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This Might Sting a Little Bit
There have been times when a record hits me over the head and blows me away. The first song is a kicker, a few singles are sprinkled throughout, and the rest is filler. Such records can wear themselves out quickly, turning short-term "grab your attention" into long-term "not this again." Then there are those special albums that seem good, yet unassuming on first listen. But, after repeated plays, they grow, and grow, and grow...Next thing you know, they're a walking beanstalk! This Might Sting a Little Bit is definitely growing, up and out.
Produced once again by Travis Wyrick, this disc is so intense it's hard to know where to start. "I just know Jesus is the way/ I just know Jesus is the truth/ I just know Jesus is the life/ I just know Jesus is my God!" starts Kevin Young (vocals, bass) on opener "I Just Know." Anyone who has heard even one Disciple song knows that the band does not try to encrypt their lyrics in order to artistically portray the message of Christ. This track is no exception. Delving into the fact that so many denominations fight over such petty differences, the focal point of the song is that we all serve the same God. This seems to be a subject on many artists' minds recently, and should be addressed. Musically, the guitars are bigger than their past two albums, an intentional effort according to the band. Turning his back on current hardcore/modern music trends, guitarist Brad Noah serves up a good old solo near the end of the track.
"Big Bad Wolf," which appeared on issue #77's Hard Music Sampler, is complete with some wolf-growling thrown in for good measure. Vocally, Kevin Young sounds akin to ex-Skid Row vocalist Sebastian Bach, in my opinion one of hard music's best vocalists. Beautiful and searing at times, then turning on a dime to sound down-right dirty/gritty and full of angst, Mr. Young can serve it up both ways. This song is a far cry from a ballad, though. Aimed and pointed at Satan, the lyrics announce that "the Big Bad Wolf will never steal out of the hand of God Almighty the life that I gave to him." These words are really crammed into the phrasing of the song, but it works. Brutal. Drummer Tim Barrett's drum sound here and throughout is tight and proficient.
Sometimes it's amazing how devoted people of other religions are to their gods. Some pray for hours on end. Others drop to their knees and face a certain direction every day at the same time to pray to their god. We, as Christians, have and know the one true God, and yet we find it difficult to give him even five minutes of our time. In the words of the song "Worship Conspiracy": "Pray to Buddha everyday/ Put us to shame in every way/ Muslims fasting 40 days/ We can't lift our hands in praise/ God deserves more than what we're giving him." Simple, yet poignant.
"1-2 Conductor" is musically intense, and the lyrics, of course, are out-spoken. A VERY heavy worship/praise song, more words to chew on: "Would I seek applause and praise from men in everything I wanted to be?/ I don't give a rat's rear end what they say as long as my God's happy." I had to rewind on first listen..."a rat's rear end?" Humorous, for sure. Serious, also. God is our only audience, and we should only strive to please him.
The disc ends with "Altar Call," and it's just as the title insinuates. Over a very light guitar and drum part, Kevin gives a call to receive the salvation Jesus died for to give us all. Referring to John 3, he tells us how we "can be healed of the disease of sin." Following the recitation is a prayer, known as "The Sinner's Prayer." A very unique way to close an album, working hand-in-hand with the way many Christian bands end their shows.
I think you get the point. Disciple is not about to compromise their message for anyone. But, what about the music? Brutal. I guess I've used that word already. But, it is. Groove-heavy and sure to keep your attention, Disciple has matured as a musical entity. This album is more serious lyrically than their previous efforts, and the music definitely reflects this development. So, is it rapcore? Not entirely. Is it metal? Not completely? What do you call this? In the words of Kevin Young, it's "Heinz 57 Rock."
Easily the heaviest and most edgy band on the Rugged Records roster, Disciple is sure to gain even more respect with this, their first full-length major label release. This Might Sting A Little Bit? This does sting a lot!
Too often certain people or bands receive attention because of who they know, who "discovered" them, what record label they're on, or who produced their album(s). Whenever you read about actress Rose McGowan, fiancé Marilyn Manson is certain to be mentioned. Pick up an article on David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar, and Van Halen is probably thrown in somewhere. Courtney Love often equals an inevitable Kurt Cobain reference.
Along that same line, Steve Albini has worked on some landmark releases by Nirvana, Bush, and Jimmy Page/Robert Plant, to drop a few names. Albini also recorded Chevelle's debut disc, but this band should be allowed to stand on their own.
Intro "Open" segues into title track "Point #1," a rather atmospheric song. Vocally reminiscent of Maynard James Keenan (Tool), Pete Loeffler has a voice that stands apart from most. Emotive and urgent, Pete entwines his words with some heavy, distorted guitars. Making it a family affair, the Chicago-based band is rounded out with Pete's brothers, Joe (bass) and Sam (drums).
Inevitably, some of Albini's trademark sound can be heard. While the band "wanted a slightly more produced sound," some of the same qualities that made Nirvana's In Utero such a raw album are present, particularly in the drum sound. The rhythm guitar parts are more in your face than some of the stuff Mr. Albini has put his stamp on, as are the vocals. According to the band, this was a conscious effort. Chevelle wanted something not quite so indie rock sounding, and they succeeded.
Just don't expect a slicked-up Nashville rock record. While there isn't a lot of variance from song to song, with the possible exception of closer "Peer," each track takes enough twists and turns within themselves to keep things intense and saturated. This is one of the heavier and drudge-filled albums I've heard come from a label located in the Christian Music Capital of the World in a long time; possibly the heaviest ever to come out of "Nash-Vegas," as some affectionately call it.
The band has said that, to this day, they do not like their name. With the word "Chevelle," Audio Adrenaline's song "Chevette" comes to mind, but don't expect anything at all similar to those CCM chart- toppers. This is not pop music.
Chevelle's overall sound transcends most of today's Christian hard music. Reminding one of Tool, this is not quite as technically proficient. But that's not really the point. Chevelle's sound seems to ride the line between emo and something else. That something else should be left up to the listener. It is difficult to describe this band within the confines of any single genre. In today's hardcoremodernrockskapunk cloning factory, Chevelle doesn't fit the mold.
Stretch Arm Strong
Rituals of Life
Instant win. This album is an easy punk/hardcore success. Leaning more towards the hardcore side, each song is powerful; a well done ensemble. A hail to the reasons we love hardcore: positive, motivational lyrics, energy, musical strength. Reminiscent of H2O, they have enough punk in them to do this wonderful chorus singing, while the lead vocals are more full-out screams. Both types of vocals are woven into a very melodic, strong punk sound. Track 3 has some very Solomon type vocals, but the comparison is strongest there, and not even close to sounding too much like Stavesacre or Outer Circle. The lead vocals are easy to listen to and very well done, and paired with the other vocals are pretty much another instrument. There is some beautiful guitar work throughout. Great tones. Track one starts off with this Bon Jovi sounding intro, almost like a joke, and then gives the listener its real sound. Lots of fast guitar work but not metal. Lots of power chords but still getting chuggy like some metal. Consistent work throughout that retains a sound, but there is enough variety in each song to keep things original and captivating. Vocal style and guitar work match very well and seem to feed each other more than some bands. This isn't totally original stuff but it's totally one of my new favorite albums of the year. Just when I had almost convinced myself that Emo was all there is, I hear incredible music like this and am reminded of whence I came.
the dead next door
With each listen, this album shows the intricacies which are the strength to this style. The name fits the band well. The vocals are aggro and fiery. Very mature hardcore vocals with enough growl and pitch to remind the listener of grind and death metal. And the guitar equals the vocals. Amazing changes... These guys will probably get compared to Embodyment about a bazillion times, but Spitfire is making their own path. There are really nice time changes and tone changes; very involved and all over the map. This album is worth listening to; just listen to the variety of stuff going on in just one song. Very amazing. It's not as fast as some stuff, but it doesn't feel like that's their route, anyway. And besides, it's crazy fast. The background vocals are more singy and bridge the fast-changing with the melodic. So in case you are one of those types that doesn't do well with the non-melodic metal-core of today, this album may have enough to draw you in and force a deeper listen. Very good background voices as well. Track 4 could easily be the most beautiful song on the album. With an almost seamless entry from the previous trace, the song is full-out yelling and heavy, then breaks into an almost acoustic solo. The yelling comes back in, along with the acoustic sound and more guitars are overlaid. Powerful and inspiring, the song ends in heaviness. The production/recording/engineering is clean, excellent. The mix is nice, too; the vocals are strong enough and yet, not everything. Intelligent work... this album can bring in the fringe listeners to Spitfire's style of metal-core. While this album is unique, it is also following closely in it's predecessors' footsteps. It may not seem unique enough, but this style is making a home big enough to house more than one or two bands. The nuances are what set bands apart, when the drastic does not. This is the case here as well. The uniqueness is found most readily in the use of the melodic background vocals and in some tones and time changes that are not common to this style (not in sound but in some of the changes Roadside came to mind. A temporary lapse of reason? See what you think). Look deeper; that's when it becomes better than average.
life ain't what it used to be
If you really like punk, you should be very impressed with this album. The name of the band and the song intros almost fool you into thinking Johnny Respect's style is probably kind of a lighthearted rockabilly blend. But after they start into that first song, you know this is serious punk. What this fast-paced CD lacks in variety it makes up for in the quality of production. That quality includes everything from the great sound to the design of the packaging. The songs The Mind As a Hypocrite, Your Fear and Broken Homes are evidence of the band's lyrical ability as well. There is a hidden track at the end of the CD; it's faint and hard to hear, but it sounds like a 50's rock instrumental. Overall, an exciting release for those who just can't get enough punk.
sci-fi canon blue(s)
It's hard not to think of that annoying "Tomorrow" song when you hear the name "Annie," but the futuristic rock on the debut album from a band called Annie replaced all my memories of oversung showtunes. Balancing an overall Radiohead feel with Beatlesque melodies and a distinctive lounge lizard style, Annie is soon to become a band you won't want to get out of your head -- much less take out of your CD player. Annie's poetically vague lyrics flowingly take a backseat to each song's overall effect (which may explain why the lyrics aren't in the song order on the back of the album's cardboard case). And what are these effects? Buzzing guitars, plinking keys, golden-toned horns and laid-back, Thom Yorke-ish "shoegazer" vocals fill the album, but the simplicity of the fivesome's potent songwriting talent is as bright as their harmonies are sharp. Though Annie is certainly a departure for Bulletproof Records, label home to Dear Ephesus and Squad 5-0, they may prove to be the forefront of originality for the modern rock label, if not all modern rock. Annie's sci-fi canon blue(s) is one album you should get today -- or, at the latest, tomorrow.
There's two questions that come to mind: Do they sound like Plankeye? And Is the album any good? Let's hold off on the answers for just a moment. I've had the good fortune of digging this band's stuff for a while. I personally think this band has been amazingly influential within their musical domain. The gradual move from edgy / punky / indie rock to more indie rock / pop rock was an interesting journey. The One and Only was so much more radio pop than anything they had done. A huge transformation was taking place. Sure, Commonwealth was an obvious predecessor to that, and a large departure from the edgy Spark album and even further from the gutty Spill album. But The One and Only concreted Plankeye into a new sound.
I don't know what was a greater adjustment: Scott Silletta leaving (for those who don't know- Plankeye's distinctive lead singer Silletta left after the highly acclaimed The One and Only) or this transition into pop. Plankeye was one of the rougher voices we could identify with in a scene filled with polished, uppity sounds. Every fan responds differently to change in a band's sound, just as every band changes differently. So, let this album be no different. No matter what is said about this album, I believe that it should stand on its own. There is too much that factors into things to compare it to the past stuff.
To answer one of the questions quickly, Relocation is reminiscent of some of their stuff but is predominantly a completely different species. I've been listening to Relocation for a few weeks now. Easy to love this melodic, gentle, (mostly) pop album. And it's the melodies that makes this album. I guess with pop albums, it has to be. There is nice guitar work with some standard tones; pretty far removed from punk. Some radio-sounding stuff and some poppy, emo-style guitar work (ie. Promise Ring, Pop Unknown but not as intricate or memorable or showcased -- with some exceptions, especially "Say Now That You're Sorry" and "I Can't Complain"). Nice vocals. Both guys do some singing. The voices are pretty good and some nice harmonies. "Honey And Oil" sounds closer to the old Plankeye than any song on the album (there I go comparing) and shows some of the vocal diversity on the album. There is a lot of "OooWooHoo, OooWooHoo" type stuff, which reminds everyone of the pop-i-ness. Each part is pretty standard . . . nothing crazy or amazingly inventive, but all excellently played / performed. Its excellence isn't in something exotic or foreign, but it's not quite what you are hearing on the radio. Pleasant sounds, which calm and woo, instead of rile you up. Relocation is unique in its breadth. It almost seems like they wanted to try some new things. Each song is a new exploration in just a little bit different sound. There are common threads, but I've heard albums that are almost the same song all the way through. This is not one of them, which makes it an intriguing album to listen to.
There are some beautiful slow songs ("Goodbye," "Break My Fall," "Indivisible" and "You Are For Me"), which is quite a few. Very little of the album is heavy in the way many of the HM readers appreciate. I'm a hard a music fan and still find Relocation in my regular spin. There are some faster songs. The lead-off track, "Say Now That You're Sorry," hooks the listener right away. Melody and some umph in the guitar work; lead this song as a hit. In this age of the new, underground pop, this album has joined the movement. There is enough background and sound difference to not be totally pop without cool. Or maybe it's that it is so completely pop we are not used to it in this alternative world. It somehow retains some of its indie rock sound, but it's very hard to explain exactly where. Some songs are even reminiscent of earlier Christian Contemporary stuff that you could easily have heard Michael W Smith play. But the guitars and some of the melodies and effects hold the sound in this trend that is making its way to your door. The late great Plankeye has died, and the new (and quite possibly just as great) Plankeye has taken the stage. I hope people will take this album for what it is. What a good spin. I will play this one for quite a while.
Ninety Pound Wuss
Short Hand Operation
Tooth and Nail
I hope this album sells like crazy; easily my favorite work of 90 lb. to date. Short Hand Operation is along the same lines as their previous album, Where Meager Die of Self Interest, but is even more brilliant. Now if you still don't believe me, you can keep reading.
Simply put, 90 lb.'s old school, punk sound and post-punk inventiveness (especially seen on Where Meager...) is portrayed in higher definition and in broader span. The edge has remained, but instead of just raw garage power, there is a harnessing which leads to a clearer and more accessible sound without selling out to some other style to just be like some more popular kid. The post punk (almost rough emo at times, as a friend pointed out to me concerning Where Meager...) is brilliant. Instead of taking it mellow and throwing out the punk side, 90 lb. has kept their sound and bent it. They have changed and allowed room for some nice sampling and use of some wacky guitar effects (toy laser gun sound, which appears now and then; breaking glass, feedback -- don't you love feedback -- and some keyboard, which is pretty wacky for a punk band and, for that matter, a post-punk band). It is a beautiful synthesis of styles and techniques. You almost have to -- actually, you DO have to hear it -- to appreciate it.
The album has a lot of diversity and a lot of complexity. There are some straight-up punk songs ("Not Like Me"), and there are some more post-punk songs ("Fulfilled"). "Nostalgia" starts out as almost as this keyboard pop song, but finds its way smoothly into a punk song. Natural. "Torment in Tension" is layered so thick, the complexity is gorgeous. Not a dull moment. "It Seems So Far Away" is beautiful; an instrumental of epic proportions and faithful to the instrumental title. Very nice percussion in this song, and, while we are talking about drums, fast. Be not mistaken, Jeff Suffering's straining vocals have been refined too. They are far more versatile than previous work, allowing for a range instead of a signature vocal style. Talk, sing, yell. Not as thrashed sounding most of the time, but he still yells until you think he's going to die ("Intermediate Laceration"). He's got a decent singing voice, which lends itself well to more than just a punk yell. Nice bass work throughout. Both bass and guitar parts are very creative; they do not force them to be monotonous. There are tons of effects on the guitars, but not in a dorky way.
The more I hear this album, the more I like it. If you have never heard or liked Ninety Pound Wuss, I really encourage to check this album out. This is the kind of stuff that I imagine people not getting into, because they are too creative.
essence of the game
Seemingly out of nowhere, this new artist on Screaming Giant can singlehandedly make the label live up to its name. Huge heavy grooves cut with quirky guitar tones, hitting you over the head with a solid punch. While playing this one loud in the office, a co-worker exclaimed that this band was the closest he'd heard any Christian band come to the Korn sound. The similarities are there, with the genuine hip hop vocals and astute musicians with a readiness to shred on the drop of a dime.
The lyrics to "E.I." tell the story: "To which one of your stereotypes do I fit in/ I bust phat rhymes, but I got white skin . . . I grew up on the court like a real baller should / But it wasn't in your suburban neighborhood." It's hard to understand how the two schools -- hip hop and hardcore -- aren't integrated just yet. The purity of both styles is there in a wonderfully heavy mix.
While I've been calling this band "dot rod laver" due to the period before the "r" in rod laver, I found out that the band members just couldn't find a way to make their Microsoft Word 97 program print the first letter in a sentence as lower case, so he put a period in front. But, whatever you call em, just make sure it's with the respect that this band deserves.
--Doug Van Pelt
hammer of god
Mortification has played a true tribute to the classic metal sounds that influenced it from the beginning. What we first heard on Blood World comes out more prominently here, but it's played so aggressively and tight that it beats the "old school" criticism to death. The album has good songs on it. The guitar tones bite a la Iron Maiden, the vocals are less grindy, but still close to the Steve Rowe style. What's new are the heavy use (as in a lot)of keyboards. I'm of the Jon Lord-ish type keyboard sounds of Deep Purple and Rainbow. Don't be misled, though. Mortification has not become Idle Cure! Any doubters just need to visit the classic Mort sounds of "In The Woods." Fans of "Noah Was A Knower" will get a flashback with the music and lyrics of "D.W.A.M." (Daniel was a mosher.), which shows the band's sense of humor intact. "God Rulz" also shows up here, complete with a final shout-out by young Leighton Rowe.
While Triumph of Mercy showed a miraculous comeback for this band, Hammer of God is a brutal metal attack. This album has that element of confidence and bite that makes the band sound like they're hungry. I can imagine seeing a spark in the member's eyes as they play these tunes. It's not just the music, either. The lyrics find the band not backing down one bit from the futile attempts some make to dispute God's love and rule. "Lock Up The Night" describes this well: "Lock up the night, release the fire / Now show The Light, pray for morning / Take out the dark, Spirit shine." The title track is another good example. "Liberal Mediocrity" takes a swipe at the misuse of Scripture, ending with the exhortation that "the Lord is coming for a spotless church / Repentant, forgiven / Not deceived by words of men."
The band takes an unexpected trip into diversity in the dramatic "A Pearl," which breaks down with some beautiful piano and keys in the middle of the song. Amidst the dynamics of the song are several examples of Lincoln Bowen's diverse guitar tones. He really did a good job on the entire album coaxing cool sounds out of his instrument -- whether it's lead or rhythm work.
This CD features several bonus tracks, which were not necessary to make this album special. There's a 4- song medley of Mort classics redone -- "Lymphosarcoma," "Destroyer Beholds," "Distarnish Priest" and "Love Song." Then there's demos from the last album, "At War With War," "Visited by an Angel," and "Unified Truth." The last track of this 70-plus minute CD is an instrumental version of "Metal Crusade."
The band showed a real boldness to take their music to a new place on this, their 9th album, as well as continue the upfront lyrics they are known for. They need make no apologies for this album. It truly kicks.
more than conquerors
Tooth And Nail
I've been a fan of this band's hooky punk music since seeing them live at Tomfest a few years ago. There's a sense of joy that emanates from the vocals of Josh, which is backed up by memorable rhythms and a solid beat.
They take the urgency found in hardcore and make it pop enough to attract the chicks. While not questioning the band's motives (I'm just joking!), the infectious pop hooks put the band right in the pop punk arena; but, like genre giants MxPx, they put enough originality into it to stand far above the crowd of pop punk MxPx wanna-be's. Russell's drumming is fantastic, the guitars are crisp and tightly synchronized with the bassist and drummer, and the gang gets involved in the BGV's every once in a while (like "My Best Year") and adds the obligatory "ah-oh's." And, if you want metal, baby, check out the chugging riffology found in "The Pain Is Gone." It's not too distant from the recent arena rock dabblings of Offspring. But I'll take the Dogwood style found in "Suffer" and "Confusion Zero" any day. This band rules!
Lyrically, you can find a band of real people dealing with real life, but instead of leaving it there, they say "We Cry Victory" and agree with Scripture that believers are "More Than Conquerors."
Fans of the band's Through Thick & Thin will snatch this release up like a reunion hug from a dear friend. Those that haven't heard this band before need to invest in their entire four-disc catalog, starting with More Than Conquerors.
we the living
Here's a great compilation album of indie hard music artists. Songs from several albums we've reviewed in these pages are here, from Aunt Bettys, The Violet Burning, Crux, xDisciplex, Pink Daffodils, and more. It's a high quality listen from track one through 18. Distributed by Avalon Music Distribution, this album gives folks who walk into retail shops a chance to sample some of the best indie material out there. Nice move on Etcetera's part.
One of Knoxville's best-kept secrets is the band Nailed. Much like Mudhoney and other obscure bands that Nirvana hailed once they were given a voice, Disciple is going to be the first band to make the biggest splash from Knoxville, and they will surely brag on their brothers in Nailed, whom they have shared many a stage with.
Justin Bolli takes a filtered vocal sound during many a verse, busting out with a scream for the chorus. It makes for good dynamics, especially in the hypnotic "Dying," which states: "Are you dying for a reason? Jesus is the Reason." The band backs Justin up well, with fuzzy and feedbacking, chiming guitars in most spots, and on time rhythm chomping in others. "M2" is another memorable tune in a similar musical vein. The chorus that will stick with you says: "My God loves you / but He hates your sin / He hates your sin!"
One has to tip their hat to Travis Wyrick for a swell job of dialing in some nice guitar and drum sounds (especially the drums in "Breath" and "Bleed Me"). This allows the band to succeed where a band like Killed By Cain failed. The good ideas here are realized and come firing out of the speakers. The tempo of the first five songs sets up the melodic "Suicide," which makes me wish I could produce a video for it and help this song get in rotation on television. I mean, Justin's got a mean enough mug to look cool. This is a modern rock single that could use the boost of a visual image like video. I digress.
The only down spot on the album I could find was the song "Peel," which also includes some of the best moments in the band's career. One of these moments is the vocal expression in the first verse -- when he screams "all the way!" with all the conviction of a life or death matter. Then the chorus comes and gets delivered almost matter-of-factly, especially in contrast to the raspy and intense verse. Another highlight in this song is the killer breakdown in the bridge. I'd like to hear more of this kind of thing and less of that kind of chorus.
The good points, of course, outweigh the bad by 13 to 1. While Entity shows a sonic progression for the band, they are more free to experiment than their compatriots in Bride, who always have to be compared to their Snakes... album. Nailed can venture into Alice In Chains grunge territory in a song like "Broken," or fly into the Filter sound in "Mindfield" and not be held back by previous expectations. If this were not good enough, the band adds a couple good live tracks to boot -- "Drowning" and "Punk."
While these are some of the nicest boys you've ever met, this album is mean.
fell in love at 22
Tooth And Nail
Wow! Have you heard the news, oh boy! I think maybe Jason finally allowed himself to listen to a Beatles record or two! Regardless if the title track sounds like one of this century's most ground-breaking bands, this little EP features probably the best produced Starflyer song ever. Oh my gosh! I need to go back and listen to The Fashion Focus! How could I have let that album pass me by? The Fashion Focus is incredible! No wonder the label released this EP single (5 tracks in all). Jason Martin and co. have taken their shoegazer soft pop to the ultimate heights. His vocals are so soft and dreamy that it makes you think you're dreaming in the clouds. Feedback has met pop, and the marriage is as sweet as apple pie.
Jump Up! Records
When I got this record in the mail, I almost placed it in the "secular / listen to once before filing" pile. I mean, besides No Innocent Victim, what other Christian band had distribution through Victory Records? Apparently, I was wrong! These eight fine musicians are all Wheaton College graduates, and are playing out and around the Chicago area quite a bit. Thus, the distribution deal with Victory. These guys and gal take a swing style slant at ska a la One Eighty, complete with the bouncy vocals and witty lyrics of Kelly Zouhary. Most all the songs are about relationships, but there's lyrics printed from Psalm 100, as if it's a hidden bonus track. I can't find it.
If you're looking for fun, then runforyerlife.
Much like Saviour Machine, I really like Eva O's music for the pop radio singles she churns out! If you know anything about the fore-mentioned bands, you know that I'm being sarcastic. This album, which is Part One of a two-part concept, is a "Sit Down and Listen in one Sitting" experience. What makes this album difficult is the same reason it was not picked up for US retail distribution in the CBA market thus far -- it's a stark expression of Eva O's testimony. It doesn't sound like she's watered down where she came from and what kinds of lies she believed in before finding Jesus the Truth.
As its title implies, Damnation uncovers the thoughts that bind those headed for destruction. Eva's voice sounds like it speaks with the authority of a rough life. The well-timed sampling and eerie keyboards synchronize to achieve a very believable atmosphere.
It's cool to see such a diversity in this music, from the darkwave elements of keyboards everywhere behind Eva's voice, to the world beat percussion, to the metal gothic industrial guitar elements. This is a gothic rock opera to be experienced. Hollywood producers would be amiss not to use some of this material for a new movie soundtrack.
Quite a bold move for any artist, but especially an evangelical who is putting so much at stake in the realistic portrayal of the "negative-sounding" side of the message of salvation, which is the certainty of judgement. The thinking person will see the majority of this first-person rhetoric as false-thinking. It's risky to release this album independently from the accompanying Answer to the lies expressed here, even though it's obviously couched in a bad-guy role. Some people just prefer to be spoon-fed and have it all explained to them. This will be one of those albums that is understood by those who listen, and rejected by those who barely look under the surface in an attempt to confirm their hunch that, "this chick just looks too weird to be of God."
The last track adequately brings resolution to this project alone, though, as Eva declares, "I stand before His light / Not what we say, but what He says is right / Nothing is hidden, it's all exposed / He endured the pain, and carries all the load / In His light I became broken . . . I am His child . . . Jesus is the King of Kings / Jesus is the Lord of Lords. . . He will cleanse you from your sins." And thus ends Part One of Eva O's testimony put to music. I can only imagine what glory awaits in Part Two -- Salvation.
time to die
In short time, Metanoia has cranked out three albums of tight grindcore. Playing together and writing this much material together is definitely going to force you to gel as a unit. When these guys fire through their dual rhythm licks, you know someone's been practicing. And they're right in the pocket with the drummer and bassist. While the low, grindy vocals will scare some hard music hybridists away, Metanoia's music is capable of keeping their attention. From the sound of the title track, it appears that maybe Mortification's love for classic metal has rubbed off on Metanoia, but only a little bit.
An interesting standout cut is "Now Listen Up" (also featured on this issue's Hard Music Sampler), which brings grindcore vocals into the funky groove territory of "Tourniquet playing a Pantera song." Very weird. Another unexpected moment is the anthemic "Feel The Fire," which includes a guest vocal done straight up. The last two songs are different as well. "Blyth" reminds me of a classic metal instrumental; and "Lucifer's Fire" whispers along vocally, leaving me expecting to hear a black metal vocal come screaming in.
The improvement in sonics jump slightly, but not as much as the jump from In Darkness Or In Light to Don't Walk Dead. Mark McCormack does a great job dialing in the guitar and drum sounds. The vocals are crisp when Yowie isn't growling low, like the shout responses in "Offensive." This and "Corpse" are, in my humble opinion, probably the best songs on the disc. I just really like the vocal sound and groove. I'd have to say that this is now my favorite of the three Metanoia albums.
for the working class
This album finds Left Out recording at JPUSA's Tone Zone Studios. The environment sounds like it worked well for these goofballs. This is pure punk rock fun. Brian Gray and company have always done a good job of mixing the fun and nonsense with serious ministry lyrics. The first thing I like about this album is the production clarity (without sterilizing the material, if you know what I mean). The guitars are given a little room to breathe, and it captures energy. One good example is the old school punk sounds of "What The Song's About," which poses the question to the person who bought a record and a t-shirt, too: "what does it really mean to you / do the words give you any clue?" And answers with, "When you scream and when you shout, don't forget what this song's about!"
"Getting Away With Killing You And Everyone Else (Smoking Self Destruction Song)" is an example of the band hitting you between the eyes, but doing so in such a way that it doesn't come off like they're cramming anything down your throat. The explanation about the song is written in diary form, which adds to the "real life" conversation that the lyrics take.
"Hindsight Or Clarity" is a cool song that brings to mind the memory of early Crucified due to the spoken lead vocals atop the cool spy music rhythm going on. The gang vocals at times seem kinda flat, but overall it's still one of the must-listens on the album. I love the desperate vocals in "Another Song About Sarah." Then there's the almost metal feel of "Lose What Was Never Yours." Another song that bears a repeat listen. And don't forget the hilarious Beastie Boys take-off in "Step Up To The Mic!" Oh, heck, the whole album keeps calling me back!
Left Out has given this album a good title, as this is good punk rock music for the working class. If there was a classic punk radio format, this could get as much airplay as anybody.
time will tell
When I came to this album, the fourth from the last in my stack of 13, I thought to myself, "I could bump this review to the next issue, if it's another acoustic album." But then I put the disc in and started to listen. Glenn endeavors to offer something "to a world glutted with musicians but sorely lacking in human beings." He succeeds in giving us both.
Drenched in slide and acoustic guitar, this material drips with a classy classic rock a la Rod Stewart or Eric Clapton. It's not rockin' enough to be Resurrection Band material (although several of these would probably fit in fine within the context of an album), and it's got too much blues attitude to go on one of his acoustic worship albums. I'd be more inclined to file this with the acoustic blues albums he did with Darrell Mansfield. I'm glad that Glenn had the opportunity to put these songs out, even if they don't neatly fit into one of these convenient labels. I'm glad because the music really does something for me.
The lyrics (I'm not surprised) do something for me as well. Many a musician would do well to ponder his musings in the song "Ya Don't Say Much." Glenn's been around for several years and seen most of the bands in the Christian music industry play at Cornerstone, so his experience bears listening. He's earned the right to comment on what he's seen. Like a gentle father, he doesn't come across thoughtless or calloused. He later drops the same thought as a bomb in "Deliver." Whew! Nobody needs to ask Glenn, "Tell us how you really feel!"
And when you have lyrics like the ones in "Good Hope & New Philadelphia," it makes you wish (no, demand!) that this guy gets on the road with John Mellencamp (or at least VH-1) and spreads some of this wisdom around. Glenn Kaiser is a treasure, folks, and this song right here shows it as well as any.
against the flow
KMG has not only purchased the entire Frontline catalog (thank you!), but they've started signing some good bands. American Made is their first venture into punk rock. These guys come together with tons of energy and meld melodic pop punk with some nice rap-like vocals and loud, crisp yet distorted guitars. What stands out in this day of the "Fun Only" agenda is the straight-up lyrics about God and His love.
It's hard not to totally fall in love with this band. The pop melodies are so big, and the musicianship is just fast and tight. If you're not singing along to "That Thing I Do," then you must be dead.
With Billy Smiley's production, I get the impression at times that the goal was to make the sound slightly safe. This is my only criticism. These guys have a cool sound, and it's ready for the radio. More importantly, it sounds ready for a live audience.
"What?! First you cover King's X when they're not really a Christian band, and then you review Collective Soul on us?! What are you doing, HM, becoming secular?!" Thanks. I appreciate your feedback. Now, shut up and think.
Collective Soul stormed the airwaves with their surprise hit "Shine" (in 93), which sounded like a prayer for "Heaven, let your light shine down." Then, if you picked up the album Hints Allegations & Things Left Unsaid, you had to wonder, "Did these boys grow up on Terry Taylor and Daniel Amos?" Every other song on that first disc sounds like it was directly inspired from Terry & DA. The lyrics sound like they were influenced by the Bible. With the second, self-titled album, they seemed to answer the questions they must have been getting about their faith (the song "Untitled" seems to answer with a hint of rebuke). There's a vulgar word used for "complaining" in "Smashing Young Man," which is the closest any of their songs have come to even be questionable for the "evangelical appropriateness test" many in our scene will filter their music choices through (me included). Then their third album, Disciplined Breakdown, seemed to find the band at peace with who they are and what they believe. Check out these lyrics from "Precious Declaration," their biggest single from that record: "I believe all hope is dead no longer . . . I was blind but now I see / Salvation has discovered me."
Some professional athletes, when they have a great game and are interviewed on television afterwards, will declare, "I want to give God all the glory," or some other public praise. Sometimes this acts as a two-edged sword. It makes the people "on their side" cheer, and it makes another athlete that doesn't speak up questionable. "Why didn't they speak up?" We can find several verses about "letting your light shine before men," but when we try to apply these Scriptures, we might be flying in the face of others, where God instructed some of His children to do something different, which was misunderstood.
Some really hope for Collective Soul to stand on a podium and declare their personal allegiance to the cause of Christ. This hope is often bent to a point to where we voice our displeasure that the band is not doing this public declaration. Then the band is faced with not only what God wants them to do, but with what you want them to do. We might find ourselves in disagreement with God. Perhaps we should just listen and not speak. Let Collective Soul perform their art and express their thoughts. It seems to me that they're producing good art, and their thoughts are encouraging to me. I, too, find myself needing "to learn the depth or doubt of faith to fall into" ("Needs"). I don't exactly relate to the questions in "Crown," but it sounds like the questions are pointed in the right direction. They ask, "Who's gonna be the shepherd / To lead this poor boy back home / Well, I hope I'm not lost / But I think that hope is now distancing."
I've never been to a Collective Soul concert. I don't know if they cuss between each song like Ozzy, nor do I know if they are living in purity above reproach. What I read when I read their lyrics is good stuff that still seems almost wholly based on biblical thought. With Dosage, there seems to be a return to the "this is who I am" approach in the song "No More No Less," where lyricist, producer, and vocalist (how many bands have that in one person?) Ed Roland states, "See, I'm no more no less of an angel / Than you'd have me be."
And now the music: The first track, "Tremble For My Beloved," sounds like Collective Soul got the U2 bug. You know what I'm talking about. The attitude of: "I'm bored with this. Let's experiment!" The band seems to have felt the influence of U2 post Achtung Baby sound (electronica). But this is only in spots. The first radio single, "Heavy," is classic Collective Soul -- anthemic modern rock with a hook. "Generate" is another hit here, capitalizing on the formula that Collective Soul wrote and now leads the pack with.
With this Dosage, think, listen, and enjoy.
the warriors ep
Tooth & Nail
There's not many bands I'm more excited about than P.O.D. The fact that they're signed to Atlantic Records now is almost over the top good news. It will be a joy to watch these guys with the whole world watching, too. I sure hope they break big, cause then we'll be sharing just the simple joy of P.O.D. music with more friends (not to mention the real joy that these guys know).
What is this EP? These are demos from the new, upcoming album due out this August. The thought was, I suppose, "Let's get this sample out there in advance, which the band can take on tour to promo the new album. Give the fans something to chew on while they wait for Summer to pass." What's on it is sonic greatness (at least compared to their studio output thus far). The riffs are huge and crunchy and everything's separated real good. After a bizarre intro, we hear the first new song from P.O.D. in three years -- "Southtown." Nice!
Next we hear monster good versions of their best songs -- "Breathe Babylon," the early "Draw The Line," and the show-stopping "Full Color." The song "Breathe Babylon" never sounded better and more full. Guest rapper, Dirt, adds some great sounding verses. We also hear Marcos' vocals up in the mix enough for the first time. "Draw The Line" sounds tougher. It's going to make it hard to go back and listen to Snuff The Punk now! "Full Color" gets the royal recording treatment, too. The only downfall to having these songs on this EP is that we the fans will feel like, "Hey, when are we going to get some new songs?!" We've heard them on the band's first two albums, heard em played every time we saw em live. We hear em here, and then they'll probably be on the new album in August. In carrying these old songs with them, they put pressure on themselves to outdo them. Given the sound of "Southtown," I'm confident they'll come close enough to satisfy.
It's fun (and weird) to hear the vinyl scratches behind the songs, giving it that old analog feel. This is especially noticeable in the beautiful "Rosa Linda," which showcases the skills of Marcos brilliantly. I've heard some say that he doesn't seem to know where to go when it comes to leads on the electric; but when you put him on a flamenco guitar, look out! He shreds!
This is one of those CD's that you, the hard music fan, really have no options on. You must buy it. Do not ask any questions. Don't read too far into this review. Just go get the thing and play it loud! August will come soon, Lord willing!
Ever wonder what happened to The Throes' Bill Campbell? Here's his new band. Full of bouncing, beautiful pop harmonies, this jangly yet driving album is punctuated by vocals from Heaven a la The Beach Boys. If Poor Old Lu ever let Brian Wilson in the band, they might sound something like this. Lovers of swirling 90's pop (Weezer, Presidents...) will have to jump on this CD. For ordering info, write: spinART records, PO Box 1798, New York NY 10156-1798 (Doug Van Pelt)
DEAR MR. PETERSON
Here's some really cool and clean alternapop from the studios of Backbone Records. Imagine a slightly emo Plankeye. These guys know how to write good songs, plus they get good sounds out of their instruments. For info on this 4-song CD, write: Backbone Records, 7071 Warner #F-440, Huntington Beach CA 92647 (DV)
Guitars, guitars, and more guitars! These guys slam out a pretty cool crunch. With the bass taking center stage often, the bands lays down some funky grooves with melodic vocal lines all over them. Totally upfront lyrics about God, man, his condition and his responsibility to God. Some of the guitar tones at times, like the song "People of America," sound kinda cheesy. When the guitars bite is when they sound the best, which is about 90% of the time. The funky and groovy influences are there (Precious Death), but overall the sound is not quite yet ready for prime time, but pretty tasty. For ordering info, write: Craig Wallace, 705 Brown Rd, Brighton IL 62012 (DV)
Modern rock is a tough, competitive field to be in. Here's a quintet that adds many of the right ingredients to succeed -- competent playing, nice vocals, and decent songs. Not much stuff is heavy here, but the band does lay down some rock ("Soliloquy" and "Vegetables" are two examples) occasionally. They compete (but not win) with such bands as Jars of Clay, Creed, and Collective Soul, often laying on the softer side. To order, send $15 to: Craig Maccubbin, 4156 Zinnia Lane, Fairfax VA 22030 (DV)
FIVE MEN DOWN
Ska, baby, ska! This album starts off with a real bang (nice guitars, vocals and horns), but proceeds to get less inspiring as the 12 song CD plays on. The horns and guitars start off in "Stand Firm" and "Running Out Of Time" in tight, aggressive, and bouncy form, but by the time you reach a song like "Robert," the horns begin to sound unconvincing. Kinda like a practice instead of the passion you'd expect in a live performance. The lyrics are humorous and upfront (the song "Kickball" is a good example), and the vocals are fairly pleasant. You hear some creativity, like the James Brown-like voices and the scratching in "Get Real," but the energy is missing that's found in their more well-known counterparts. Most of the criticism of this disc can be attributed to the production quality, as the band shows room for growth and promise in the songwriting department. For ordering info, write: c/o Dave Diller, 10 S. 107 Springbrook Dr, Naperville IL 60565 (DV)
Here's some funky CHR with female vocals. Imagine Rosanna's Raiders trying to make it in Nashville. The vocals are very nice and the playing is pretty crisp, but the guitar tones are a little too clean for this rocker's ears. Lyrics are worshipful and witty. To order, send $15.98 to: PO Box 126, Bergenfield NJ 07621 (DV)
Guitars! Guitars! Guitars! Just give me the guitars! While Industrial purists will eschew guitar-based industrial, this is the kinda vibe that gets me pumped about music today. On this long-awaited release, Klank has adopted a heavier dance vibe, but those wonderful machine gun-like crunchy guitars are everywhere. The vocal quality is there, too. The song "No Answers / No Reasons" features the line "...nobody gives a damn, what good are words..." which, of course, will turn off a lot of listeners who are trying to make their speech pure before the Lord. The song seems to address the fact that so many believing listeners have questions about Klank's music. This song, and "Bleed Me Dry" (with it's chorus shouts of "suck!") and "Don't Like" seem to be angry responses from the artist to his audience. The title-track asks the loaded question, "Tell me why everyone in the world has to be like you?" A valid question, but it drips with a bitter attitude. There's some good points brought up as well, like "...everything I do, you seem to pick apart / I try to be sincere . . . is it too much to ask just to leave me alone? / Haven't you heard of respect, or do you have to be shown?" If we could all just get along, we could enjoy some killer music here. It's kinda hard though, with all the fighting words going back and forth (between both artist and listener). To order, send $12 ($17 foreign) to: PO Box 223, Farmingdale NY 11735 (DV)
This is Steve Meigs' new band, so I wanted to like it. But I just can't get into the jangly acoustic-based "rock worship" very much. "Show Me Your Glory" is an especially cool worship song, but it's certainly not very hard. For ordering info, write: 17708 Rivendel Rd, Lutz FL 33549-5534 (DV)
Here's some quiet modern rock with jabs at rocking out Southern style. The vocals might have worked if they sounded like the singer would just explode and die if I didn't feel what he felt, but I don't feel anything really. To order the CD, send $5 to: write: c/o David Minne, 4501 Addy St, Washougal WA 98671 (DV)
Imagine a poorly-produced Galactic Cowboys... I like the direction they're going, but the vocals don't have the polish of that other (greatest in the universe) band. The band put three songs to disc here, the best being "Deadfish" and "In The Fire." I enjoy the guitar tones and prominent bass. Give these guys an engineer for a bigger sound and a producer to help fine-tune their songs, and you've got a winner. For ordering info, write: c/o Deren Winn, 1150 Hamlet Dr, Harrisonburg VA 22802 (DV)
These guys have completed their demo and released this 8-song disc. There's some really cool ideas and sounds on here . . . but how they go from Sepultura-like brutality to Newsboys Nashvegas lounge music in the span of three minutes is mystifying. Some of the quiet moments, though, like "Place in the Sun" are kinda cool in a grunge sort of way. For ordering info, write: Matt Schiavi, 82-05 250st, Bellerose NY 11426 (DV)
GREEN OLIVE TREE
Here's some pretty cool modern rock that reminds me of Collective Soul and the funkiness of Hot Pink Turtle (remember them?). The production is kinda fuzzy and slightly dull, but the band experiments with some cool tones and the vocals are pretty melodic. I like the song "No Escape," makes the Psalm-ish request for God to "search me and know me!" For ordering info, write: 211 Holly Lane, Austin AR 72007 (DV)
SOME FEW ORACLES
Groovy, heavy pop music. Produced well, the guitars seem to help build the emotion, acting as an equal partner with the quality vocals of Ira Merrill (it's no coincidence, then, that he plays guitar and sings). With song titles like "Saved," "Beautiful Love" and "Lamb," you can guess that this is a Christian band, no apologies. I like it. You'll also hear a Radiohead vocal style in "Parking Lot," about promiscuity. To order, send $8 to: PO Box 62, Maple Valley WA 98038 (DV)
Here it is, the Skin Stripper album, which is about "death to the flesh." Death metal lives on! This band tackles everything at ninety miles an hour, except for the growly monster vocals. At times the production and tight instrumentation create a huge tidal wave of sound reminiscent of Deicide and slight nods of the blues groove of bands like Vengeance Rising. As their name attests, this band is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. The packaging and lyrical content deal fully with the physical manifestations and descriptions of man's spiritual condition. Intense stuff. As opposed to their image, however, the band doesn't take itself too seriously, as one listen to "Hillbilly Heaven" will attest. While the CD insert clearly states "This CD is dedicated to the Lord Jesus Christ," but the band made the foolish mistake of printing a special thanks to a vulgar magazine title in the booklet. So, those wishing to avoid seeing the f-word need apply some ink or white-out over the "special thanks" section. To order, send $20 to: Paul Green, 45 Outlook Drive, Glenroy, 3046, Melg, Vic, Australia (DV)
THE BELLE CONTRACT
Wow! Here's some refreshing stuff. Imagine an emo band making some alternative rock with a pleasant female vocal sound. Nice sound! Underneath the beautiful vocals of Cynthia you get snappy rhythms, cool guitar tones, and creative drumming. And wouldn't you know it, these emo folks have ex-members of some hardcore bands (ever heard of Focused or Bloodshed?). To order this 6-song CD, send $5 (plus $1.50 s&h) to: 1531 Deer Crossing, Diamond Bar CA 91765 (DV)
These guys perform a really tasty and mellow modern pop sound not too unlike what you'll hear on generation X radio these days. Twist together the radio-friendly rock of Tom Petty and the bop-ba BGV sound of Weezer and you'll understand better the almost sugary pop sound of Kavanah Star. This 5-song disc is a pleasant listen. To order We Can Make It, go to Amazon.com (DV)
Pure power punk pop. Nice vocals. Upfront, bold lyrics. Cool songs. Nice musical breaks. Fairly tight band. Even though treading territory that a million other bands are right now and even though it's three to four years late, blah, blah, blah, it's still pretty hot. Those that are mad at MxPx can love these guys to the max. With songs this decent, these guys just might be around for awhile. Available from DTS Records. (DV)
Wow! These guys, with their tough, rapcore, metal image really shocked me with the lead-off cut on their new disc -- "Flyin'" -- which sounds like an Ozzy Osbourne commercial number. Tastefully done and not cheesed out. Melodic and competent, but not very aggressive. Where's the blood-curdling passion? Wish it was here, then this would be over the top. Compared to some of Ozzy's mid-80's album releases, though, it's not bad. For ordering info, write: 6120 W. Tropicana Ave A16-373, Las Vegas NV 89103 (DV)
TANTRUM OF THE MUSE
Here is a bizarre band. Anyone naming an album The Heart Is A Two-Headed Sperm has gotta be off their rocker, eh?! These talented musicians mix tons of humor with samples and atomic chugging metal and hardcore screaming. Imagine Primus releasing a black metal album that could only be played at raves after 3 am. For ordering info, write: 411 W. Summit Ave, Wilmington DE 19804 (DV)
Now, this is some intense hardcore! The band simply shreds! Besides the building grooves and beautifully over-the- top hardcore screaming, the band shows some real originality and flies in and out of emo musings like a pendulum. The dynamics of swirling along and then being slammed up against a wall are gigantic. These guys are certainly one of today's hardcore bands to see and hear. Available on DTS Records. (DV)
Another quality release from DTS. It's rapcore with a capital R, as in real rap vocals, not just rap-like; and the band slams home the riffs in tight fashion. These guys can instantly join the growing rapcore clan in Christian hard music. You'll find a couple weak moments, like the cheese metal guitar tones in the second track, and other places, where the vocalist will sing in a melancholy way that doesn't befit them. I'm very mixed on this album. The heavy stuff I like, the mellow I don't. When they're sliding sideways hip-hop style, it loses my attention. (DV)
Aahh, one of my favorite bands returns with its new indie album, Strength of Many. This one takes a slight turn to the hardcore side of things, as compared to Welcome To Our Island, which was slightly more metalcore in its sound. The first thing one might notice is the snare drum sound and the vocals. It's cool to hear some of the polyrhythmic percussion present. They go well with the thundering bass drumming. Steve does more shouting than growling this time around. Overall, it's massive, muscular, and impressive. They still rank high on my list. For ordering info, write: PO Box #89-3911, Mililani HI 96789 (DV)
Sibling Rivalry: Calibretto 13 vs. No More Droids
After the super cheesy wrestling match intro, we jump right into the fun female vocal punk sounds of No More Droids. The energy is there, although resting a little on the backside of the groove, and the snarly vocals by bassist Krissi Campbell are choice. Unlike other split-CD's, this one jumps back and forth between the two bands after every song. Calibretto 13 is a quirky and very fun punk band that uses the acoustic guitar effectively. They succeed due to their speed and tightness and humorous lyrics. For ordering info, write: Relapse, 2221 Elliston Pl, Ste#1, Nashville TN 37203 (DV)
Imagine some arena rock anthems fronted by an acoustic guitar. That's what you'll get with Steven's three songs on this disc. Think Warrant or Steel Heart unplugged, perhaps. For ordering info, write: 555 Bloomfield Ave, Montclair NJ 07042 (DV)
First impressions can be bad, which is why it helps to have your most representative (or best) song first on your CD. This is not the case with this 12-song disc. Think Three Crosses style acoustic Southern rock. Very Nashville- sounding at times. Other times vocalist Steve Counts goes into falsetto-land Bono-style and the band trips out. Very creative. When they get mushy and CHR-like, I'm gone. But most of the material is so fresh and creative that I'm there. I could end up really, REALLY liking these guys! To catch this special vibe, write: PO Box 3696, Anaheim CA 92803-3696 (DV)
Not to be confused with the Canadian band with the same name that was signed to Reunion several years ago, this bunch of South Africans are much darker in tone and subject matter. While not pure goth, this hybrid of Europop and heavy n' low keys create a cool vibe. Vocally and melody-wise, I hear some David Bowie influence, and there's a couple songs in this band's arsenal that sound almost exactly like Type O Negative. On the newer Request, they do an original called "Where Roses Grow" that could've easily been on Bloody Kisses. Then there's also the cover of "The Sounds of Silence" on the Risen album, which rivals the Type O cover of "Summer Breeze." These two are not indicative of The Awakening sound, though. Older fans who remember Dark Angel and the Branded-era Undercover will find something to like here. This band is great at what they do. A US deal should not be too far away. If these comments are not enough to make you curious, let it be known that they do a cover of the Men Without Hats hit "Safety Dance" on the Request album. While Risen is the older of the two discs, they are both high quality. If I had to choose between the two, I think Request is more consistent song-for-song. For ordering info, see ad on page 74. (DV)
Isaiah 53:5 (A Tribute To Stryper)
While not a so-called "mockery of Stryper," as the Flying Tart release was taunted as, this album still doesn't do one better on the original yellow & black ones. The problem with some of the covers is that they are just that -- covers. They do a fairly straight-ahead version of the song, rather than re-interpreting it. This is a plus in many people's minds in comparison to the previously mentioned tribute, but the downside is that most of these vocalists do not hold a candle to Michael Sweet's voice. Some of the performances towards the end of the disc are somewhat uninspiring and make you long even more for the original. However, having said all this, let us rejoice that some metal-like bands have been called on to pay tribute to their once great musical leader. Blood N Fire does a killer job with "Surrender." Fringe, Honeymooner, and Dinner Mint, while not coming off as sarcastic at all, will conjure up images of the Flying Tart release. The World Inside does an interesting job focusing on the vocal harmonies Stryper was known for. One of the coolest interpretations is the Nailed version of "To Hell With The Devil," who put some start/stop groove into the song. The "truest take" award goes to the soft and beautiful vocals of Aimee Clark in her version of "I Believe In You." It's hard not to judge and compare these songs to the originals and, stepping aside from that, you end up with a pretty aggressive and heavy album to enjoy here. It drags a little at the end, but overall it's pretty good. To order, send $12 (ppd) to: 603 Kelly Dr, East Aurora NY 14052 (DV)
This band has made some smart decisions that help them continue as a band. One is that they regularly release product via mail-order -- live videos, solo albums, demo cd's, and this live collection. These songs (also included are a few mini-sermons) were recorded at four different locations: Germany's Christmas Rock Night, Brazil, Cornerstone, and The King's Place in Columbus, Ohio. The first nine tracks, recorded in Germany this past December, are the highest quality recordings featured here. Judging by the drum sounds, I would guess this was recorded from the sound board with little or no room miking. This one won't win any awards for live album sonic quality, but fans and collectors will enjoy hearing this bootleg-quality live music. It's another reminder that the Oddities album is worth taking another listen to. For ordering info, write: Millennium Eight Records, 6109 Scotmar Dr, Lansing MI 48911 (DV)
Well, I've certainly been hearing a lot about this project. Thanks to the folks at Flaming Fish, now we have more quality guitar-based industrial music to energize us and wack us over the head with heavy riffs and dance-able pulses. There's plenty of influences here, reaching as far as some trance and drum and bass, but there's a keen sense of melody and, when it's merited, aggression. If you're into Circle, Klank, and Argyle Park, get Level . . . you'll find half an album's worth of intensity. Electronic purists will most appreciate the other half. For ordering info, write: Flaming Fish Music, 9 Koidern Ave, Whitehorse, Yukon, Y1A-3N7, Canada (DV)
This trio of amigos de Mexico has returned with its second full-length album -- Through The Reflection. Apparently, the band said, "Out with the thrash and in with the classic metal," cause this Chuck & Laurie Wilson production certainly captures that layered and distinct instrumentation that made the intro to Iron Maiden songs so fun to listen to. One ingredient the band kept in their recipe, however, was the shouted / growled vocals of Abel Gomez, who many know took over the drums and vocal duties last year. The mixture keeps the band strong and heavy, but those wishing for speed will be slightly disappointed in the change. Overall, however, the band has done their homeland and all of metal proud. While this new focus is aimed at a slightly different audience, the new listeners will probably increase in number. For ordering info, write: Little Rose Productions, Box 533, 40101 Jyvaskyla, Finland (DV)
Positively Charged Electrons
Shock Wave has once again delivered a compilation of quality electronic music. From acts like The Way Sect Bloom to Aleixa to globalwavesystem to 12 others, we see that the indie scene is thriving in the industrial / trance / experimental / electronica department. While only one or two labels dares to venture into this material, Shock Wave keeps those outside the scene a good look at the cream of the crop. For ordering info, write: Shock Wave Music, 3370 Thunderhead Dr, Lake Havasu City AZ 86406 (DV)
This band of young musicians includes Alex Thompson (son of Dale & Sharon) and Doug Lucas (son of One TruRock booking agent Doug Lucas). While it's great to hear a super young band go at it, these guys have more than sentimentality going for them. Doug's vocals are quite pleasant, and his guitar playing holds his own. I'm impressed with the songwriting. While young Alex is no Alex Van Halen, he does keep a beat. For ordering info, write: One TruRock Agency, 11768 Hwy 84, Eastview KY 42732 (DV)
Volym x - En Tribut Till Jerusalem
As you can guess by the title, this is not your average album. It is the Swedish release of a 13-band Jerusalem tribute album. Right off the bat I am blown away by Momo, a female-fronted band tackling "Read Between The Lines" from the Can't Stop Us Now album. These modern translations really point out the strong songwriting Jerusalem has exhibited over the years. Even a Celtic-inspired artist in the vein of Rich Mullins (Vite Krist) shows off the sweet melody that Ulf Christiansson and co. created. Even though Jerusalem experimented with cheese metal in the late 80's, a song like "Dancing on the Head of the Serpent" gets a facelift here that gives these powerful lyrics new life. Since 9 of these 13 tracks are sung in Swedish, it will be hard for the American audiences to fully appreciate this fine release. The crazy Monty Python type humor seems to translate okay in Tekla Knös' version of "Ger Noa," complete with bleating sheep and rain. The intense Blindside is represented here as well, with the Swedish vocals of "Blomma." It allows an interesting look at the band's instrumentation and great dirty tones. The song I wanted to hear the most on this record comes from another Swedish import we're familiar with -- Royal. The song is one that I would pick as perhaps the greatest Christian hard rock song ever -- "Sodom." The band keeps the trancy keyboard intro before romping in guitar distortion / shoegazer land for a few bars, mixing it up emo style when the verses come. They should play this live! Another highlight I can't help but mention is the industrial take on "In His Majesty's Service" by NovCom (The November Commandment). As an extra special treat, highlighting the preaching lyrics of Ulf Christiansson, is a spoken word adaptation of "Plunder Hell & Populate Heaven." As a tribute album, this one ranks very high. For ordering info, write: Day-Glo Records, Box 7561, 103 93, Stockholm, Sweden (DV)
Mick Rowe has been busy behind the scenes the last year or so. This latest project is a new venture into the dark, slow and doomy sounds of hard music. While his last demo favored too much keyboards in my humble opinion, he has beefed up the guitars while not abandoning the keys. The low, throaty vocals fit very well with the sounds. Some of the melodies, like "Fear" are very pop, while others, like the plodding "The Oath," rely on the slow and chugging bass lines a la Type O. I find this new direction for Mick exciting. This six-song sampling isn't positioned to take over the hard gothic world, but it's a huge step in the right direction. For ordering info, write: PO Box 248, Winslow IN 47598 (DV)
Whenever a band spans two decades in longevity, they should have more than one live album. This ground-breaking band has made up for the wait since Live In His Majesty's Service with a 2-disc album recorded live in 1997. Since this one was performed in front of a Swedish crowd, guess what language all the between-song raps and vocals are in? That's right, Swedish. While this makes for a difficult listen on this side of the Atlantic, the performance is hot. It's hard to report what songs are covered just by looking at the songlist, except easy ones, like "Sodom" and "Moderne Man." The highlight of this recording is the lineup and the material and sound they go after. Absent is the Twisted Sister-like metal of Dancing on the Head of the Serpent and the new wave experimentations of Can't Stop Us Now. The band just revels in their Thin Lizzy / mid-70's blues-based hard rock sound from the Volume Two thru Warrior era. While I enjoyed the improvisational nature and sound of Prophet, I think this era showcased the band in their strongest sound. The keyboards are used as a heavy compliment, and the guitars sing their leads with a great, round tone. If you're a fan, this is one you need to have, even though you won't be able to sing along very well. If you like the sound from the mid-70's hard rock era and you've never heard of Jerusalem, here's a great place to start. For ordering info, write: Jerusalem Music International, POB 417998, Sacramento CA 95841 (DV)
Requiem: For The Children of the Oklahoma City Bombing
With so much bad news happening lately, it's nice to see people chip in and love with their actions. Such is the work of this fund-raiser CD. This mammoth tragedy happened over four years ago, but the pain still lives on. Hopefully some of the proceeds that go to the Families & Survivors United fund will help these people in a practical way. The first half of this CD is a Requiem composed by Brian C. Janes in memory of the many children who lost their lives in the bombing. Over 32 minutes in length, it is an epic work with incredible sonics and a skillful choir adding to the mysterious and trance-like sound that lives up to the name of "Requiem." Fans of darkwave and the like will enjoy this and other original tracks included (written specifically for this release) by The Way Sect Bloom, Cult of Jester, a Kerry Livgren-like instrumental by Aphorism, and more. Very cool. To order, send $10 (plus $2 shipping) to: Kraynight Productions, PO Box 1385, Wheaton IL 60189-1385 (DV)
These guys are just flat-out one of the best hardcore bands out today. It's great to see them on a secular label like Good Fellow Records, spreading a message about Christ and Him crucified. The groove in "So Send I You" is just one massive chunky mosh-inducing romp that speeds right in to "River of Life," a loud proclamation of the freedom from death and suicide that Jesus brings -- "no more escape attempts, no more ball and chain / salvation lies within / I have the River of Life." Where has all the metal gone? Right into xDisciplex's veins, buddy! This stuff is great! For ordering info, write: Good Fellow Records, 762 Upper James Street, Suite 275, Hamilton, ONT, L9C-3A2, Canada (DV)
These guys are cranking out melodic metal with a commercial bite. Remember bands like Ratt and Crossforce? These guys fit the bill. Speaking of Crossforce, Phil Castillo was their lead guitarist. He can skillfully play lead guitar, which matches the fine vocals of Dave Meriwether. Not many bands will venture in this territory anymore, and if they do, they better do it right. These guys sound like they would be ready to sign to Frontline if we turned the clocks back ten years. These nine songs show improvement even from the last demo that came across this desk less than six months ago. For ordering info, write: PO Box 191057, San Diego CA 92119 (DV)
No Compromise Sampler
Here is a collection of some bands that should convince anyone to pick up their full-length releases. Stairwell starts things off with a taste of emo pop heaven. These guys are so rad! You'll hear the heavy rapcore sounds of Divine Division (where'd these guys come from?!), as well as the real rap sounds of John Reuben, Subculture Deviants, and 12th Tribe. Divine Division also cover emo quite well in their second offering on this disc. Other cool indie artists make an appearance here, like Sincerely (ready to explode pop emo) and TwoThirtyEight. For ordering info, write: No Compromise Records, PO Box 30175, Cleveland OH 44130 (DV)
Anyone into emo, listen up... Stairwell is awesome! The new breed of post hardcore music is diverse, with bands as varied as Brandston, Appleseed Cast, and Dear Ephesus putting a different twist to the emo umbrella. Stairwell dabble heavily into the subtle, even picking up a violin at times to create aural beauty that is spattered with dense guitars and tasty drumming and vocals that sound deeper than "this is my job." Listen to a song like "Letters To Lindsey," and see if you don't feel inspired. For ordering info, write: No Compromise at address above. (DV)
Reborn Records Compilation Vol. I
You've got to check out this disc, even if it's only to hear the intense hardcore sounds of Easement. "The Hands" is a screaming worship anthem that rivets the heart with grateful praise. But the cool tunes don't stop there. You've got bands like Subtrain making groove waves, Cool Hand Luke laying down the melodic pop punk, the Roosevelt's making us smile with a Ramones sound, and 3 Car Pile-Up making us laugh with funny lyrics and an old school punk sound. For ordering info, write: Joshua Stump, 4238 Woods St, Old Hickory TN 37138 (DV)
Oh yeah! These guys lay down an intense, brutal hardcore sound that'll rip yer ears off! And, in case anyone was wondering, the five guys here all proclaim Jesus loudly as Lord. There's only five songs here, but they totally rip! The vocals are almost unblack metal, which seems to toughen the riffs here. For ordering info, write: Fury 161 Records, PO Box 1201, McKinney TX 75070 (DV)
The boys from Dallas are back with another album, this one an improvement. Comparisons of the band will fit more closely with Pantera rather than Tool, due to the speed of the material and the heavy, crunchy grooves. The BGV's remind me of Vanishing Lessons era Tourniquet, and the vocals of Seth Poor aren't too far away from Luke Easter during his non scowling moments, like the softer choruses. Songs that stand out include the heavy first track, "Kindness," and the humorous "Looking Christian" (which appears on this issue's Hard Music Sampler CD). For ordering info, write: Cross Rhythms Music, 3030 N. Josey Ln #101-212, Carrollton TX 75007 (DV)
Here's a misleading image -- a nice big hog (motorcycle) picture on the front of the new Here To Stay album by Finland's Deuteronomium. Anything but biker music, though... These guys tear it up with tight, classic-metal influenced hybrid metalcore stuff. The drumming and guitar lead playing are just absolutely killer. These guys have been at it since 93, creating extreme death metal and mixing things up like black metal and some international sounds. This release doesn't stay in one place musically, but it does forge a new musical identity for the group. They would fit nicely in the Solidstate lineup, but their outright classic metal leanings would make them stand out like a defiant thumb in the air. By shaving away some of the extreme-ness from their sound, they will appeal to more in the extreme hard music scene. For ordering info, write: Little Rose Productions, Box 533, 40101 Jyväskylä, Finland (DV)
When I received eight new Larry Norman CD's in the mail recently, it was like a Larry Christmas, which is ironic, as one of the titles is We Wish You A Larry Christmas. My favorite of the bunch was a recent live recording called The Vineyard. A two-disc set, this long concert features some new songs, like "Feed The Poor," material from his Home At Last album, and a whole slew of classics dating back to 1969. In my book, this is a great ministry album. Not many write songs with the lyrical and musical skill that Larry possesses, and the tidbits he says between songs, whether humorous or right-between-the-eyes truthful, the message hits home. Copper Wires features a lot of old songs, like the People classic "I Love You," and covers of "People Get Ready" and "Turn Turn Turn." Sonically, it strays a little from the standard studio quality album, kinda sounding like a demo from a really good band. Not garage, but not a Capital Records release, either. Four bonus tracks are from an internet party that I assume was broadcast live on the net. "A Woman of God" always sounds good, and we don't often get to hear "Watch What You're Doing." Rough Street Love Letter is another two-disc set, featuring the classic Street Level album. This one's for fans only, as Street Level had all the feel of a totally indie rock release. One of the gems here is the spoken word thing called "The First Time That I Went To Church." It's great having it on CD, never to worry that your source recording is going to fade. Rough Mix3 is a collection of seldom-heard tunes like "The Tune," the "Brown Eyed Girl" sound alike called "Deep Blue," and "A Note From Mr. God." The last two albums included on this disc set are Letter of The Law and Labor of Love, which were both included on the Barchaeology vinyl boxset in the mid-80's (which I sorta liked then, and it's still kind of an effort to really enjoy these fine pop tunes -- they just don't have the "Larry sound"). They are 20 songs that Tom Howard wrote that Larry later recorded. Overall, this one's packed with 42 tracks. We Wish You A Larry Christmas is a very rare recording of People material (the band Larry was in prior to "going solo"). A few of these songs could get airplay on an oldies station, as they're totally embedded with the 60's pop radio sound, guitar tones, drum sounds, vocals, psychedelic lyrics and all. What Larry did with this one, like a couple of the others, was he "bootlegged the bootleggers." He found copies of the bootleg and is releasing the better ones, (which is only proper) and this one probably goes back further than any other Larry boots (and the songs are studio recordings, not live). This happens to be the one that Joel Pierce put out prior to being killed in a dorm fire at Greeneville College. Live At The Mac is another bootleg from the first tour Larry had with a band post-People. It was recorded in Eugene, Oregon in 1979 and quickly became a notorious bootleg that was said to be finer in quality than Larry's own Roll Away The Stone live album from that same tour. His voice might sound better and the band sounds tighter than Roll..., but the sonics are so shot that I'd rather listen to Roll... These guys were rockin' onstage, though, there's no doubt about that. I miss hearing John Linn's guitar playing. Breathe In, Breathe Out is another two-disc set; this one being a live recording of the rehearsals for the European Tour with the Dutch band Beam (which resulted in a live album with that lineup at the Flevo Festival. We hear them working up "Jesus Freak," which is fun to hear stripped down without any studio tricks or layers or punch-ins for rap vocal lines. Beam proves they're a quality bunch of musicians here. The tape's rolling almost the whole time, so we get a lot of studio chatter, which kinda adds to the fun of this "behind the scenes" recording. For ordering info on all these rare and indie releases, write: Solid Rock Records, 3760 Market Street NE, Suite 306, Salem OR 97301 (DV)
THOUSAND FOOT KRUTCH
Here's some cool rapcore with plenty o' hip-hop funk mixed in. You'll find some scratchin' and straight-up rap vocals, but the four-piece band gets down tightly with a wall of sound. Think funk groove or modern rock, as opposed to metalcore. Pretty tasty stuff. For ordering info, write: Ripple Mgmt, 140 Harvey St, Suite 1, Chatham, ONT N7M- 1M5, Canada (DV)