums. For me, artists like U2, King's X, and Larry Norman fall into this category. While there have been a few live albums that Larry's released that turned out somewhat disappointing, this isn't one of them. This is a live album in which Larry Norman utilizes a tight band as his backup talent and performs a full concert. Holland's Flevo Festival usually records the acts on main stage, and this is the second live Larry Norman CD to come out as a result. Beam does a solid job backing him up. We get a good sampling of both old and semi-recent Norman material. The super gem here is the final encore — "Jesus Freak." That's right, the song that Larry nailed down for The Mother Of All Tribute Albums is featured here in frenetic live fashion, even including some apropos ad-libs. For ordering info, write: GMI Music Partners BV, PO Box 420, 6900 AK Zevenaar, The Netherlands (DV)

DISCERN Wow! Brutal intensity with fun musical additives. Listen closely and you'll hear all sorts of fun riffs, like Kiss' "She," and other quirky but lethally heavy and played with talent, showing insight into the creative genius of Billy Fraser (former drummer for Oblation), who did this as a solo project. Hungry for the heavy? Dig into this groove-death-core. To order, send $10 to: 11408 Audelia Rd #4778, Dallas TX 75243 (DV)

CIRCADIAN RHYTHM Here's a young modern rock band with plenty of energy that they're not afraid to spend on their audience. Somewhat akin to the party atmosphere of All Star United or Audio Adrenaline, these guys have a pretty good vocalist and some nice hooks woven into their songs. For ordering info, call 800.918.2537 (DV)

RAMSIE SHICK When we reviewed her last album a year or so ago, we knew good things were in store for her. Sure enough, she's caused quite a stir with her passionate, rousing and intense acoustic- based rock. There's plenty of electric guitar fills on this album, but it's the electricity in her voice that sets this artist apart. Imagine Grace Slick, Melissa Etheridge, and Alanis Morissette with their fingers stuck in a light socket. Here's a full-length 8-song live set that captures Ramsie in her raw best. Catch this artist now if you want to be in the "I'm cool, because I liked her before she was huge" crowd. To order, send $15 to: Crucible Artists, PO Box 720094, Dallas TX 75372 (DV)

MARC PIRAS & FRIENDS Never has an acoustic trio sounded so full and heavy. Well, maybe that's saying a bit much, but these three guys sure fill up the sound spectrum. That bass offers up a nice n' beefy low-end that accents the nice harmonized vocals with a touch of heaviness. Each of the three players make smart and creative additions to each song. These four songs are very spiritual, focusing on both worship and prayer. Fans of Mike Lee's and Ken Tamplin's acoustic work will love this. For ordering info, write: c/o Schulstr. 12, 58256 Ennepetal, Germany (DV)

SNUBNOSE The band The Circumcised had our seal of approval for their energetic punk metallic approach. The band has improved in every department and even changed its name to Snubnose. The riffs are nice and chunky, and the vocals, while somewhat nasally are much better. Fans of groovecore have some really good riffs to feast on here. The band wastes no time in just about each song making this strong point in their songwriting home. To order, send $20 to: Paulusweg 26, 71638 Ludwigsburg, Germany (DV)

Nehemia Project, Vol. 1 Clara Hope Records showcases 11 bands here. Some of the material is a bit tired and uninspiring, some is plain mellow, and some is creatively inspiring (like Complex Zero). There's a couple real heavy bands, like the screaming hardcore of Paintcan, the groove-heavy Substance, or the emo-ish Octane Blue. The standout cut is probably the Pink Daffadils, who get the lead out with "Listlessness." Overall, the CD is mastered at kind of a low volume level, which is kinda muddy. For ordering info, write: Clarahope Records, 1201 12 St N, Fargo ND 58102 (DV)

CULTURE WHORE "Where are some more cool industrial bands?" This is a valid question, especially when you think of how darn cool guitar-based industrial music is. There's just not enough cool bands to meet the demand of people with tastes like this. Well, here's an indie band that fits the bill. Not quick to peg themselves as a ministry band, these guys are Christians and, while their identities are simply Frog and Fraud, there is a connection in there to Betrayal and Martyr. This is really good stuff. You'll find musical similarities to Circle of Dust, Klank, and Marilyn Manson here and there (with guitars and vocals, respectively), but they don't sound exactly like any of those artists. Nice sound. The band is giving away cassettes of this four-song album, Be Like Me, so anyone sending them $1 for postage and a self-addressed stamped envelope will get one of these (while supplies last). Send your buck to: 11906 Basye St, El Monte CA 91732 (DV)

THE SUFFERING Ask a musician to show off some versatility, and if they can pull off an album as diverse as The Suffering's self-titled release, they'll have done well. This quintet from Greeneville, Tennessee starts off sounding something akin to Seven Day Jesus ("Be A Star"), and quickly shuffles off to a Grammatrain ramble with lots of low-end (the uniquely titled "0

TRIGGER FINGER I love a band that rocks with energy. This Dallas-based band reminds me of 20/20 Blind at times due to the strong but pouting vocals, but the musical backdrop is total grunge. The songs have good pop sensibilities throughout, and the band likes to keep a heavy feel. Fans of Creed will probably dig this instantly, although the vocals don't remain in the low register long enough to keep the comparison long. Definitely a talented band worth keeping an eye on, but don't neglect picking this release up, either. For ordering info, write: Crucible Records, PO Box 720094, Dallas TX 75372 (DV)

STAUROS Es esto Michael Sweet? No. Este un grupo se llamo Stauros. Huh? Okay, enough bad Spanish. Here's a quality melodic metal band from Brazil. Entirely sung in Portuguese, this band knows how to lay down some tight and creative riffs. The vocalist struts his stuff, but doesn't over indulge into excess. The guitarist, Renatinho, is really hot. Fans of old school metal (Dio, Sacred Warrior) need to check this album out — O Sentido da Vida. They do it right. For ordering info, write: Venancio D. Neto, Rua Biguacu, 444-Rio Bonito, Itajai-Santa Catarina - CEP: 88309-420, Brazil (or try www.melim.com.br/~stauros)

VIRGIN BLACK Remember hearing this band on one of Steve Rowe's Australian metal compilations? Well, they're back with a 3- song epic EP (clocking in at just over 13 minutes) that is totally brutal. It starts off with an innocent techno sounding chime for nearly a minute before the Believer-like skilled rhythm section rips yer head off. The vocals juggle between high-end gothic to whispery black metal. The third song is a three-part opus, called "Whispers of Dead Sisters." Like it heavy? Get this disc. Rarely will you find an honest confession like the one here: "...Yes, I have faith, yes, I am saved / But it doesn't stop my misery / It doesn't stop my hatred / It doesn't stop me wanting to die / Yet I'm still here despite the pain / I refuse to believe I was called to suffer / I was called to prosper." For ordering info, write: PO Box 1073, Flinders Park, SA 5025, Australia (DV)

B.I.G. While way too slickly produced to appeal to fans of hard, hard music, this disc is super impressive. Mixing the sweeping production techniques of The Beatles (check out the strings in "Same Old Street Of Life") with the melodic John Elefante-like lead vocals (but mixed with harmonies that travel in a different but no less appealing path than the "Elefante imprint") and the feel-good rhythms of bands like The Rembrandts and you have a super radio friendly band that could take over Nashville. These boys from Sweden have even added a video to this enhanced CD. Brothers in God definitely live up to their acronym — they're B.I.G., but they're gonna be huge! For ordering info, write: BIG Communications, Hackspettsv 21, S-134 42 Gustavsberg, Sweden (DV)

HOLY COUNTDOWN Melodic hard rock with tough n' gritty female lead vocals. It takes a lot to succeed with this formula, in my opinion (you have to go up against Heart as a standard), and these guys (and gal) do a fair job. The band holds down a pretty tight rhythm section, featuring vocalist Barbe Paris on lead and rhythm guitars. The vocals and songwriting, however, do hold the band back a little. For ordering info, write: 422 N Sheridan Ave, Ottumwa IA 52501 (DV)

SCOTT LAIRD Remember Believer's last few concerts and recordings? They used violins and many classical songwriting elements. Fans will recognize Scott's name, as he was actually a member during the Dimensions era and recording sessions. However, Believer this is not. Here's a beautiful instrumental album of 12 songs with an ambient feel. I don't hear anything frenzied (like old Kansas, for instance), but it's a nice break for the musical soul. For ordering info, write: Trauma South Studios, 12744 Holiday Lane, Bowie MD 20716 (DV)

The Lighthouse Compilation, Vol. 1 Here's a benefit sampler for a local youth organization in Enumclaw, Washington. Good thing Red Shoed Star starts off the album with a grunge sound, eh? 14 indie artists display their wares here, including Wendy Bailey and Anonymous Prophet. Overall, it's a very solid compilation, offering ska (The Amatures), modern rock (Some Few Oracles), pop punk (Buddy Rucus & Juggernaut), and even some techno dance (IQ-9). To order, send $10 to: Endless Vertigo Music, PO Box 1732, Buckley WA 98321 (DV)

VIDEO WORLD Some very creative artwork graces the cover of this disc, featuring several people with computer monitors for heads crowding a busy city street. The unconvincing pop vocals and simple chord structures and clean guitar tones turn my ears slightly off, though, from the very first song. There's some really cool sampling going on in other parts, and a fun instrumental called "Video Whirled," plus some really cool guitar in "Middle of the Night," but overall I'd love to hear the band turn in some better songs. For ordering info, write: ScheerEnergy Records, 2086 Mill Rd, Novato CA 94947 (DV)

ORANGE- I Here's a really cool band from Belgium that Sally Forth Records has put out. They mix a fairly dreamy guitar sound (nice mix, engineer!) with thoughtful lyrics and calm talk-speed vocals. There's tiny shades of The Cure, but not drenched in pouting. Fans of everything from Fold Zan to Seven Day Jesus early material should find this delightful. For ordering info, visit them online (@ www.sallyforthrecords.com), or write: C. Beerninckstraat 1-B, 3641 DA Mijdrecht, The Netherlands (DV)

DIVINE CHILD Fitting well into either the "emo" or "indie rock" categories, Divine Child has some solid, driving, modern rock & roll, with some vocal qualities not unlike Jyro Xhan (Fold Zandura). To order, send $8 to: PO Box 90841, Lakeland FL 33804 (Brian Vincent McGovern)

PARADISE NOW Like early-80's White Heart or Nouveau? How about Michael Sweet's first solo record? Those same sounds (high harmonies in pop arena rock) are here, along with the expected vocals. For info, write: 18 Horse Dr, Brampton ON L6V 2V3 Canada (BVM)

FRACTURE Here's some really cool heavy metal, but the production is kinda lo-fi. The muscle and songs are there, but the punch is hindered by the sonics. For ordering info, write: 43 Montre Circle, Silver Creek GA 30173 (DV)

THE AMATURES Now that ska has officially been a trend (who makes these things "official," anyway?), there are many more ska bands popping up everywhere. This is one of a handful of young ska bands that have come across our desk. While the vocals are mixed kinda flat and the horns sound kinda weird in "John's Song," (I never did like clarinets!) . . . that being said, the creativity and fun infused into the songs help keep the band listenable. I think they've got potential. But, you be the judge. They have a cut on this issue's Hard Music Sampler CD. Interesting lyrics in the song "Marilyn Manson." For ordering info, write: 1755 SW Putnam Dr, Oak Harbor WA 98277 (DV)

JERUSALEM I'm a huge Jerusalem fan! When people told me about this release, they always prefaced it with, "If you like Jerusalem material from the Warrior and Volume 2 era, then you'll probably like this." I always sensed a condescending vibe when I heard that, and I didn't know what to think. Well, I love it! The music is 70's hard rock a la Thin Lizzy. A solid mixture of guitars, bass, drums, and a complimentary bed of organ beneath. I think the metal from the 70's is way better than the 80's, anyway. It's too bad not too many Christian musicians were kicking out the jams until the 80's. Even with a few songs that seem to drag, I'm not ashamed to recommend this album. For ordering info, write: Cross Rhythms Music, 11408 Audelia Rd #4786, Dallas TX 75243 (DV)

SANCTIFIED SISTER This musical outfit is a ministry that has evolved and rolled through many changes. Taking a nod from their influences, the band has seemed to find an identity that is uniquely their own. Fusing a hybrid of trippy dance and sultry R&B vocals, the band can make you dance and move with a big groove. Pretty cool stuff. Hard music afficionados who have known of the Sister's affiliation with heavy bands like Deliverance, beware: This music comes in from left field and doesn't follow a simple 4/4 format with which to headbang by. The fan of current U2 will gravitate here much quicker than thou. For ordering info, write: EMG, PO Box 21112, St Louis MO 63147 (DV)

JAGGED DOCTRINE Aahhh! Nothing like some good, scraping, metallic industrial to ease my musical mind! With distortion high in the mix everywhere, it can be hard to follow the vocals sometimes, but you will never mistake the dance tracks and loops going on. High energy and a billion beats per minute, this stuff rages! And I love those dirty guitar tones. This is about the best stuff in this genre I've heard this month. Pick of the litter? Oh yes! Check out "The Reaper Sings," and you'll be a fan. This shreds. To order, send $10 to: Gary Baker, 5824 lake Circle Dr, Fairfield OH 45014 (DV)

THE ANGRY EINSTEINS Wow! Talk about an evolution! AC/DC has mutated into Weezer! Well, let me take that back . . . these guys are better than Weezer, and I like many of their songs even better than The Presidents of the United States of America and even Plankeye. I don't know how they've done it, but they've become a modern rock band with many layered vocals. Former X-Sinner vocalist Rex Scott has taken a seat on the drum stool and shares the vocals with Greg Bishop and bassist Rob Kniep. The guitars really have a cool bite to them, and the vocal melodies are downright infectious. Sure, you can still hear Rex's Bon Scott drawl every now and then, but they certainly don't dominate as they once did. I say the band scores a decent-sized hit here. For ordering info, write: 6700 Warner Ave #17b, Huntington Beach CA 92647 (DV)

SCULPTURE These guys have kept at it, for sure. While death metal has lived up to its name for many bands, this European outfit has consistently cranked out heavy (as in hee-Vee!) metal tunes. Fans of blistering riffs that gallop at the speed of light will be delighted here. And the good news is that the drummer and bassist keep up with those guitars. Vocalist David Verkaik is fairly discernable even to the untrained ear. Fans of early Mortification and Extol listen up . . . Sculpture is as heavy as their name. For ordering info, write: Cross Rhythms Music, 11408 Audelia Rd #4786, Dallas TX 75243 (DV)

FLEECE Here's some mellow tunes from four lads in Newfoundland, Canada. Reminding me of Nirvana at times, with the songwriting dynamics they incorporate, but not quite as dangerous as the youth from Aberdeen, Washington. I hear some cool potential beneath this lo-fi recording. I'd tweak with the tones if I was the producer, but I'd also encourage them to keep it up. For ordering info, write: Rich Roberts, 148 Reid St, Apt 2, Corner Brook, NF, A2H-2P2, Canada (DV)

J.I.G. Naming yourselves after an early Deliverance song is not a bad place to start, especially when the acronym declares that Jesus is God! Choosing a very low end and doom-y approach, these guys slug out some pretty heavy music. The vocals don't exactly pull these guys to the top of the heap, but they seem to have it together rhythm-wise. For ordering info, write: Andrzej Wiatrek, Muhlenweg 8, 06724 Spora-Oelsen, Germany (DV)

KEKAL Whoa! Indonesia has attacked and will slay the black metal scene with this group! Kekal's Beyond The Glimpse Of Dreams is just a full-on blitzkrieg of flying blast beats, killer guitars, and some of that howling, screaching black metal vocals. Someone told me today that this band is the only other band that can hang with the likes of Horde — secular or Christian. With this prolific playing and intensity, I'm leaning towards agreeing with this assessment. For ordering info, write: Cross Rhythms Music, 11408 Audelia Rd #4786, Dallas TX 75243 (DV)

REV 7 I'll give you three guesses as to what book and chapter of the Bible these guys are named after. Straight–ahead hard rock and metal is used here, sometimes at a fairly plodding pace. The vocals remind me a little of old school bullies Blue Oyster Cult. This is the crowd that will get into these guys. Pretty good instrumentation and vocals. To order, send $7.77 (plus $2.22 S&H, for a total of $9.99) to: 6120 W Tropicana Ave A16–373, Las Vegas NV 89103 (DV)

SUB–TRAIN Remember the Jesus Freaks? This is their new incarnation, and it's totally awesome. This disc will bloody your nose and knock you silly. The guitar tones have the crunch factor going, which is pretty good for an indie budget. The vocals are shouted with passion and power. Eric Peterson is sure to get some James Hetfield comparisons, but it's not a clone and, besides, that's a compliment. The grooves are as deep as a Pantera pit. The drums lock in tight and fair pretty well sonically for an indie release. Definitely a worthy pickup for the heavy metal appetite. To order this 3–song gem, send only $5 to: 880 Lavergne Ln, Lavergne TN 37086 (DV)

NOTE TO BANDS: Always include ordering info in, on, and with your tape or CD. We end up bumping a few reviews each issue because we don't know where to direct people. This advice goes to bands when sending any promo product out to get signed, etc. Often the j–card or CD booklet gets separated from the tape or disc and the interested party has no idea how to get ahold of you. For this expert advice, please send nothing to: Me! (DV)

TEMPEST Mick Rowe of Tempest is back, and he's grabbed the lead vocal mic and revamped the band big time. Let's back up and look at the prefix "vamp," because Mick has gone the dark musical route a la Type O Negative. The results are pretty cool, although more guitar and less keys would be better. His does a pretty good job with his low, low voice, though. I think this doom–y direction is a good move for him. For ordering info, write: PO Box 248, Winslow IN 47598 (DV)

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