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Music Reviews

Mouth of the Architect

Mouth of the Architect

Time & Withering

Translation Loss

Mouth of the Architect’s Time & Withering is an instrumental metal album that draws on the progressive, abrasive tendencies of Isis and old school forefathers like Metallica. But surprisingly, they capture some of the beauty and melody found in Godspeed’s and Explosions in Sky’s bodies of work. While the group’s overarching musical manifestation is a bludgeon, the quieter moments that crop up occasionally are almost contemplative amid the chaos. One of the better respites comes courtesy of the keyboard intro on the closing track, “The Worm.” It’s short-lived but pleasant enough to soften the blow when the rest of the band kicks in.

It should be obvious from the album’s title that Mouth of the Architect is knee-deep in sci-fi suffering. As such, the guttural vocals, though few and far between, are generally a distraction, an albatross around the music’s neck. With these bits of hold over death metal detritus exorcized the next time around, the band will be poised to move further in the right direction.

Translation Loss: www.translationloss.com

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Music Reviews

Bottom

Bottom

You’rNext

Small Stone

Yikes! I thought I knew what I was getting into when I requested Bottom’s new album be sent my way, but I was very wrong. This is music for hardcore stoners and those folks who believe grunge is still a viable form of musical expression. You’rNext begins rifling through sour notes, upended chord progressions and horrifyingly loud paganism. It yields mixed results, but it is certainly better than the regression the songs take toward the end of the disc when frazzled, nervy tension short circuits the easy going grooves of the closing tracks. The liner notes claim copious amounts of Bushmills and “smoke” fuelled the creation of this album, which is appropriate considering how far off the rails the band’s sound ends up. It’s not a total wash though, as “Requiem” is a potent mixture of Sabbath riffing and sporadic vocal bursts from an all-female choir. Perhaps this was the song recorded during the window opened by the ideal mixture of substance abuse and creativity … who knows, but more time spent cultivating material like this and less time leaning on tired crutches like Tool and Alice in Chains would do both the band and its listeners a world of good.

Small Stone: www.smallstone.com

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Music Reviews

Yesterday’s Rising

Yesterday’s Rising

When We Speak, We Breathe

Fearless

Marrying the melodic emo-punk of Thursday or Thrice with some harder progressive metal elements, Yesterday’s Rising isn’t playing a style of music that scores high marks for originality these days. However, bearing more than a passing resemblance to Dead Poetic doesn’t necessarily preclude them from being quite good in their own right.

What We Speak, We Breathe is a solid slab of emotive hardcore stuff, with bits of frenetic screaming, soaring clean vocals, catchy riffs and tight drumming. If you’re a fan of the whole sing/scream pseudo-hardcore fad, you’ll find a lot to love about tracks like “Sidewalks Remnants” and “WWSWB.” If, on the other hand, you’re sick to death of this formula, there’s a chance you might be, well, somewhat less excited.

Regardless of how you feel about the style of music itself, it’s clear that Yesterday’s Rising has a firm grasp on writing textured, genuinely passionate melodic rock. Not bad at all for a debut EP, but next time around it’d be nice to hear them expand on the more spacey/progressive elements that tease at the edges of their sound.

Yesterday’s Rising: www.yesterdaysrising.com

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Music Reviews

Scenteria

Scenteria

Art of Aggression

New Aeon Media

Sticking to the time-tested formula for greatness, “keep it simple and do it right the first time,” Sweden’s Scenteria toe the fine line between thrash acts like At The Gates and The Haunted and math-rock bands like Children of Bodom. Thankfully, these guys stray from the headache-inducing time shifts of Children of Bodom, opting instead to deliver a forward-moving plow of destruction and power.

Fans of mildly melodic death/thrash stuff will like Act of Aggression for the same reasons that they like The Haunted (hopefully they do!): guitars that sear and serrate with unbridled precision. Scenteria’s guitarists follow The Haunted’s manual for “How to Construct an Effective Death/Thrash Riff.” While, to many, this will be seen simply as a dishonorable rip-off tactic, I find it quite welcoming; if there’s any thrash band to emulate, The Haunted is the best. The vocals here are pretty standard fare mid-range barking, with an occasionally decipherable word. The drummer is solid, and he never really struts his stuff much, save for on the album’s closer, “The Abyss.” On this track, he busts out some pretty sweet fills.

Sadly, possibly because this is their first album, this band likes to stick close to their comfort zone: repetitive The Haunted riffs, mid-tempo beats and a very formulaic construction of songs. It’s fine with me, though. I really like the way these guys sound. Surely this album makes a nice addition to the consummate thrash fan’s record collection.

Karmageddon Media: www.karmageddonmedia.com

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Music Reviews

Shepherd

Shepherd

The Coldest Day

Exile on Mainstream

Shepherd is the kind of band that you will listen to after a rough day. Their music is drenched in anger, frustration, gloom and doom; the best way to accentuate your crappy mood is to put on a disc like The Coldest Day and let it all soak in.

To give Shepherd the simple “doom” tag is unfair, as they are much more than that. The band has a flair for sinister yet catchy melodies, which they play on guitars that hark back to Sabbath in their heyday. Their bass player also goes for the overdriven sound, and the combination of the two overdriven instruments sounds rather ’70s in tone. Yet, the songs do not sound dated at all. Their melodies are based in various blues structures that sound timeless and triumphant. It’s as if Shepherd’s music is the battle cry for the frustrated and pissed.

I had a hard time getting into singer Andreas Kohl’s voice. I would have liked to have heard a vocalist who sounds a bit angrier; Kohl sings a bit too much, in a strange, almost Nick Cave-esque voice. It just doesn’t mesh well with the music.

Overall, The Coldest Day takes the somewhat tiresome “doom” genre and ups the ante by adding undeniably catchy melodies and hummable hooks. While this is definitely some dark and angry stuff, it might have a bit too much sunshine in it for fans of Khanate, Sunn 0))) and Isis. You really need to appreciate strong songcraft and melodies to enjoy Shepherd. Surely, fans of Sabbath, Grief, and The Obsessed will find this album quite enjoyable.

Exile on Mainstream: www.mainstreamrecords.de

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Music Reviews

3 Inches of Blood

3 Inches of Blood

Advance and Vanquish

Roadrunner Records

3 Inches of Blood takes it back to late-’70s Britain, a time when “metal” was all about harmonized guitar licks, overly processed guitar tones, drums buried deep in the mix and lots of medieval melodies. Advance and Vanquish even has the ridiculous song titles: “Deadly Sinners,” “Dominion of Deceit,” Wykydtron,” “Swordmaster,” “Axes of Evil,” “The Phantom of the Crimson Cloak,” and so on.

Corniness aside, these guys rock out. The aforementioned “Dominion of Deceit” is a crushing beast of thrash metal, with galloping, Iron Maiden-style rhythm guitars, dizzying lead guitars and a brief reprise from Cam’s over-the-top, annoying vocals; he calms it down a bit for this track, letting his amazing band have the spotlight. The guitarists are excellent riff constructors, coming up with some jaw-dropping stuff from tracks 1 to 13. The drummer is finally given some face time on the sweet “Premonition of Pain,” which opens with a stomping beat that would make a 25 year old Lars Ulrich nod in approval. The drummer also delves into the land of bizarre time changes on this track, a skill that he demonstrates sparingly, but effectively, throughout the album.

Advance and Vanquish is a pretty solid album of old school melodic thrash metal. The musicianship is absolutely incredible. Unfortunately, the band comes up with some really creative and destructive stuff only to have the awful Cam vomit all over everything with his embarrassing vocals. Simply put, this is a great record, tainted by bad vocals.

Roadrunner Records: www.roadrunnerrecords.com

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Music Reviews

W.A.S.P.

W.A.S.P.

The Neon God: Pt. 2 – The Demise

Sanctuary Records

It may just be me, but it seems like W.A.S.P. slowly has been transforming themselves in a clone of The Cult over the last couple of decades. Their transformation seems to be nearing it’s completion with this, the second part of Blackie Lawless’s much hyped “The Neon God” saga, The Demise.

Lawless and crew are rockin’ out like it’s 1988 all over again. It’s clear, judging from Lawless’s song titles and lyrics, that he’s not lost his flair for the profound: “Never say die, never say die, no, no, never say die, my boy.” True poetry. I guess you should also know that the lyrics of the album act as a script between “Jesse” and various other characters, including his “congregation” and his mom. Apparently, Jesse is struggling with being “The Neon God.” He could also be struggling because the band telling his story is W.A.S.P.

Without a doubt, the music on this disc is some of the most uninspired “heavy metal” that I’ve ever heard. The only thing that even sort of sounds passionate is Blackie’s voice. But after decades of being a rock star, his voice sounds gnarled and worn out. He still gives it his all, and he totally gets into what he’s doing, but the music behind him is stale. The guitar tone is totally late ’80s glam metal (in a bad way), the drums are almost completely missing from the mix and the song structures are formulaic. W.A.S.P. could have saved the world a headache if they had just broken up when the ’80s ended.

Sanctuary Records: www.sanctuaryrecords.com

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Music Reviews

Combat Wounded Veteran

Combat Wounded Veteran

This is Not an Erect, All-Red Neon Body

No Idea

Combat Wounded Veteran gets an “A+” for their cover artwork: a strange, skeleton-headed nude man (pale and white) holding his stomach, vomiting what appears to be several miles worth of hot pink intestines. Nice!

In terms of the music, it’s pretty much standard fare for CWV. One of the best things about this disc is that, regardless of the inherent sloppiness and spazziness of the band, many of the tracks here show just how much panache these guys have for the power of grindcore. If it isn’t the vocals that are terrifying the listener, it is the curiously unsettling drums, which switch times signatures constantly. While many grind bands use crisp riffs and over-produced drum sounds to assail the listener, CWV employ an added element of surprise: overdrive everything. The guitars endlessly feedback, the vocals are fuzzy and crunchy, the drums sound like the mics are too close, and so on. Such trickery results in one seriously vulgar and violent sounding band. Another interesting dimension of CWV is their occasional dual vocal attack. The band is at their best when going with this method, as it adds to the somewhat controlled chaos. One vocalist sounds kind of tough and growly, while the other is really high and frantic. Very cool!

It’s kind of sad that these guys aren’t around anymore. This album surely will fill in a lot of empty spots in die hard fans’ collections. This is Not an Erect, All Red Neon Body is kind of like the icing on the cake for said fans, who still thirst for CWV two years after the band’s demise. It’s a rather impressive set of tracks culled from various 7″s and compilations, all on one prettily decorated disc. You really can’t go wrong with this one: 42 tracks of pure violence and chaos, in about thirty minutes!

No Idea: www.noidearecords.com

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Music Reviews

It Dies Today

It Dies Today

The Caitiff Choir

Trustkill Records

I’ve never quite understood why death metal ever needed sweetly sung choruses. The chorus of It Dies Today’s “Severed Ties Yields Severed Heads” has this really tough, “jud-jud, chugga chug chug” death metal thing going on (I believe the kids call it “metalcore,” but it’s basically death metal — don’t be fooled), and then all of a sudden, the vocalist starts sounding like Michael Bolton, all the while, these pounding and crushing guitars plod away.

It Dies Today sounds like about a zillion other bands. The good news, though, is that they sound like the bands that all of the other bands are trying to be. Bands like The Haunted, At The Gates and Enter My Silence all set the precedent; the same can be said of It Dies Today. Their riffs are so scathing and gnarly that melody would seem nearly impossible, yet these guys come up with some of the catchiest riffs ever laid down by a “metalcore” band. I haven’t liked a guitar tone so much since Enter My Silence’s “Remote Controlled Scythe.” It’s warm, fuzzy, and yet completely controlled. The guitarists are spectacular musicians. The drummer is pretty comparable in style and hitting to the drummer of At the Gates (I know that’s saying a lot, but it’s completely true). The vocalist is the only sketchy part of It Dies Today. He sings too much. For this kind of aggressive death metal, I want growling and screaming, period. I wish he would’ve left out all of the little singing parts, as they taint what is otherwise an incredible and innovative record.

Trustkill Records: www.trustkill.com

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Music Reviews

Twisted Sister

Twisted Sister

Still Hungry

Spitfire Records

For a band that’s been defunct for the better part of two decades, TS has released more music recently than in their prime. That prime came quickly during the mid-’80s, a high time for hair bands posing for pin up mags and playing pop-metal music… and not necessarily in that order. Twisted wasn’t about to do much camera work for looks alone, but back in ’84 with the release of their acclaimed Stay Hungry, their grease-painted faces were plastered all over the place.

Twisted Sister has as much rationale for wanting to re-record this album as they would to slap someone else’s name on “Love Is For Suckers,” or pretend it never existed. Stay Hungry was simply an anthemic masterpiece of its time, but it was overproduced, the group overexposed, and by the time Come Out and Play followed the next year, Twisted had become the character actor in the clown suit without enough ol’ school riffage and angry poses in their arsenal to win back much of the underground cred they’d left behind. We couldn’t stop rock n’ roll, it’s true, but nor could we do much about double-fisted profit motives in the production room where more meant more in the truest sense — You Can’t Stop Rock n’ Roll to Stay HungryW.A.S.P. to The Last Command… Motley Crue, and so on. The differences were clear, and the bands’ style suffered as a result.

Still Hungry is Stay Hungry, with a cruder, up to date production making for a welcome revisit to a bygone era where “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock” were the rallying cries of the metal nation. The real draw here is the rest of the album, as most listeners would likely attest: the opening storm of “Stay Hungry,” the creepy “Burn In Hell” and “The Beast” and equally anthemic, if unfairly luckless pursuit of their usual crowd pleaser, “SMF.” All the tracks were re-recorded live, lending to the more underground sound that graced earlier works like Under The Blade and You Can’t Stop Rock n’ Roll.

Still Hungry features seven additional “new” tracks, of which, “Never Say Never” and “Blastin’ Fast & Loud” were from the original ’84 sessions and later resurfaced on the reissues of 1999. Four more tracks follow in the form of new versions of early bootlegged broadcasts that were initially heard when their “Club Daze” volumes came out a few years back. And “Heroes Are Hard To Find” originally appeared on Dee’s Strangeland soundtrack. Besides the blazing recovery of the band’s classic album, the bonus cuts are a discovery of the unexpected kind; far from being tack-ons, they’re powerful and pleasantly primeval examples of the original TS tradition.

What would compel a band whose history has been long since solidified to take hold of a career-breaking six million seller by its balls and basically re-work it in its entirety? Why not? It’s not much different sounding, but with Mark The Animal behind the knobs, it does sound bolder, brasher, and yes, better. Bottom line, it does add a new degree of credibility to what will always be remembered as an age-old classic in a commercial era of heavy metal dictated by stiffs in suits and parental advisory stickers.

Twisted Sister: www.twistedsister.com