SOS Metal Reviews: Culted, The Scorpions, The Forecast, and more…

CULTED: OF DEATH AND RITUAL

Destroying with a dastardly mix of doom metal for the digital age, the three-parts Canadian and one part Swedish quartet Culted return with a foreboding four-track affair OF DEATH AND RITUAL. This stopgap release by this unit who rumor has it have never ALL been in the same room at the same time doles out an arduous array of skull-crushing heaviness complete with a meticulously concocted barrage of sprawling tempos luring listeners into their chilling chamber of despair. Laden with an abundance of alluring yet disturbing atmospheres while enriched with lush instrumentation and a suffocating vibe that simultaneously channels Sunn 0))) and Celtic Frost, Culted latest offering yields a blackened blend of nightmarishly bleak metal excellence whose pointed attack assaults the psyche for days on end. www.relapse.com -Mike SOS

THE OCEAN: HELIOCENTRIC

Exploratory German metal troupe The Ocean returns with a decisively mellowed-out vibe on the collective’s latest forward thinking 10-track endeavor (the first half of yet another double album from this prolific unit) entitled HELIOCENTRIC. Never ones to shy away from thinking out of the box, the topic of Christianity from its influence on the medieval period to its relevance in the modern world is what this ambitious crew tackles this time around, projecting a powerful poignancy both lyrically and musically. Imbuing a noticeably increased influence of the likes of Cynic and Opeth at the few interludes that find the outfit shifting into overdrive while siding with a piano-heavy and highly-orchestrated instrumentation approach overall, this disc’s luxuriously melancholic overtones come at the expense of the band’s decision to subdue their sinuous sludge metal sound and all but eliminate a fierce sonic crush in lieu of constant streams of apathetic ambiance. New lead singer Loic Rossetti’s displays a stellar range that follows dynamic shifts well while the rich compositions exert the softer side of post-metal with an adroit sense of gracefulness that allows tender piano and vocal deliveries to resonate with stark conviction. Those familiar with this constantly evolving band should proceed with caution however, as the soundscape has been significantly altered and is a much different release than expected, an aspect bound to turn off those expecting something similar to previous outings. Yet what HELIOCENTRIC lacks in syrupy density it makes up for by producing a sleek atmosphere that is fearless enough to veer off the grid to capture raw emotion from the other end of the scope.  www.metalblade.com -Mike SOS

TSI: HANGING BY A THREAD

Rebellious NYC rockers TSI (a.k.a. The Situationist International) crank out 10 cuts laden with angst-ridden rock ‘n roll righteousness on HANGING BY A THREAD. Mashing up the best parts of old school punk, hooky hair metal and cleverly crafted pop to form an unrestrained strand of danger perfect to bust out to keep the party going all night long, this Big Apple collective features only two full-time members yet relies on the rich NYC underground rock community to fill in the gaps, truly making their uncompromising efforts a Gotham City family affair. Throwing in a barrage of Guitar Hero-ready antics while employing a vocal sneer that falls somewhere between Iggy Pop, Warrior Soul and Bang Tango, TSI display a hard-edged AC/DC by way of Dead Boys delivery that celebrates the unhinged nature of rock right down to its chaotic core. www.tsiband.com -Mike SOS

KIVIMETSAN DRUIDI: BETRAYAL JUSTICE REVENGE

Finnish symphonic folk metal clan Kivimetsan Druidi blend traditional musical ideals from their homeland with soaring modern Euro metal and operatic imprints on BETRAYAL JUSTICE REVENGE. This nine-track affair boasts an epic quality similar to the like of Nightwish and Finntroll thanks to utilizing keyboard-drenched and traded off female/male beauty and the beast nuances that, when intertwined with a smattering of thrash metal speed and classic metal precision, stir up a theatrical emotional range that does both the metal realm and their native land well. Chock full of elegant interludes and choice moments of aggression, Kivimetsan Druidi showcase a brand of melodic metal with an Old World twist that should leave fans of the genre satisfied. www.centurymedia.com -Mike SOS

SCORPIONS: STING IN THE TAIL

After a pioneering four-decade career in rock, German metal icons Scorpions are calling it a day, and do so in top form on their farewell offering STING IN THE TAIL. This quintet plays it safe and sticks to the basic formula that yielded them worldwide success, unleashing a 11 track swan song chock full of the histrionically sing-a-long hard rock anthems (“Raised on Rock”, “No Limit”) and moving balladry (“Lorelei”, “The Best is Yet to Come”) that has defined this globally renowned group’s triumphant career through the years. With the classic tandem of Rudolf Schenker and Matthias Jabs throwing down an abundance of vibrant six string energy  (“Rock Zone”, “Turn You On”) and Klaus Meine’s vocals sounding as sharp as ever, it’s hard to believe that this is the end of the road for this veritable band of veterans, yet Scorpions leave the rock realm with dignity on their last studio effort, putting forth a durable album which arguably is their most raucous work in the past 20 years as well as proudly stands up alongside some of this legendary band’s most lauded work. www.universalmusicgroup.com -Mike SOS

THE ABOMINABLE IRON SLOTH: THE ID WILL OVERCOME

After numerous lineup changes and other problems that plague many bands flying below the radar, the much delayed sophomore release by The Abominable Iron Sloth finally gets to see the light of day. Retaining a harbingering sludgy doom metal slant while applying a loose garage punk veneer to their caustic mix striking a not so surprising middle ground between Nirvana, Gaza and Entombed in the process, the unit (now whittled down to a lean and mean trio) present an excruciatingly heavy excursion entitled THE ID WILL OVERCOME. Buzzsaw guitars, thunderous percussion and thick layers of bass collide to comprise 12 tracks of mid-paced mauling with decisively decreased levels of metallic heft trading spots with an unsettling slathering of dissonance whose moments of grungy melodics yield the band memorable hooks underneath the harsh apocalyptic aggressiveness. Relentlessly exuding nihilism through sonic punishment while a rash of shorter song lengths suggest a significant punk hardcore sphere of influence working in the band’s psyche, this disc provides followers of the more abrasive end of the metal spectrum a potent and at times psychotic post metal experience. www.metalblade.com -Mike SOS

KINGS DESTROY: KINGS DESTROY

Featuring members of NY hardcore mainstays Killing Time and Uppercut and NJ high-octane punk rockers Electric Frankenstein, the debut two-song 7” by Brooklyn-based quintet Kings Destroy sounds nothing like their respective past works. Instead, this troupe opt to tune low, keep tempos slow, and go out in a hazy blaze of glory a la Sabbath, Sleep, and Melvins, creating a black-lit atmosphere laden in American doom metal and stoner rock of the ‘70s. Despite the jarring musical stylistic shift, Kings Destroy manage to salvage the benevolent spirit of their hardcore backgrounds by sponsoring two local basketball teams that helps to keep kids out of harm’s way through the benefits of team sports, a noble gesture from an unlikely source that ultimately gives back to their community by investing in its future and is worth a listen if not for their charitable work then for their worship of the almighty riff. www.myspace.com/kingsdestroy -Mike SOS

SOLUTION 45: FOR AEONS PAST

Beloved ex-Scar Symmetry frontman Christian Alvestam resurfaces with a fierce new band that sounds pretty damn similar to his last project on FOR AEONS PAST, the debut album by Swedish quintet Solution 45. Boasting members of Miseration (one of Alvestam’s other bands) and Essence of Sorrow in addition to Alvestam in its ranks, this experienced and capable squad delivers a cohesive strand of textbook progressive aggressiveness that follows melodic death metal blueprints with a reverence that comes off as a bit too stringent (“Lethean Tears”), often at the expense of breaking out of the box to do something bolder than blend redundant nuances of choice acts together. Nonetheless, this disc boasts a winning array of sanitized metal tones complete with keyboards (“Through Night-Kingdomed”) and is bound to do the trick for both the loyal fan base that enjoys Alvestam’s patented back and forth singing and screaming and those who favor the super clean yet pummeling sound of modern Euro metal. www.afm-records.com -Mike SOS

THE FORECAST: THE FORECAST

After splitting with Victory Records and taking some time away from the road to shore up their musicianship, Peoria, IL-based indie rock quartet The Forecast have returned with a jubilant eponymous 12-track effort in tow that packs the band’s trademarked two male and one female triple-harmony singing (“Life’s a Garden, Dig It”) with a seemingly endless supply of hook-laden pop-punk melodies direct from the heartland of America (“Illinois”). Tugging on heartstrings with punchy emo-punk guitar trajectories and driving indie rock rhythms meshing the wares of Hot Water Music, Jimmy Eat World, and Against Me (“I’ll Set You Free”), this reinvigorated band showcases its knack for composing steady streams of head-bobbing rock with a twinge of country twang, genuinely sounding as liberated and unhinged as ever (“A Better Man”, “Lost At Sea”). www.eyeballrecords.com -Mike SOS

UNHOLY GRAVE: GRIND KILLERS

Prolific Japanese grindcore quartet Unholy Grave champion a relentless work ethic that has yielded a staggering discography as well as helped this veteran outfit survive in the underground metal scene for almost two decades. This act’s latest effort is a 23-track excursion entitled GRIND KILLERS and it displays the squad’s raw delivery and contagious crusty energy from end to end, sounding like the fitting marriage of Discharge and Napalm Death. Benefiting from being recorded live in the studio sans any sense of production sterility, songs like “Murderer” and “Morbid Dark Angels” demonstrate this group’s explosive intensity and in your face volatility that is both something to behold and be afraid of. Exhibiting a furious barrage of blast beat drums, jabs of primal garbled grunts and generally unhinged vocalizations, and riffs oozing with depravity, Unholy Grave continues to provide authentic and passionate punishing music while upholding the core values of grindcore. www.selfmadegod.com -Mike SOS

BISON BC: DARK AGES

It seems as if crushing Canadian quartet Bison BC closely followed the heavy footprints left by the likes of Baroness, Mastodon, and High on Fire when developing their third offering, the seven-track DARK AGES, and tweaked the influences with just enough of their own flavor to comprise a cohesive concoction of epic metallic proportions. Dousing listeners with a salvo of skull splitting sludge metal and dollops of doom metal atmosphere, this unit showcases the innate ability to merge metal sub-genres together to form a hulking entity capable of wreaking havoc and causing utter destruction with a few sweet NWOBHM moments and a strain of hardcore punk attitude strewn in for good measure (“Two-Day Booze”, “Die of Devotion”).  While some may dismiss this troupe’s combination of twisty compositions, tortured howls and tumultuous layers of thickness as merely jumping on the modern metal gravy train or go so far as to accuse them of trying a bit too hard to emulate what’s hot in metal today, the confidence exuded by Bison BC when executing these similar shifts in style and tone cut through any beleaguered comparisons that can be made which label these guys merely as a knockoff and instead assists this act to stand proud alongside the very bands they draw inspiration from. www.metalblade.com -Mike SOS

CATHEDRAL: THE GUESSING GAME

While Doom metal trailblazers Cathedral never shied away from experimenting with their musical output, this daring British veteran unit always managed to dole out sufficient slabs of doom metal in the process, and their latest offering, the 13-track double disc endeavor entitled THE GUESSING GAME displays this well-versed crew’s artful balancing act working on overdrive. Laden with a smattering up-tempo grooves associated with the band’s latter day work (“Casket Chasers”) and enough slow and plodding riffs to please longtime followers of Lee Dorrian and company’s rides through the cosmos (“Requiem for the Voiceless”) accompanied by eccentric dashes of trippy instrumentation and radical stylistic shifts that dial inspiration up from the drop acid and love everyone psychedelic era (“Funeral of Dreams”, “Cat’s, Incense, Candles & Wine”) as much as from the cauldron of Sabbath (“One Dimensional People”), Cathedral ambitiously tries its hand at juxtaposing conflicting styles here with a jarring array of progressive rock nuances that lend an odd yet intriguing flavor exhibiting an discreet charm yet dilutes the band’s trademarked foreboding aura considerably. Presenting an eclectic mixed bag of metal, folk, acid rock, and doom, even though the rich hues and vibrant textures this aptly-titled album radiates are bound to make fans looking for something a bit more traditional disappointed, THE GUESSING GAME is an album that when given undivided attention toward renders a ripe experience for adventurous fans to delve headlong into.  www.nuclearblastusa.com -Mike SOS

WALTER SCHREIFELS: AN OPEN LETTER TO THE SCENE

Stripping down a bare essentials model consisting mainly of his voice, sparse percussion, and an acoustic guitar, NYHC and post-hardcore pioneer Walter Schreifels takes matters into his own hands, literally, playing nearly every instrument on his debut solo effort, the 10-track AN OPEN LETTER TO THE SCENE. From melancholic (“Shootout”) to rousing (Civ’s “Don’t Gotta Prove It”) to nostalgic (Agnostic Front’s “Society’s Suckers”) and witty (“The Ballad of Lil’ Kim”), this departure disc veers into folksy indie rock territory with a pronounced poignancy while the majestic grace of Schreifel’s songs, normally belied by amplifiers set to stun, clearly ring with a newfound resonance. The man best known for taking part in some of the most incendiary acts to come from the underground of the Big Apple eschews the volume and volatility of his salad days for some “new scenery” (“Wild Pandas”), steering his masterful songwriting skills into places that naturally fit Schreifels’ never-fail emotional outpourings and snappy refrains.  This intimate offering is a giant leap forward musically yet it looks back lyrically with many snapshots from yesteryear popping up topic-wise to appeal to both trained acoustic pop-rock ears and curious hardcore music connoisseurs alike. www.academyfightsong.com -Mike SOS

KILLS AND THRILLS: LIARS

Long Island post-hardcore quartet Kills and Thrills deliver a non-stop white-knuckle joyride on their sophomore effort LIARS. This 10-track endeavor is packed with a plethora of meaty riffs (“It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World”), dastardly bass and drum punch, and invigorating vocals inducing as many pile-on sing-alongs as raised fists in the air (“Liars”). Exhibiting a barrage of nasty twists and turns with a rapid-fire rawness that reveals noticeable touches of The Bronx, The Hope Conspiracy, Everytime I Die, and Cancer Bats intertwined, Kills and Thrills blend crunchy melodic punk tendencies with a multi-faceted frenetic hardcore approach with a pugnacious old school attitude fueling this Strong Island unit’s assault. www.hotfootrecords.com -Mike SOS

DANKO JONES: BELOW THE BELT

After taking a bit of a musical detour, veteran Canadian trio Danko Jones crank out the jams and returns to form of old with a characteristically ballsy and raucous rock ‘n roll record on the 11-track offering BELOW THE BELT. Keeping the hard rock riffs flowing freely with sleaze rock swagger (“I Think Bad Thoughts”), this crunchy collection of tunes dutifully echoes the waist-down philosophy of KISS and adds in a slew of fuzzy Thin Lizzy meets UFO six-string sting to the mix, resulting in a head-bobbing rock stomping good time that once again succeeds in resonating a retro vibe without coming off as dishonest or forced. Featuring an endless supply of thinly-veiled lyrical innuendos that scream rebellion, hook-laden choruses that are custom made for rock radio takeover (“Active Volcanoes”, “Tonight is Fine”), and Frehley-esque solos (“Like Dynamite”), Danko Jones unleashes a cowbell happy and down and dirty rock album that plays up sturdy subtleties from the likes of AC/DC or Motorhead with a heightened punk rock energy supercharging the entire affair. www.badtasterecords.se -Mike SOS

STRAPHANGERS: STRAPHANGERS

NY Hardcore punk outfit Straphangers are known for their capacity for developing dizzying songs that hit harder than the average punk band, but now they have considerably beefed up their sound thanks to a newly acquired twin guitar attack, giving the fierce troupe a discernibly tighter and overall more intense sound. On their latest six-track excursion, the buzzsaw six-string presence assists the band’s pounding bass and drum tandem to drive home the pummeling rhythms while the patented female/male vocal dynamic continues to project punk rock at its most coarse and dangerous. Making a volatile concoction of furious beats, sneering vocals, and rapid fire riffs that righteously fall smack dab in the middle of punk and hardcore, Straphangers proudly fly the DIY aesthetic with a bombastic soundtrack behind their charge. www.myspace.com/straphangers -Mike SOS

JESSICA DELFINO: I WANNA BE FAMOUS

Jessica Delfino’s songs are meticulously crafted, contagious as a cold and glide through a wide array of styles from folksy acoustic (“No More War”) to bluesy shuffle (“I Was in Love With You”) to poppy hip-hop (“My Pussy is Magic”) without a hitch, but use caution when sharing with small children or the easily offended, as Delfino’s purposely filth-driven and ribald lyrical content is bound to be an intentionally surefire dealbreaker. The 15-track endeavor I WANNA BE FAMOUS boasts a host of sharp songwriting that matches Delfino’s fork-tongued retellings about her clumsy sexual exploits (both real and surreal) and other controversial situations, implementing intriguing instrumentation such as ukulele, handclaps, and Moog organ to assist these tracks in being memorable for more than their outrageous refrains and down and dirty main topics. If you can handle the truth, this disc’s dark and twisted sense of humor provides a musically appeasing yet comedically shocking jolt to the system that requires a penultimate tolerance for blue material from the listener. www.loudmouthrecords.com -Mike SOS

ARMAS GATHAS: DEAD TO THIS WORLD

German metal unit Armas Gathas provides the brutal yet done to excess balance between Pantera-esque grooves and modern metalcore tonnage on their debut offering DEAD TO THIS WORLD. Featuring former members of Euro metal acts such as Cataract and Born From Pain, this brazen outfit turns to bands such as Hatebreed, Kataklysm, and Throwdown when churning up a slightly stagnant chugging metal inspired experience while tweaked hardcore-tinged sensibilities draw out rashes of anthemic group chorus parts perfect to start up some moshpit activity to. Unleashing an all too familiar stream of sonic excess, this release’s ruthless sense of modern metal aggression is aces but the disc’s glaring lack of originality ultimately fails to establish a distinct identity for this squad, thrusting them headlong back into the oversaturated and faceless metal middle ground. www.metalblade.com -Mike SOS

GYSPYHAWK: GYPSYHAWK

Adding a blues-laden and jazzy sense of swing to their NWOBHM-inspired stoner rock shuffle, California quartet Gypsyhawk have developed an intriguing aura teeming with the majesty and wonder of yesteryear’s heavy metal heroes and the gargantuan melodies of 70’s arena rock staples. This unit’s eponymous eight-track endeavor is a collection of tunes steeped in the bell-bottom era of hard rock, complete with stinging guitar lead fills, fluid bass and drum runs, form-fitting whiskey-throated vocals and an underlying charm that gets away with the sheepish admission of the owners of sound and style they heavily employ (“For Those Who Love the Lizz”).  Doling out an authentically organic blend of heavy music that references everything from Sabbath to Skynyrd with a vintage reverence, Gypsyhawk triumphantly beefs classic tones up without losing any hint of their hard-charging retro vibe, giving traditional hard rock fans something meaty to gnaw on. www.myspace.com/gypsyhawkusa -Mike SOS

DAMSEL: QUEENS OF ROYALE

Long-running Queens, NY based unit Damsel aim straight for the melodic hard rock heart on their latest 10-track endeavor QUEENS OF ROYALE. Displaying a knack for writing catchy rock containing a startling amount of bite while employing an adaptable style that switches from reggae to alternative to hard rock, Damsel’s soaring choruses and keen use of dynamics reinforce their versatile delivery and ready for rock radio presentation. This trio’s powerhouse drumming and tasty guitarwork combination displays a blend of the primal drive of Lita Ford with the stark grace of Lacuna Coil sans the imagery, while pinches of bubblegum Top 40 magic frequently resound in the sharp vocal lines, keeping mainstream ears tuned in. Expressing a musicality that hard rock with a female perspective usually skips over, Damsel’s latest effort is as well rounded as it is big sounding, showcasing the band’s penchant for making memorable melodies that rock with toe tapping tunefulness.   www.damselband.com -Mike SOS

WOE OF TYRANTS: THRENODY

Ohio based Christian metal troupe Woe of Tyrants return with a 10-track offering entitled THRENODY. From the standout devastating percussive performance to a somewhat formulaic yet at times complex twin guitar assault, this quintet reveals an arsenal fully stocked with brazen metallic devices from streams of tweaked-out tech metal (“Tempting the Wretch”) and rage-induced blackened thrash (“Descendit Ad Inferos”) to textured keyboard fills (“Threnody”) and beefed up galloping rhythmic bursts, dexterously straddling the line between metalcore and melodic death metal (“Lightning Over Atlantis”). Emulating the style of Black Dahlia Murder and All Shall Perish with a smattering of their own progressively punishing perspective added, Woe of Tyrants presents a potent potpourri of modern melodic death metal placing them in the thick of the endless mix of bands vying for the metallic crown. www.metalblade.com -Mike SOS

D.I.S.: CRITICAL FAILURE

Comprised of scene veterans from notable acts such as Exhumed and Phobia experienced in the art of apocalypse, California extreme metal troupe D.I.S. unleash a menacing 10-track excursion that displays the firepower of their tenured positions entitled CRITICAL FAILURE. This disc supplies devastating D-beat style malevolence a la Discharge and Entombed with a couple of hardcore, thrash and doom detours strewn in for good measure, complete with blasts of blistering tempos, quality crust-laden rhythms, and filthy guitar and gruff vocal tones abrasively dispensed for maximum discomfort (“CF”). Far from original yet equipped properly with the nefarious nuances necessary to dole out palpable portions of pervasive punishment (“Legion”), this veteran unit has developed a disc tailor made to throw on when the desire to destroy everything around you requires a soundtrack. www.deepsixrecords.com -Mike SOS

PAIN: CYNIC PARADISE

Prolific metal master Peter Tagtgren takes time from his seemingly endless schedule and fires up his industrial metal machine once again, resulting in the creation of the 11-track CYNIC PARADISE. Dispersing digitally diabolical pulses of throbbing bass and drums with rounds of distorted guitars and manipulated vocals steeped in electronic heaviness (“I’m Going In”, “Don’t Care”), this disc resonates with the clinical songwriting atmosphere Tagtgren favors when working on this project, as songs like “Not Your Kind” falls somewhere between Static X, Mudvayne, and NIN while departures like “Have a Drink On Me” display a cowboy-esque merger of Ministry and Depeche Mode. Delivering a cyber friendly hybrid of sinewy synthesized metal that wouldn’t sound out of place in a futuristic action movie scene, Pain sounds off with another brash pairing of electronics and metal with a two-track guest spot from Annette Olzon that steals the show, adding a stark new dimension to Pain’s single-mindedly sinister plan of attack. www.nuclearblastusa.com -Mike SOS

AUN/HABSYLL: SPLIT

This affair offers three songs by two projects clocking in at over 42 minutes with a singular goal of creating atmospheric drone metal layered in despair, and while each band takes different stylistic routes, each artist comes up successful. Up first is the Montreal-based unit Aun, whose Hawkwind-y acid rock predilection and loopy cosmic leanings launches their mechanized metallic thrust to the furthest reaches of the galaxy known to man. Up next is the more ominous and mysterious French project Habsyll, whose one-track contribution takes up more than half the total running time while emitting a decisively creepier and foreboding vibe thanks to its doom-laden sludge metal tendencies. Requiring an increased attention span and a basic comprehension of the genre’s nuances in order to appreciate in full, this split disc celebrates the art of drone metal with a disjointed defiance tying this collection together. www.publicguilt.com -Mike SOS

ALUK TODOLO: FINSTERNIS

Monolithic and foreboding, French black metal trio Aluk Todolo utilize repetitiveness and minimalism to the fullest on their latest two-track offering FINSTERNIS. Broken down into five movements retaining a singular drumbeat while progressively shifting evil via waves of shimmering guitars and haunting synth-like sounds along the way, this release draws strength from its lo-fi mechanized soundscape lulling listeners into a hellacious hypnotic state while unloading a maddening blend of redundant Krautrock, swirling reverb and delay, and avant-garde black metal shrieks both vocally and guitar-wise. This affair is best absorbed in a solitary sitting with the lights dim and the weather gloomy, as the tedious TELLTALE HEART vibe and the incrementally creepy instrumental manipulations make for an menacing listening experience that needs to be taken in its entirety at the risk of significantly altering the overall effect of this boundary breaking squad’s latest aural experiment -Mike SOS www.publicguilt.com -Mike SOS

WHAT CHEER?: BRIGADE

Billed as an alternative marching band, the 19-piece Providence, RI collective known as What Cheer? Brigade proves to be a raucous mob whose debut 11-track album stretches the band’s already waning novelty way past its elasticity point. While the music captured here is executed with a jubilant cadence necessary to rile up college football games and holiday parades, this unit’s weepy ragtime and woozy Dixieland gone metal and punk references everyone from Slayer to Squirrel Nut Zippers, going beyond the threshold of hip to border on mildly uninspiring when laid down on disc. Undoubtedly way better experienced in a live setting (of which this band is known to raise quite a stir with their guerilla styled impromptu performances) with a cavalcade of visual stimulus at the most or a lawn chair and your grandma at the local fair at the least, What Cheer? Brigade’s brand of fun time translates awkwardly in the recording studio, resulting in an uneven offering. www.whatcheerbrigade.com -Mike SOS

RUSTED DAWN: THE BLACK TIDES OF WAR

Canadian metal enthusiasts Rusted Dawn do an admirable interpretation of the golden era of thrash metal with a couple of intriguing tweaks along the way to freshen it up on the quartet’s debut full-length offering THE BLACK TIDES OF WAR. Combining pure thrash a la Exodus and Kreator with hints of crossover and hardcore punk like Municipal Waste and Cancer Bats, this 10-track disc packs a potent thrash metal punch chock full of chugging guitars, rapid-fire drum patterns, and rabid vocals set to keep heads banging all night long. Despite coming off a bit formulaic, Rusted Dawn’s presentation is an honest and heartfelt recreation of the breakneck pace and devil may care attitude exuded by the elite of thrash metal, both in the past and from today’s current wave of revivalists. www.diminishedfifthrecords.com -Mike SOS

HOWL: FULL OF HELL

The Rhode Island fearsome foursome named Howl has released a rhythmically charged nine-track gritty and raw debut properly entitled FULL OF HELL. This sinewy squad comprises their furious foundation with slow-churned sludge metal heft, Swedish death metal at its most sinister, and deliberate doom metal pacing, allowing for every massive percussive rumble, bellicose vocal snarl, and blackened guitar riff to blow a hole through your chest and resonate with wicked resolve. Striking a middle ground between High On Fire’s warmongering tones and Mastodon’s southern-fried sonic crush, Howl conjures up an organic rage sounding akin to the summoning of nature’s most destructive forces to wreak havoc on the Earth, kicking off the apocalypse in fine form. www.relapse.com -Mike SOS

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Mike SOS is a frequent contributor and great friend to the Gears of Rock. Be sure to check out Mike SOS’ bands Seizure Crypt and SOS. They will rock your balls off! Many of the above releases can be found in our store.

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