Archive for the SOS Metal Update Category

SOS Metal Reviews: White Chapel “A New Era of Corruption,” Soilwork “The Panic Broadcast,” Kingdom of Sorrow “Behind the Blackest Tears,” and more…

Posted in SOS Metal Update on September 9, 2010 by gearsofrock

WHITECHAPEL: A NEW ERA OF CORRUPTION

Knoxville, TN deathcore quintet Whitechapel have built a loyal following by steamrolling audiences with their three-pronged downtuned guitar attack, and their latest offering A NEW ERA OF CORRUPTION continues this squad’s mission statement with a bounty of their trademarked brutality at the forefront of the charge. Featuring 11 tracks whose relentless slug and chug guitars pound eardrums while a tandem of pulverizing riffs and ruthless percussive strikes blast listeners into submission, Whitechapel showcases the proclivity to go past the boundaries of deathcore with a pronounced death metal vibe, strong vocal phrasings that equally borrow from The Black Dahlia Murder and Oceano and flashes of melody in their guitar solos to counteract the chaos of their crash and smash deathcore. Despite the disc feeling dragged down with a touch too much crush to separate songs from each other, Whitechapel presents a well-chiseled and condensed collection of tunes ready for moshpit detonation. www.metalblade.com -Mike SOS

SPED: SPED

Sped is a band of NYC punks whose raucous delivery, sardonic attitude, and bratty vocal style embodies the spirit that once commandeered the Lower East Side before gentrification. Despite demonstrating their wares via a two-song sampler, this unit’s brash and bold presentation boasts an authentic albeit brief punk rock bite with a buoyant bounce that fans of NOFX, All, and Dead Kennedys will have no problem getting their pogo on to. www.myspace.com/spednyc -Mike SOS

MIGHTY HIGH/ STONE AXE: SPLIT 7”

Immersed in yesteryear’s rock ‘n roll regalia, this two-song split CD offers a glimpse of retro rock done right courtesy of Brooklyn, NY stoner rock troupe Mighty High and NWOBHM by way of Oregon outfit Stone Axe. Up first is “Don’t Panic, It’s Organic” by the NYC crew that gives Fu Manchu and Cheech and Chong an equal run for their money, thanks to the gas-huffed riff chug over a swinging wrecking ball rhythm tearing down the walls. Next comes “Metal Damage”, a track bursting with old school flavor from the opening simple yet stomping bass line to the histrionic hard rock vocals and rough and tumble Priest-esque guitarwork. If you like to rock, this might be the best 7:24 investment you’ve ever made. www.ripple-music.com -Mike SOS

ENGRAINED: ANGER, ROOTS & ROCK ‘N ROLL

Long running German unit Engrained drop a five-track offering bursting with a Motorhead meets Agnostic Front stance on ANGER, ROOTS & ROCK ‘N ROLL. From their relentless stomping rhythms to a set of strained vocals that sound a bit too stolen from Roger Miret, this crew keeps the premises basic while wearing their easy to pick apart batch of influences prominently. Nonetheless, Engrained manage to string together an effective strand of punk-tinged rock ‘n roll soaked in hardcore whose raucous spirit and flashy fretwork makes amends for the act’s severe case of unoriginality. www.spv.de -Mike SOS

SOILWORK: THE PANIC BROADCAST

Rejoice metalheads! Swedish modern melodic death metal merchants Soilwork have reunited with founding guitarist/producer Peter Wichers for their latest 11-track release THE PANIC BROADCAST, yielding a scorching return to business as usual while building off of the band’s past consistencies. From the intense opening strands of “Late for the Kill, Early for the Slaughter” to the somber acoustic intro “King of the Threshold” that morphs into the ballad-esque “Let This River Flow”, Soilwork considerably steps up their game from their last few efforts with elements of old school thrash and superlative production values reigning supreme while revisiting past glories with fresher perspectives (“The Thrill”, “The Akuma Afteglow”). Those who wrote the band off after FIGURE NUMBER FIVE shouldn’t get their hopes completely up, as the unit’s metalcore tendencies are still very much a part of their framework, but for those who felt cheated by the last few releases should feel vindicated with this new collection. www.nuclearblastusa.com -Mike SOS

CLINGING TO THE TREES OF A FOREST FIRE: SONGS OF ILL HOPE AND DESPERATION

Shapelessly shifting from blazing grindcore to nefarious noise rock to slow-churned doom (usually within the same song), Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire unleash a ruthlessly arranged cavalcade of vicious dynamic manipulations on their latest endeavor SONGS OF ILL HOPE AND DESPERATION. Imagine a musical tug of war between Pig Destroyer and Eyehategod with Napalm Death presiding over the proceedings to get an inkling of the chaotic cacophony this abrasive squad delivers complete with unsettling fits of dissonance and grotesque song titles like “Shat Out My Bones” and “They Smeared Shit on Their Skin so They Could Blend in at Night”. Not for the easily offended, faint of heart, or unadventurous, this Denver, CO quartet injects modern metallic abnormalities into a classic grindcore template while fully encompassing a true sense of desperation and devastation. www.prostheticrecords.com -Mike SOS

LIGHTNING SWORDS OF DEATH: THE EXTRA DIMENSIONAL WOUND

Authentic black metal hailing from Los Angeles just doesn’t sound right, yet the City of Angels has a dangerous entity on their hands that gives the Nordic countries a run for their money in the form of the depraved squad known as Lightning Swords of Death. This diabolical unit’s eight-track excursion to the depths of the abyss via the second wave of black metal yields a nefarious listen laden in the dark end of the metal spectrum. Scraping the bottom of the barrel with a tenacious temerity, this blasphemous crew has risen from the ranks of the underground without losing an ounce of wickedness despite employing the noticeable beefed-up production value necessary for the band to both blast (“The Extra Dimensional Wound”) and crawl (“Venter of the Black Beast”) with equal efficiency. Add in a barbaric sense of malevolence summoned by a crushing low-end bass assault and a vile vocal performance whose shrieks and growls evoke true evil (“Damnation Pentastrike “) and THE EXTRA DIMENSIONAL WOUND becomes a monstrous affair that extreme metal followers need to experience. www.metalblade.net -Mike SOS

DIGAMY: A SHAPE NAMED SAYTEN

Straddling the lines between stinging indie rock, funky punk and driving grunge, the Astoria, NY trio named Digamy share their eclectic exploratory musical fancies with everyone on the five-track endeavor entitled A SHAPE NAMED SAYTEN. Mashing styles together with a slew of slanted melodies, memorable vocal lines, and a rash of off-kilter arrangements, songs like “Feed Me” sound like a cross between Dead Kennedys and Nirvana, while “Miracle Worker” melds touches of psychedelic rock with a Red Hot Chili Pepper-like thread running throughout. Provocative enough to keep ears racing while simple enough for the masses to get their rock out with, Digamy’s punchy potpourri of confrontational rock ‘n roll skillfully showcases their unique identity taken from an amalgamation of rock’s cornerstone artists from Pearl Jam to The Velvet Underground. www.myspace.com/digamy2 -Mike SOS

KINGDOM OF SORROW: BEHIND THE BLACKEST TEARS

The colossal collaboration between Crowbar/Down’s Kirk Windstein and Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta continues on the sophomore effort from Kingdom of Sorrow. BEHIND THE BLACKEST TEARS finds two of the busiest men in metal clamping down and getting nasty with burly Southern metal grooves (“Along the Path to Ruin”), metalcore brevity (“Sleeping Beast”) and stellar vocal tradeoffs aplenty (“God’s Law in the Devil’s Land”). Showcasing stepped-up songwriting cohesiveness with a decisively more “band” aura than from their debut (thanks to the rest of the band pitching in on ideas and structures), Windstein’s signature sludgy guitarwork and anguished vocal abrasions and Jasta’s trademark hardcore howl are equally off the charts here, as the presence of these elements has been significantly increased from before, resulting in a less disjointed batch of soul crushing songs that aren’t as easy to decipher who the main influence behind the scenes is.  Boasting 12 tracks that run compact like a Hatebreed song yet are bolstered with the headbanging zeal of a Crowbar tune, this disc finds the tandem meeting smack dab in the middle of their comfort zones and letting loose with an organically charged impetus fusing each man’s distinct strengths together to make a hellacious hybrid of metal goodness. www.relapse.com -Mike SOS

MASTERPLAN: TIME TO BE KING

Making his return to the fold after some time apart, Jorn Lande brings his impeccable vocal talents back to Masterplan on the German squad’s latest 10-track offering TIME TO BE KING. Championing streams of melodic metal, this group emanates a decisively darker vibe this time (“The Sun is in Your Hands”) with a rash of sweeping keyboards and crunchy guitars at the forefront of their rhythmically rousing attack (“The Black One”). Boasting a heartfelt histrionic performance by Lande over a slew of strongly written songs whose formulaic soaring chorus and blistering guitarwork combo comprise a power metal album of epic proportions (“The Dark Road”), this disc is bound excite longtime fans as well as garner new ears with its spot-on tried and true power metal presentation. www.afm-records.de -Mike SOS

LEVIATHAN: NASTY

Recently reformed NYC quartet Leviathan combines their no frills garage rock aesthetic with metallic overtones on the band’s latest five-track affair NASTY. This grizzled unit’s blend of dark-edged rock exudes the organically induced freewheeling spirit found in early hard rock a la Deep Purple while the band’s devil may care attitude (“Nasty”) and slanted musical stance evokes comparisons to a hybrid of Danzig and Rollins Band (“Made to Be Broken”). Unpolished yet hardly undercooked, Leviathan secures a sound firmly steeped in the underground full of big guitars, thunderous drums, and an undeniable rock ‘n roll swagger propelling the entire machine. www.leviathan-nyc.com -Mike SOS

CHRIS LANEY: ONLY COME OUT AT NIGHT

Chris Laney’s sophomore effort ONLY COME OUT AT NIGHT skillfully follows a meticulous hair metal template without sounding stale. From a rash of over the top guitar solos to rounds of sugary vocal harmonies reminiscent of Def Leppard and Slaughter adorning this 11-track endeavor, this Swedish guitarist/singer also known for his studio work with modern glam rockers such as Crashdiet and side work with veterans in Shotgun Messiah steps on the other side of the board to deliver potent and punchy melodies and crunchy rock anthems suitable for playing loud and letting loose (“Crush”, “Love So Bad”). Effortlessly intertwining grit and glamour, Chris Laney’s latest release contains all the bells and whistles necessary to feed the need for fist pumping hard rock. www.metalheaven.net -Mike SOS

CANVAS SOLARIS: IRRADIANCE

Instrumental progressive metal quintet Canvas Solaris unleash a nine-track album chock full of intricate arrangements and technical performance with IRRADIANCE. This seasoned squad’s dizzying time signature switches and swirls of precision-driven fretwork make for a challenging yet ultimately satisfying listen for those familiar with the outer reaches of the metal spectrum. Who needs vocals when you boast two shredding guitarists, a bassist, a keyboardist whose synth work accentuates without going overboard, and a drummer that keeps the whole mix of heavy dissonance in check? Not these cats, as this Georgia-based crew finds a happy medium between their death metal roots and their exploratory endeavors here with dashes of world instrumentation and daring compositions spearheading the charge. www.lasersedgegroup.com -Mike SOS

JPT SCARE BAND: ACID BLUES IS THE WHITE MAN’S BURDEN

Unearthed from obscurity, Kansas City psychedelic proto-metal group JPT Scare Band have been around since the early 70’s but have only been releasing albums since the mid 90’s. The band’s latest batch of tunes stemming from a multitude of basement and studios sessions comprises the collection ACID BLUES IS THE WHITE MAN’S BURDEN, a fuzz-laden seven track time machine trip through the formative years of hard rock via a bevy of organically organized hazy blues jams that wouldn’t sound of place between Hendrix, Cream and Zeppelin on classic rock radio. Throw in some garage rock charm, a dash of Blue Cheer rhythmic rattle, explosive fretwork fireworks melding Stevie Ray Vaughn and Jimmy Page and an unadulterated rock ‘n roll spirit and you’ve got the makings of a band long overdue to collect the praise and adoration they richly deserve. www.ripple-music.com -Mike SOS

A BODY: ALL THE WATERS OF THE EARTH TURN TO BLOOD

The hauntingly sludgy Rhode Island duo that calls themselves A Body have embarked on a sophomore effort chock full of experimental lamentations. ALL THE WATERS OF THE EARTH TURN TO BLOOD is a slow cooked seven-track thriller that tinkers with bouts of Neurosis-esque atmosphere while embracing the macabre dissonance of Sunn 0))). Managing to implement a slew of avant-garde elements into their challenging musical offering such as an opening track consisting of only female chants for ten minutes, A Body is the type of band that defies convention and relishes in producing artistically-driven disturbing atmospheres bursting with jagged dissonance in lieu of melody or linear composition. Add in an unsettling array of samples and an occasional shrieking vocal that emerges from the depths of the murky guitar and drum doom metal undulations and A Body’s mission of creeping the hell out of listeners can be considered a rousing success. www.atalossrecordings.com -Mike SOS

AN EVENING WITH: CRUEL INTENTIONS

Long Island quintet An Evening With earnestly follows the footsteps of the likes of All American Rejects, Story of the Year and fellow LI band Taking Back Sunday with their stab at high-energy pop-punk entitled CRUEL INTENTIONS. This 12-track endeavor produced by one of the dudes from Hidden in Plainview unloads dollops of cavity inducing sugar-coated melodies over the kind of slickly produced guitar-driven Warped Tour rock that mainstream radio drools over with inescapable bouts of slightly anguished vocals cascading over the super glossy songwriting. Perfectly crafted for the PG-13 sect, An Evening With does an adequate job of whining their way into teenage hearts, tugging at heartstrings with big hooks while conquering one mall at a time with their swoopy hair-dos and punchy emo rock posturing. www.aneveningwithband.com -Mike SOS

AEON: PATH OF FIRE

Boiling over with venomous intensity, Swedish squad Aeon hurl pulverizing and technical strands of hatred for both God and religion on the group’s latest 11-track offering PATH OF FIRE. While this quintet’s Deicide meets Hate Eternal persona is far from groundbreaking, the sheer brutality audible on cuts like “Abomination to God” bears a blasphemous force that is impossible to ignore. Doling out vicious shots of velocity, belligerent growls with powerful phrasings (“I Will Burn”), solid guitar solos (“Of Fire”) and relentless rounds of pounding drums in the name of Satan is pretty stock in the death metal genre, yet Aeon’s incessant jackhammer delivery and genuine disdain for humanity adds firepower to the unit’s explosive malevolence, assisting the unit from being cast aside as merely a clone of the bands they draw much of their influence from. www.metalblade.net -Mike SOS

ISTAPP: BLEKINGE

Istapp is a Swedish black metal troupe whose debut album BLEKINGE displays a surprising amount of upbeat time signatures and catchy choruses for a band of their darkened nature. This 10-track affair demonstrates the unit’s need for speed with a confident swagger (“Snö”) while interjecting a bevy of stripped down speed-picked guitar melodies that compound contagious melodic death metal qualities with strong Pagan ties (“I Väntan På Den Absoluta Nollpunkten”). Sung completely in Swedish to maintain a fierce sense of authenticity, the trio of warlords that comprise Istapp gallop through the countryside armed with the mission to destroy all in their path with a pristinely produced slab of simple yet effective folksy black metal (“Bortgång Af Alvrödul, Ljusets Förfall”) . www.metalblade.com -Mike SOS

EARLY MAN: DEATH POTION

After a five-year studio hiatus, hardline traditional metal outfit Early Man return with DEATH POTION, a snarling beast brimming over with the familiar nuances from classic metal luminaries such as Diamondhead, Randy Rhoads-era Ozzy Osbourne, and Mercyful Fate. This Los Angeles by way of Brooklyn, NY quartet exude the old school bullet belt spirit with a raw guitar tone and a sneering yet startlingly clean lead vocal in tow not unlike fellow revivalists Three Inches of Blood and Valiant Thor (“Brainwash at Birth”), allowing tracks like “Kildrone” to bridge the gap between Voivod and Anthrax, “Someone Else’s Nightmare” to come close to copping the cadence of Metallica under a different production eye, and “Fight” to rip out a Judas Priest by way of Megadeth twin guitar melody that guides the entire song. Championing the organic deviance of the NWOBHM with hearty dollops of classic metal elements for good measure, Early Man’s 12-track time traveled excursion transports you back to the glory days of denim and leather. www.theendrecords.com -Mike SOS

PETE SANCHEZ: RACCOON MAISY

Left of center Long Island quartet Pete Sanchez brews an intriguing batch of tunes on the unit’s latest disc RACCOON MAISY. This band comprised of two sets of brothers meshes dark interludes and dissonant pseudo psych metal riffs (“WSE II”) with a ready for radio alternative rock slant and a flashy unabashed rock ‘n roll swagger. This troupe’s 10-track affair does just as the refrain from “Delay”, a cut that could pass for the alt rock brother of Type O Negative’s “Black Number One” asks, moving forward with swirls of hip shaking rhythms and bombastic hard rock histrionics meticulously translated and tweaked to capture the attention of those that expect more than the norm (“Stoned”).  Boasting a Jello Biafra-esque vocal warble that fits snugly between the band’s System of A Down by way of Our Lady Peace musical approach, Pete Sanchez’s sinewy stylistic switches are well-played, not too complex, and warrant many listens in order to fully comprehend and digest the band’s sea-sick sonic power. www.petesanchez.com -Mike SOS  

ALLEGAEON: FRAGMENTS OF FORM AND FUNCTION

Providing a veritable smorgasbord of Swedish death metal goodness as interpreted by five dudes from Denver, CO, the debut offering by Allegaeon entitled FRAGMENTS OF FORM AND FUNCTION is a very impressive introduction to the metal world. This disc boasts machine gun twin guitar blowouts aplenty a la Lamb of God meets Soilwork with touches of Dark Tranquility strewn in, complete with tasty solos and clever dynamic shifts keeping the mood sharp and swift while burgeoning strands of melody (usually emanating from the venomous vocal rasp) rise up from the chaos to assist this versatile squad’s massively heavy assault to reach maximum impact. Demonstrating capability to shred people’s faces off and still manage to write a memorable hook is no easy task, yet this quintet consistently succeeds in maintaining a resourceful balance between technical, brutal and catchy, resulting in an eclectic extreme metal experience chock full of evil explosiveness that intriguingly changes up the elements from their influences to form a crushing extreme metal perspective all their own. www.metalblade.com -Mike SOS

MOSE GIGANTICUS: GIFT HORSE

Mose Giganticus doesn’t hide its influences one bit, as their thinly veiled homage to the sound championed by the likes of Baroness, Mastodon and Melvins borders on highway robbery from the opening strands of the first cut “Last Resort”. Utterly unoriginal yet played with purposeful virulence, this Philadelphia-based troupe masterminded by a virtual one man band named Matt Garfield also throws in a hearty smattering of synths and some jarring musical juxtapositions like dropping the chorus of “Tonight Tonight Tonight” by Genesis as played by Isis into “The Seventh Seal”, complimenting the waves of sludge metal aped from the Georgia sky employed throughout. While this seven-track affair will undoubtedly get over better with those without a frame of reference, Garfield’s daring songwriting and the sheer sonic goodness displayed yields an enjoyably monolithic listen even though the sounds used are not theirs completely. www.relapse.com -Mike SOS

WAKING THE CADAVER: BEYOND COPS BEYOND GOD

New Jersey’s deathcore heroes Waking the Cadaver brutalize with a belligerent blend of slamming riffs, neck snapping rhythms, and gruff growls better than most of their peers, scraping the bottom of the barrel of extreme metal to drum up a viscous consistency of chaos on their nine-track offering BEYOND COPS BEYOND GOD. Taking cues from a kaleidoscopic array of extreme metal from the likes of Hate Eternal and Napalm Death to Dying Fetus (“Terminate with Extreme Prejudice”), this quintet slash and burn through a ruthless stream of chromatic low end crunch with enough burly breakdowns to keep the floor a constant sea of human limbs without an ounce of compromise. If you’re a slam metal fan or a guilty pleasure seeker, this disc delivers with dastardly dissonance. www.seigeofamida.com -Mike SOS

VARIOUS ARTISTS: THIS COMP KILLS FASCISTS

Round two of THIS COMP KILLS FASCISTS has been brought to life thanks to the underground savvy and sensibilities of Pig Destroyer/Agoraphobic Nosebleed juggernaut Scott Hull, yielding an exhilarating yet exhaustive 74-track album featuring 19 bands specializing in various incarnations and hybrids of grindcore, noise rock, powerviolence, and hardcore punk. Notable acts include Drugs of Faith, Crom and Lack of Interest, yet all of the acts prove themselves as worthy of their spot, despite disparate sound quality effecting some band’s selections more than others. Clocking in at over an hour, there’s nary a chance to catch your breath here sans a few funny samples sprinkled in (Marion Barry’s “Nuclear Bio-Chimp Assault” is a standout), as this disc’s broad scope and relentless pace renders an accurate account of what under the radar heaviness is all about while bestowing the listener with a shot of some good old bang for the buck. www.relapse.com -Mike SOS

OCTAVES: GREENER PASTURES

Octaves is a Maryland-based quintet that builds their dissonant blend of screamo, mathcore, and modern metal sound from the likes of The Bled, Norma Jean, and Every Time I Die on the squad’s eight-track GREENER PASTURES. Intertwining a cosmic array of jarring guitar riffs and frantic bass guitar with unsettling rhythmic patterns and a monstrously lung-ripping vocal performance, this unit’s songwriting veers into experimental territory rather often during the course of this album, applying a like-minded rash of nuances and effects similar to their peers while retaining a steadfast stream of hardcore aggressiveness (“Be Angry at the Sun for Setting on a Set of Sons”) to consistently keep the music abrasive throughout (“I Am He Who is Called I Am”). Charged with an explosive sense of dynamics, Octaves have created a progressive and powerful debut album for folks that enjoy fielding a barrage of musically concrete curveballs. www.hotfootrecords.com -Mike SOS

AGE OF END: THE RHYTHM OF THE SLAUGHTER

Massachusetts-based quartet Age of End dusts off the nu metal machine and takes it for a spin on their harsh seven-track sojourn entitled THE RHYTHM OF THE SLAUGHTER. Employing a sound chock full of pummeling distortion with off kilter melodies aplenty (“12 Days Later”), this troupe combines the technical prowess of Mudvayne and the bare knuckle rage of 40 Below Summer (“The Awakening”) with a lackluster love it or leave it sing/scream vocal showing whose Staind-esque sentiment with hip-hop sprinkles seems a bit out of step and a tad out of key throughout the entire disc. Comprising a dated type of heaviness steeped in metal and hard rock tones from the early 00’s, Age of End’s debut disc yields relentless rounds of unabashed aggression and disjointed tempos perfect for folks into Korn, Flaw, Nothingface and Dry Kill Logic. www.ageofend.com -Mike SOS

THE FUCKING WRATH: TERRA FIRMA

Producing a stopgap EP for their new label home in between relentless rounds of touring, perennial California roaddogs The Fucking Wrath blast out a five-track crusty hardcore stopgap entitled TERRA FIRMA on new home Tee Pee Records. While this trio’s Sabbath meets Black Flag blend of thunderous rhythms, metallic riffs, and burnout breakdowns is far from groundbreaking, this rollicking outfit’s output can undoubtedly be described as groundshaking, leveling listeners with a barrage of bone crushing fuzz laden whiskey swilling down and dirty ditties guaranteed to get the blood boiling and the limbs flailing. Consisting of four new barnburning cuts and a sweet cover of Pentagram’s “Hurricane”, The Fucking Wrath makes an auspicious debut for their new digs while stomping a hole in your chest in the process. www.teepeerecords.com -Mike SOS

RESOLUTION 15: SATYAGRAHA

What’s odder than having one violinist in a guitar-less metal band? Try having two violinists shredding like maniacs a la visionary NYC troupe Resolution 15, who pull off the daunting task in bruising fashion on their sophomore seven-track release SATYAGRAHA. The album’s title, taken from Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolent resistance, displays both this unique band’s mindset and their progressively minded slab of metal meshing the abrasiveness of Lamb of God, the technical prowess of Nevermore and the forward-thinking nature of Meshuggah (“Malus Olympia”). Drawing a potent twin guitar sound from two electric violins is no easy feat, yet Resolution 15 triumphantly translates all of the aspects seething metal guitar requires and implements them into their bevy of punishing rhythms with various levels of venomous vocal anguish that falls somewhere between Jon Oliva and early Ozzy Osbourne (“The Good Life”). Decisively different than the rest of the pack without sacrificing the firepower necessary for proper rounds of heaviness, Resolution 15 is one of the few bands that truly provide an alternative to the metal norm. www.resolution15.com -Mike SOS

MORBID CARNAGE: NIGHT ASSASSINS

Staying almost too true to their obvious influences, Hungarian thrash mongers Morbid Carnage unleash a whiplash fury of speed and aggression on their seven-track offering NIGHT ASSASSINS. Sticking closely to the Kreator/early Exodus paradigm of extreme metal, this group pounds out with bludgeoning riffs and vicious velocity (“Funeral Pyre”) while championing the sounds of thrash metal’s gilded era with jugular-grasping efficiency. Despite the tendency of each track melding into one another without any sense of individuality, Morbid Carnage does an admirable job of replicating the hostile environment and breakneck pace necessary for a winning blend of thrash metal with an unrequited fire fueling their unoriginal yet spirited assault (“Castle in Pain”). www.pulverisedrecords.com -Mike SOS

S.M.U.T: THERE’S GONNA BE BLOOD

NYC rocking oi punksters S.M.U.T. have concocted a stomping and scorching six-track sojourn entitled THERE’S GONNA BE BLOOD. Crammed with simple yet effective melodies, infectious gang choruses, and a bevy of mayhem inducing compositions smeared with punk rock mischief, this affair wastes little time in demonstrating this quartet’s no-frills street punk leanings or a devil may care stance strengthened by the sneering female lead vocals of Cutie Calamity leading the raise your fist and yell charge. Radiating with a feistiness that maintains a bouncy fun vibe with a significant bite throughout, S.M.U.T. cleverly combines their influences to make a raucous punk rock joyride.  www.myspace.com/NYCSMUT -Mike SOS

EMPYREON: BEYOND PERCEPTION

NYC metal quintet Empyreon thrust an impressively translated blend of Nordic and Scandinavian influence to the limits on the outfit’s 11-track endeavor BEYOND PERCEPTION. Bolstered by a predominant keyboard presence laying down haunting lead lines (“Behind the Clouds”) while weaving in and out of the viscous guitars, black metal vocalizations and expediently trigger-happy drum blasts (“Burning Angel”), this troupe produces a dramatic and dynamic blend of Euro metal on par with the likes of Children of Bodom, In Flames, Soilwork, and Dark Tranquility. Empyreon brings their A-game to the table, complete with soaring choruses, all around solid musicianship, and blistering rounds of darkened and symphonic speed assault drawn from a scalding smorgasbord of the Swedish and Norwegian metallic models (“Infinity”), making a strong showing in the process for the headbanger torn between power, black, speed, and traditional metal.  www.myspace.com/empyreon -Mike SOS

NICE NEW OUTFIT: CAPTURA

Reconvening after a 12-month hiatus to record seven tracks live without a net, Danbury, CT’s Nice New Outfit have made a boisterous post-hardcore release in their backyard in front of an enthusiastic hometown crowd no less. Entitled CAPTURA, this collection of tunes ties together the scattered shards left behind from the likes of At the Drive In, Faith No More, Quicksand, and Glassjaw (the latter two who NNO covers with spirited zeal here) and exhibits this band’s super-smooth blend of heavy and gazing that fuels their full-frontal attack. Smashing rollicking rhythms, angular guitars, and authoritative vocals together, this squad named after a Fugazi song does their lineage proud while supplying a hearty helping of left of center aggression. www.lapdanceacademy.com -Mike SOS

SCHLEUSOLZ: 10 MOVIES

German studio wizardry with a twist of kitsch comes courtesy of the duo named Schleusolz on their latest 12-track effort 10 MOVIES. This disc is comprised of songs from movies according to the tandem that only run in their mind, yielding a perplexing yet intriguing array of soundscapes whose majestic instrumentation and grandiose nuances could very well fit into soundtracks from major motion pictures. Employing an eclectic juxtaposition of atmospheric synths, classical music influence, dramatic compositions, lounge tones that range from dark to cosmic, this act pushes the imagination into overdrive while attempting to attain a cinematic scope suitable for the creativity of the listener to run unencumbered. If you’re looking for an unorthodox experience rooted in a trippy mix of retro and electronica, Schleusolz have everything you need to get your fix.  www.myspace.com/schleusolz -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! All of the above releases can be found in our store.

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SOS Metal Reviews: Nonpoint “Miracle,” Jackyl, Triumfall, Big Ball, and more…

Posted in SOS Metal Update on August 14, 2010 by gearsofrock

NONPOINT: MIRACLE

Admirably remaining intact despite enduring bouts with the music industry’s infamous waves of uncertainty, the latest release by veteran Florida act Nonpoint entitled MIRACLE showcases a reinvigorated unit determined to not just survive but thrive. Produced by Chad Gray and Greg Tribbett of Mudvayne and self-released on the band’s own label, this 12-track endeavor demonstrates a decisively beefier overall sound than previous efforts (“Dangerous Waters”), seemingly incorporating influence from the men behind the board into groovy yet gritty melodies such as “Looking Away” and “Throwing Stones” while continuing to roll out the notoriously infectious and hard hitting refrains that put them on the map back in the day (“Miracle”). Adroitly straddling the line between Incubus and Sevendust with their distinct Latin flavor kicking up on occasion (“What I’ve Become”), this album amplifies the band’s familiar dynamic nuances with all sharpened edges exposed, resulting in a powerful album full of expected stop-start jabs and a rejuvenated attitude fueling Nonpoint’s fierce fires . www.nonpoint.com -Mike SOS

SEASONS AFTER: THROUGH TOMORROW

Seasons After is a Kansas-based quintet who apes the nu-metal template ad nausea on their 12-track release THROUGH TOMORROW. With a mixture of equal parts Killswitch Engage, All That Remains, and Bullet for My Valentine, this group’s hard hitting but extremely predictable output comes with a flurry of twin guitar assaults and a pounding percussive performance while the vocals fluctuate between creamy choral parts and throat-ripping screams. Adding in a cover of “Cry Little Sister” from THE LOST BOYS for a touch of instant pop culture notoriety, the debut by Seasons After may seem edgy to those unfamiliar with the heavier edge of the spectrum, yet the entire affair culminates in a cookie cutter presentation whose calculated and formulaic sense of songwriting yields the kind of music perfect for mainstream radio to push to the stars. www.dirtbagmusic.com -Mike SOS

ROSETTA: A DETERMINISM OF MORALITY

Philadelphia, PA’s spacey hardcore troupe Rosetta returns with A DETERMINISM OF MORALITY, a sensational seven-track offering from this galactic-minded quartet. Opting for shorter song lengths this time around, Rosetta tightens up their distinct brand of shoegazing metallic goodness and add a few new tricks to their arsenal (“Revolve”) without sacrificing the remarkable buildups the band has utilized on previous offerings (“Blue Day for Croatoa”). Intertwining colossal rhythmic shifts, masterful manipulations of the drums, gutwrenching vocals, and shimmering and soaring guitars, Rosetta provide the perfect balance between calamity and calmness with a bounty of atmospheric waves and crushing ambience leading this unit’s dynamic surge. www.translationlossrecords.com -Mike SOS

YEAR OF NO LIGHT: AUSSERWELT

Ambient French metal troupe Year of No Light present a four-track, 48-minute multi-layered post metal attack with AUSSERWELT. Bolstered with a barrage of sonically supercharged orchestral metallic movements, this album’s most predominant features include shimmering guitar lines that walk the line drawn by Isis and retooled by Pelican, well-measured rhythmic thumps whose thunderous thumps thicken the listening experience, and a nasty disposition that yields bleak pools of sludge and shards of progressive black metal, all without the benefit of vocals to cloud the thorough comprehension of the doom-laden world Year of No Light concocts. Best served in one sitting (though multiple listens of singular track are surely bound to reveal all sorts of blissfully aggressive accentuations), this album does a suitable job of unleashing a powerful slab of heaviness with both cinematic overtones and a flair for drama. www.conspiracyrecords.com -Mike SOS

JACKYL: WHEN MOONSHINE AND DYNAMITE COLLIDE

Jesse James Dupree and company returns after a lengthy hiatus with WHEN MOONSHINE AND DYNAMITE COLLIDE, a high octane low brow hard rock hootenanny chock full of down and dirty double entendres from this Atlanta based quartet. Maintaining an unadulterated love for AC/DC with barnburning riffs galore (“I Can’t Stop”, “Get Mad At It”) and James’ whiskey-soak wail manning the helm (“She’s Not a Drug”), this 12-track excursion allows the listener a firsthand account of what it’s like to ride shotgun with the band with a Mason jar of homemade brew in your lap and a team of strippers shaking their assets on the back of the flatbed. Turn off your brain and turn up Jackyl’s tried and tested yet contrived blend of no frills southern fried hard rock anthems perfect for both the stripper pole or the parking lot all-nighter and leave your responsibilities and inhibitions at the door. www.faebook.com/officialjackyl -Mike SOS

SCHLEUSOLZ: THE WEINHEIM EXPERIMENT

The sophomore effort from space cadet German troupe Schleusolz is anything but predictable, as the 18-track THE WEINHEIM EXPERIMENT thrusts this duo’s versatile and uninhibited blend of sounds and beats chock full of frivolous synths and quirky melodies out past the outer limits. Imagine game show theme songs from the 1970’s colliding with any one of Mike Patton’s off the wall efforts jamming with the band from the Creature Cantina to get a start to where this band and their distinctly European mindset is headed, as this eclectic offering consistently flows a myriad of fresh music equally embracing the riches from early ’80s new wave, world, dance, electronica, and pop genres while throwing convention to the wind and turning everything they can sideways in the process. Composed with both modern sensibility and vintage know-how, Schleusolz’s latest release demonstrates a flagrantly flamboyant style with an unbridled irreverence unencumbered by time and space, allowing this act the freedom to boldly roam the cosmos for intergalactic inspiration or dip into the vaults of time to construct a musical entity throbbing with offbeat charm (“Polyphobia”). www.myspace.com/schleusolz -Mike SOS

ANCHORED: LISTEN TO THIS

Contrived and cliché, Anchored deliver an obligatory blend of Kid Rock, Nickelback, and Papa Roach with a decisively adult country twang perfect for frat boys to hook up, bro down and wild out to with this Texas quintet’s 11-track LISTEN TO THIS. Summoning down and dirty riffs, rhythmic power and lyrical inspiration from directlybelow their belts, this disc gets as insufferably derivative as you could imagine anything that sounds like edgy supermarket background music could, complete with a slew of half-rate hooks and the kind of adolescent simplicity and forced execution that elicits groans yet seemingly remains in the mainstream’s sightline despite the ultimately generic and soulless nature.  www.myspace.com/anchoredmusic -Mike SOS

DOWNSHALLOW: THE NEW FASHION

Downshallow returns to a heavier mindset after dabbling in acoustic alchemy on their previous effort with their latest 12-track album entitled THE NEW FASHION. This New Jersey quartet projects an enormous sound that references everything from the left of center metallic vibes of Chevelle and Deftones to the soaring melodies of Our Lady Peace and Finger Eleven while maintaining a distinct identity whose sonic brew brims over with cascading hooks, unexpected rhythmic movements, and a massive vocal presence leading the alternative metal leanings on cuts like the sinewy “Crash”, the psychedelic blues shuffle of “Ashes” and the bass-driven groove of “All For Nothing”.  Balancing modern rock nuances out with a clever array of teeth gnashing riffs (“Without a Reason”, “Subway Vampire”), Downshallow’s artsy brand of hard rock allows for both functionality and fashionability via a series of brooding emotions guiding the listener through this veteran act’s moody musings and angsty hybrid of hard rock, metal , and alternative. www.downshallow.com -Mike SOS

EARLY GRAVES: GONER

Early Graves dole out a crusty and chaotic blend of hardcore, death metal, and grindcore on their sophomore effort GONER. This San Francisco based unit’s latest 10-track offering is resolutely leaner and meaner than their debut, melding the warmongering tones of Entombed with the vitriolic nature of bands like Trap Them and His Hero is Gone to form a viscous and vile collection of short and tight songs heavy on the seething anger (“May Day”). While there’s little diversity to be found here, this under 30-minute affair caustically cuts to the chase and aims straight for the jugular with a rusty razor in hand, guaranteeing to inflict all sorts of damage. www.ironcladrecordings.com -Mike SOS

DIABULUS IN MUSICA: SECRETS

The musical output from Spain’s Diabulus in Musica does not resemble the Slayer album of the same name in any way, shape or form, as this unit derives a balance of sound from both the Gothic and symphonic metal genres, complete with standout heavenly female vocalizations intertwined with the occasional beastly male growl, oodles of atmospheric keyboards and a slew of piano tinklings and string arrangements accentuating the standardized metallic overtones. Referencing the usual suspects to a fault (Nightwish, Epica, Theater of Tragedy), this 13-track release follows its influences extremely closely and displays a serious lack of originality, yet still manages to pull out a string of solid melodies powered by the rousing vocal performance (“Under a Shadow”, “Lonely Soul”) despite doing little else to differentiate themselves from the pack. www.metalblade.com -Mike SOS

MOUTH OF THE ARCHITECT: THE VIOLENCE BENEATH

Atmospheric sludge metal troupe Mouth of the Architect marks their return with a massive sounding four-track EP entitled THE VIOLENCE BENEATH. Sticking to their guns by continuing to incorporate a gazing metallic stance bursting with shimmering guitars, harsh vocals, and cavernous rhythms that readily land the band into the Isis/Pelican/ Neurosis bin, this Dayton, OH unit stacks the deck with bruising buildups and a colossal wall of sound that can be felt surging through your being as much as it is heard through your ears (“Buried Hopes”). Throw in a studio-quality live recording of a new track (“Restore”) and a captivatingly clever cover of Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” and this post metal act showcases a penchant for both thinking outside of the box and smashing the same box into tiny pieces on this stopgap offering. www.translationloss.com -Mike SOS

FATAL EMBRACE: THE EMPIRES OF INHUMANITY

Despite curating their blend of old school since the mid-‘90s, German thrash metal group Fatal Embrace come off to be cut from the same cloth as bands currently riding the waves of the golden age of the Bay Area scene on their latest release THE EMPIRES OF INHUMANITY. With an obvious obsession with Slayer with touches of Destruction, Sodom, and Kreator very apparent throughout this 10-track excursion, this purebread headbanging crew dishes out a sinister cavalcade of galloping riffs (“Another Rotten Life”), throat-ripping screams, and frenetic drums with a powerful precision-driven performance that deters the glaring lack of originality long enough to warrant multiple listens for the most ardent of followers of the thrash metal movement. www.metalblade.com -Mike SOS

INGESTED: SURPASSING THE BOUNDARIES OF HUMAN SUFFERING

UK metal mavens Ingested adopt the new philosophy of extreme heavy metal to an almost fault on their debut effort SURPASSING THE BOUNDARIES OF HUMAN SUFFERING. While broad strokes of deathcore and slam adorn much of this squad’s musical output, hints of bands such as Dying Fetus, Suffocation and Devourment slip in and out between the standard squealing guitar fills and guttural vocal rants to give this nine-track affair a bit of depth that goes beyond the breakdown and studio trickery. And while titles such as “Anal Evisceration” and “Intercranial Semen Injection” border on downright ridiculousness, it’s all part of Ingested’s relentless quest to brutalize at any and all costs, yielding redundant blasts of slamming grooves, an unsettlingly gore-obsessed lyrical vision, and the kind of mechanized mayhem with misogynistic overtones that gets old and stupid rather fast. www.candlelightrecordsusa.com -Mike SOS

TRIUMFALL: ANTITHESIS OF ALL FLESH

Serbian black metal unit Triumfall start their debut eight-track album ANTITHESIS OF ALL FLESH off thunderously with a orchestral yet spooky feel, setting the tone for this unit’s Dimmu Borgir meets Emperor style of black metal malevolence. While some may argue that Triumfall brings nothing that hasn’t been heard if you’re a follower of the darker end of the metal spectrum, they do manage to present it with a raw quality and the glacial conviction that stirs emotions on cuts like the rousing “Omega Overeasts The Presence”. Carefully carves harsh vocals, tremolo-picked guitars, and bastardized blast beats from the playbooks of the top of the genre to comprise a devious yet often visited blend of symphonic black metal complete with all of the trimmings (“Within Their Midnight”), Triumfall concocts a straightforward slab of menacing metal that doesn’t stray too far away from the nefarious middle ground it was birthed from. www.regainrecords.com -Mike SOS

OCTOBER FILE: OUR SOULS TO YOU

The rebellious streak of British metal act October File is alive and well in their music as shown on latest disc OUR SOULS TO YOU. Furiously pounding out with a punishing array of clanging Ministry-esque rhythms while supporting a string of conspiracy theory inspired political rants and social diatribes akin to arguably the band’s biggest influence Killing Joke, this quartet’s angst-ridden hardcore punk contains an anarchistic aura that you can’t buy at the mall (“Isolation”) propelling their harsh hybrid of metal, punk, and industrial past the point of angry into a whole new level of contempt. Juxtaposing metallic brute force with a mechanized heartbeat fueled by repetitive mantras revealing excessive fits of displaced rage towards the powers that be (“Dredge”), this 10-track release comes with a bonus four tracks remixed by industrial metal pioneer Justin Broadrick, who tacks on more throbbing beats than a discoteque on a Saturday night while subtly accentuating the band’s condemnation for those in control via samples and atmospheric reinterpretations of October File’s intended themes and viewpoints. www.candlelightrecordsusa.com -Mike SOS

BIG BALL: HOTTER THAN HELL

Deriving their familiar sound from a strict diet of Brian Johnson-era AC/DC with a hint of Accept while taking their album title from KISS (surprised Gene Simmons hasn’t reached out to them yet), there’s very little in the way of creativity coming through on the 13-track disc HOTTER THAN HELL by German hard rockers Big Ball. There’s a lot of good time big beat down and dirty rock and roll to be had here, but if you own any of AC/DC’s later material, you know what to expect and can definitely do without this clone. The crude nature by which they ape the formula of the aforementioned and incorporate it into their sleazed-up version only manages to add their name to the long list of bands that do their best to emulate Angus and company and fail miserably. www.afm-records.com -Mike SOS

THE DAISY ANTHESIS: SURFACE AND THE SKY

Making a startling transformation from acoustic act to progressive deathcore squad sounds like an impossible mission, yet the Canadian trio The Daisy Anthesis have defied the odds and done just that. Proving that they are an eclectic unit, their debut endeavor SURFACE AND THE SKY documents this group’s amazing stylistic jump with every odd time signature movement and chaotic rhythmic switch (“Transparent (Part 3)”). This 11-track affair is definitely not your run of the mill heavy album, as this troupe does a fine job of keeping things lively with a bevy of sweeping dynamic shifts, spurts of technical musicianship, jarring dissonant bass and guitar runs, and an overall herky-jerky offbeat quality woven into the framework of each song (“In the Eyes of the Prosecutor”), channeling bands such as Candiria, The Red Chord, and Psyopus with touches of Strapping Young Lad and grindcore strewn in the process while a manic vocalist screams his lungs out the entire duration of the album. Perfect for heavy music fans that prefer a challenge, SURFACE AND THE SKY is a release chock full of intriguing twists and turns with the musical chops and song structures to support The Daisy Anthesis’ left of center tendencies. www.diminishedfifthrecords.com -Mike SOS

PORTAL: LURKER AT THE THRESHOLD

Avant-garde Australian death metal squad Portal are all about turning convention sideways, and their latest re-released offering taken from this whacked out outfit’s demo tape entitled LURKER AT THE THRESHOLD is now available via a picture disc thanks to the folks at Chrome Leaf. Truly showcasing why this band is so revered on the underground circuit, this act doles out an array of warped metallic nuances spun with a woozy aura that induces panic from the onset. Despite only featuring two tracks that run under 10 minutes in length, this affair’s unbridled barrages of weird noise permeate a long-lasting unsettling vibe bound to stick in your craw and give nightmares long after the last cacophonous guttural blasted strand is played. www.chromeleaf.org -Mike SOS

THE BREATHING PROCESS: ODYSSEY (UN) DEAD

The Breathing Process is a New England metal troupe that incorporates a hodgepodge of modern metal nuances into their latest 13-track presentation ODYSSEY (UN) DEAD that don’t always gel well together. Armed with a overbearing Goth-esque barrage of keyboards and pianos infiltrating through new school Euro metal structures laden with gloppy stabs at atmospheric grandiosity and taciturn triggered to death percussion (“The Living Forest”), The Breathing Process provides flashes of an imaginative edge but remains too bogged down with second-rate metalcore tendencies (“The Opaque Forest”) to fully realize the fruits of their labor, almost as if the band tries too hard to force elements and implement mindsets into their music that don’t really belong just to fit in with the Hot Topic crowd or into a particular tour package. Instead of servicing songs properly, The Breathing Process utilize a type of cut and paste maneuvers that come off as an insincere and half-baked metallic exercise drill whose promising parts are outweighed by the band’s overwrought issues with identity. www.candlelightrecordsusa.com -Mike SOS

LOCUSTA: LOCUSTA

Ohio-based extreme metal quintet Locusta unleashes a hellacious flurry of blackened death metal on their 10-track eponymous debut. Implementing a dastardly blend of dark and furious riffs that wield both progressive death and Swedish melodic metal tendencies (“Mutiny”) with an ample throat supplying the belligerent growls necessary to invoke curses and frighten the masses (“Dusk at the Mausoleum”), Locusta showcases the bloodthirsty aptitude to rip you to shreds (“War of Knaves”) as well as the ability to take a more stylized approach without losing any thunder (“2012”). Drawing its sinister sound from the likes of Immolation, Skeletonwitch, and Suffocation with a level of musicianship that is a cut above the norm, Locusta boast the chops and the songwriting acumen to make waves in the extreme metal genre on musical merit alone. www.myspace.com/locusta614 -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.

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

Posted in SOS Metal Update on June 27, 2010 by gearsofrock

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.

SOS Metal Reviews: Armored Saint “La Raza,” Raven “Walk Through Fire,” Exodus, and more…

Posted in SOS Metal Update on May 27, 2010 by gearsofrock

ARMORED SAINT: LA RAZA

After a near-decade long layoff, arguably the biggest hard-luck metal band ever Armored Saint return with LA RAZA, an infectious multi-layered metallic creation brimming over with a deep wealth of hooks while retaining the ahead of their time eclectic heaviness that made the band stand out amongst swarms of bands from the ‘80s. This Los Angeles quartet first rose to prominence in 1984 and have endured many hardships  (most notably the passing of original guitarist Jeff Duncan to Leukemia in the resulting in some major sabbaticals throughout their tenure, yet this 10-track release shows no sign of rust or stagnation. Instead, this veteran troupe sound rejuvenated, incorporating a more decisive hard rock flavor (“Chilled”) while keeping the listener intrigued with a barrage of melodic and crunchy tunes with a genuine reverence for the band’s middle of the road old school sound.  Blasting out an impressive array of tasty solo work and powerful riffs (“Left Hook from Right Field”) while vocalist John Bush’s recognizably gritty delivery anchors the entire affair, Armored Saint displays an affinity of their former selves with a contemporary kick, resulting in another solid offering by a band known best as a squad who inconsistently deliver strong albums. www.metalblade.com -Mike SOS

THE CRINN: DREAMING SATURN

Minneapolis mathematic metal mavens The Crinn hurl out a hodgepodge of technically advanced heaviness likely to induce repeated bouts of brain dizzying on their latest nine-track affair DREAMING SATURN. Building their fertile foundation from likeminded acts such as Dillinger Escape Plan and Psyopus, this fluid quartet cram an excessive abundance of extreme complexity into a relentless aural assault that merges jazzy sensibilities and twisty forward-thinking elements with the feral strike from the most uncompromising metal to render a listening experience reminiscent of the works of seminal units such as Death and Cynic. Bolstered with a manic sense of musicianship spawning volatile spurts of velocity and drop on a dime tempo shifts, The Crinn’s aggressively progressive experimental approach results in a frenetic cerebral attack custom made for metal fans who can withstand the impact of this squad’s jarring juxtapositions. www.nuclearblastusa.com -Mike SOS

MASON REED: YOU CAN’T COME BACK FROM HEAVEN

Bridging a Grand Canyon sized gap between folk and outlaw country, Mason Reed surely has his work cut out for him on his latest five-track EP YOU CAN’T COME BACK FROM HEAVEN. This self-professed dirty hippy (indignantly claiming to be the bastard child of Charles Manson), tackles the daunting task before him with a gritty gravel-throated delivery and a quirky style that finds a middle ground between ZZ Top, Waylon Jennings, Steve Earle, and Hank Williams Jr. Embracing modern alt-country moodiness without leaving two-step shuffling behind while waves of rich instrumentation boost the overall power from expositions of heartbreak and woe, Mason Reed’s unorthodox and haggard style even finds itself traveling towards Van Morrison-like rhythm and blues rock ‘n roll, furthering this bluegrass and folk hybrid’s ability to do more than merely elicit a few tears in your beers. www.masonreed.com -Mike SOS

LAIR OF THE MINOTAUR: EVIL POWER

Chicago’s metal warriors Lair of the Minotaur return with a triumphant full-fledged metal assault in the form of EVIL POWER, yet another donnybrook perpetrated by this colossal Midwestern trio of metallic maulers. This sincerely sinister offering contains the primal rage that fueled the works of death metal progenitors Celtic Frost and Hellhammer with sonic blasts of raw and ruthless sludge metal and bouts of D-beat harshness to create viscous streams of whiplash-inducing melodies chock full of crunching riffs, bastardized screams and rounds of bass and drum rhythms custom built to dole out pure punishment (“Blood From the Witch’s Vein”). In your face and to the point is what this band is all about (“Let’s Kill These Motherfuckers”), maintaining the dastardly demeanor necessary to deal with the diabolical side of the metal spectrum throughout.  Rollicking through 11 tracks of heinously hard hitting heaviness which containing an increased array of memorable hooks (“Riders of Skulhammer, We Ride the Night), this brutal unit’s fourth full-length is a focused release gushing with the rabid intent to destroy everything in its path while striking the battle-ready middle ground between Cannibal Corpse, Carnivore, Entombed, and Discharge. www.thegrindhouserecords.com -Mike SOS

RAVEN: WALK THROUGH FIRE

A cornerstone act of the NWOBHM movement, Raven has returned in 2010 with an intense fire fueling their 12th studio offering, emitting nothing but the purest intentions on the throwback to their heyday release WALK THROUGH FIRE. Relying on their trademarked tried and true “athletic rock” nuances of intertwining undisciplined vocals, nimble fretwork, and of course, loads of speed-driven but neatly compiled compositions together, this storied trio pull off a formidable task of coming through with a winning batch of amped-up metal that is both cohesive and kicks much ass without sounding tired or dated. Thanks to a heartfelt application of songwriting that fires on all cylinders keeping the band on track from repeating their disastrous directional mistakes from the late 80’s on, this 16-track affair tacks on a few live cuts and a Montrose cover for kicks, but it’s the meat of the recording where Raven’s expedience with experience shines brightest. If you long for the days of yore, Raven’s latest disc contains all the charm and grit of their most moderate successes and should pique the interest of old fans and curious newbies alike. www.metalblade.com -Mike SOS

NEKRASOV & ADERLATING: NEKRASOV/ADERLATING SPLIT LP

A complacent yet chilling dose of ambient metal comes courtesy of a four-track, near 50-minute exploration into unearthly realms of bleak noise by not one but two one-man bands, Nekrasov and Aderlating. First up is the Australian-bred Nekrasov, whose 24-minute single-track contribution featuring a methodically malefic pace and a slew of suppressed terror in the form of spooky faraway screams that sound as if coming from a freshly buried coffin with a live body inside. From there, Aderlating, the project of Gnaw Their Tongues mainman Mories, takes the reigns with three tracks of subhuman scree eschewing all sense of melody to create vacuous waves of foreboding drone that is sure to leave scars on your subconscious. This split disc’s sprawling nature and industrial distortion properties definitely make it not for everyone, but if horror movie background music is up your alley, this release is right for you. www.chromeleaf.com -Mike SOS

MIKE PACHECO: PEACES

No stranger to the NYC scene, former Mortal Remains leader Mike Pacheco unleashes his second solo offering in the form of a versatile self-produced 46-minute adventure entitled PEACES. Chock full of catchy rock cuts that run the gauntlet from teeth gnashing heavy tunes to wistful pop melodies, Pacheco’s divergent interests benefit from a keen attention to detail that realize when to accentuate songs with lavish instrumentation or maintain a simple yet effective traditional hard rock paradigm (“Sweet Nikita”). With a firm grasp on progressive-minded outfits such as Rush or Tool with a decisively ripping guitar presence reminiscent of classic metal peppered throughout (“Peaces”), this endeavor encompasses numerous vibes and auras from arena rock enormity to coffee house intimacy (“A Promise”) to cosmic rock exploration without losing an ounce of sincerity or undermining any sense of identity. www.myspace.com/michaelpacheco -Mike SOS

NAAM: NAAM

Brooklyn’s very own psychedelic delight Naam are a hard rocking yet trippy trio with an abundance of garishly galactic effects judiciously dispersed throughout their eponymous 10-track expedition. From their methodical 16-minute opener “Kingdom”, it becomes crystal clear that the key to fully enjoying this troupe requires either a lot of patience or a handful of hallucinogens. Adorned in blues-soaked swirls of mystical hard rock with its fair share of acid-induced reflective moments strewn about, Naam’s dipped in distortion and drenched in reverb presentation is bolstered with moody instrumentation and an organic vibe that emits welcoming waves of hypnotically-charged warmth while shards of tribal doom and sedated and meditative drone encompass your headspace (“Fever if Fire”). Secured with a sense of spirituality that launches Naam’s rocket ride towards the outer limits, this squad’s righteous musical projections showcase lush qualities typical of praise songs from Eastern philosophies with barrages of sprawling and sinewy rock that adroitly dodges across the extreme spectrum without landing in one place for too long, creating a head-spinning and soul-reaching array of transcendental heaviness. www.teepeerecords.com -Mike SOS

EXODUS: EXHIBIT B: THE HUMAN CONDITION

Exodus unleashes a vicious collection of thrash metal driven by anger on the 12-track EXHIBIT B: THE HUMAN CONDITION. This underrated veteran Bay Area quintet raise the bar and deliver an intense slab of aggressiveness under the guise of metal guru Andy Sneap with the colossal twin guitar presence of Lee Altius and Gary Holt tenaciously throwing down catchy and crushing streams of razor-sharp riffs and over the top solos (“The Sun is My Destroyer”, “Class Dismissed”). Vocalist Rob Dukes really comes into his own here, reverberating with a harsh and menacing tone that sits squarely between former singer’s Steve Souza and Paul Baloff while the rhythm section pound out a flurry of the blistering and brutal tempos that Exodus helped to spawn nearly 30 years ago (“Burn, Hollywood, Burn”). Chock full of neck-snapping fretwork, jackhammer rhythms, and dizzying thrash metal expedience, the latest affair from Exodus portrays what the epitome of thrash metal excellence sounds like and is a must-listen disc for any self-respecting headbanger. www.nuclearblastusa.com -Mike SOS

PSYCHO ENHANCER: TWO SONG SAMPLER

The two-track sampler disc from Long Island’s Psycho Enhancer showcases this fearsome foursome’s wares as merchants of the moshpit. Fueled by a carefree get drunk and fuck shit up attitude and a nasty mix of deathcore, punk, and hardcore blasting out the speakers, this crew must be a spectacle to witness firsthand, as their breakdown-friendly structures, steamroller song structures and Cookie Monster vocalizations are angled to drum up chaos at any cost. www.psychoenhancer.com -Mike SOS

DESCENDER: DESCENDER

NYC quartet Descender makes sure the flames of early post-hardcore are burning strong on their eponymous six-track introduction to the world. Creating music that is well versed in the tradition of NYC underground heaviness, this unit does a solid job in projecting a relentless sense of immediacy with enough lung-ripping refrains that stick in your head for days while implementing the kind of Sick of it All-esque moments of infectious melody that call for immediate pile-ons (“Crooked Teeth”). Fusing the indomitable spirit of DIY hardcore with a jagged blend of modern hardcore punk brutality and indie rock dexterity, Descender has developed a specific strand of blunt heaviness that doles out qualities you can still feel ok about throwing elbows to with rounds of stellar musicianship that transcend the throwback tag. www.descendernyc.com -Mike SOS

OVERMASTER: MADNESS OF WAR

Italian metal quintet Overmaster tackles the theme of war through the ages headlong on the group’s 11-track debut MADNESS OF WAR. This offering boasts a modernized twist on traditional metal histrionics, implementing a thrash-laden bite and a touch of a mean streak that juxtaposes the mighty gallop of Hammerfall with the brash temperament of Nevermore (“Marble King”). Technically proficient without sounding sterile, tracks like “Nameless Hero” manages to maintain its dark edge despite standardized acoustic guitar and keyboard power metal ballad flourishes while “Jungle of Madness” grabs for the jugular from the get-go with a standout blast of menacing double bass drumming and “Revolution World” lays down a touch of today’s vibe from the Swedish metal sect. Steeped in the power metal paradigm with oodles of catchy choruses that employ a decisively balls-out delivery, Overmaster produces an aggressive slab of music exploding with melody with hints of malice, progressing the power metal sound past the Helloween and Blind Guardian points on the spectrum into harder and darker areas. www.cruzdelsurmusic.com -Mike SOS

YEAR LONG DISASTER: BLACK MAGIC; ALL MYSTERIES REVEALED

Year Long Disaster’s sophomore effort BLACK MAGIC; ALL MYSTERIES REVEALED continues this prominent Los Angeles powerhouse trio’s quest to revert rock ‘n roll back to the period when heavy, loud, and a bit mysterious was the order of the day with 11 tracks teeming with the indomitable grit and unencumbered spirit of classic hard rock acts like Led Zeppelin, Cream and AC/DC with touches of current acts like The Hellacopters and White Stripes sneaking in through the back door (“Major Arcana”). This album, produced by Nick Raskulinescz (QOTSA, Foo Fighters), is a no frills well-built groove-laden experience bolstered with dollops of vintage analog-esque warmth, allowing the guitars to snarl and bite with a convincing bluesy retro vibe (“Venus at the Crossroads”) while the bass and drums produce a bounty of rollicking rhythms that soulfully shake and shimmer throughout the duration of the record (“Love Like Blood”). Picking and choosing their spots to explode with rounds of hard rock histrionics (“Sparrow Hill”) or pensively withdraw with swirls of acoustic guitars (“Seven of Swords”), Year Long Disaster aim for the top of the hard rock mountain with the authentic sound and the subtle smoothness that should help achieve this group’s lofty goal. www.volcoment.com -Mike SOS

SAYYADINA: THE GREAT NORTHERN REVISITED

The latest endeavor from Swedish grindcore unit Sayyadina collects all of the band’s odds and sods from the years (plus four new cuts) and gives them an extreme metal makeover thanks to Pig Destroyer mainman Scott Hull’s studio savvy. Compiling 30 tracks of b-sides, seven-inches, and live performance recordings, the sprucing up of the tracks on THE GREAT NORTHERN REVISITED casts a whole new shade on this squad’s ruthless assault to your existence, molding blackened crust punk, well-paced power violence, brutal d-beat movements, and raging grindcore tendencies into tightly wound combustible devices capable of massive destruction. This terrorizing trio, featuring members of General Surgery, Nasum, and Victims in its ranks, are a threatening lot with a pedigree that speaks for itself whose significant contribution to the extreme metal spectrum has deservedly called for the warranted remodel of their back catalog to go down, in turn making a release guaranteed to leave a devastating impression whether you’re a rabid fan or a first-time listener. www.relapse.com -Mike SOS

LANDMINE MARATHON: SOVEREIGN DESCENT

In their relatively short lifespan, Landmine Marathon have carved out a niche for themselves for both fully embracing the traditional grindcore and old school death metal sentiments of the likes of Carcass and Bolt Thrower as well as unassuming-looking frontwoman Grace Perry’s utterly seething vocal delivery. On the squad’s latest nine-track offering SOVEREIGN DESCENT, the Arizona quintet manifest increased intervals of both strengths while fortifying their crunch on your cranium with rounds of crushing riffs and non-stop percussive punishment (“Foul Revolt”). Championing a bestial hammer to the face approach that steamrolls through your listening receptacles without a sign of reprieve (“Chained by the Same Fate”), there is little fancy, flashy or overtly technical to be had from this act, just a series of nasty rage-driven tunes wound tight and ready to explode once the pin is pulled when play is pressed. Like a charging rhino, Landmine Marathon is a dangerous entity that has unapologetically created music that will run you over without an afterthought. www.prostheticrecords.com -Mike SOS

BATUSIS: BATUSIS

When a band made up of Cheetah Chrome and Sylvain Sylvan forms, it’s bound to make waves in rock circles worldwide, and this seasoned six-string tandem’s collaboration entitled Batusis does just that on the eponymous four-track debut. Solidified with the rhythm section of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, this conglomeration of lifer rock ‘n rollers stay true to their instincts and stick to their strengths, intertwining punk rock fury, surf rock serenity, and classic rock swagger while playing like their lives depended on it to pump out a rip roaring rock music dripping with the brazen attitude of days gone by. Featuring two instrumental cuts and two balls-out tunes with vocals to match, Batusis unleash a batch of snarling songs with huge guitars, rendering the most smoking hot in your face rock ‘n roll history lesson of 2010. www.smogveil.com -Mike SOS

ICARUS WITCH: DRAW DOWN THE MOON

Pittsburgh, PA traditional metal squad Icarus Witch provide an ample alternative to today’s modern metal with a turn back the clock blend of TOO FAST FOR LOVE-era Motley Crue, the hard rock edge of the NWOBHM movement and a case of dramatics a la bands like Dio and Savatage on the nine-track effort DRAW DOWN THE MOON. Maintaining a well-manicured balance of half-doom/ half hard rock heavy riffs that meander between middle of the road and magnificent and a set sneering vocal warbles that fit yet stigmatize the entire affair as a bit dated with a durable rhythm section keeping the tempos steady and strong, this quartet’s borrowed musical output is strictly compiled from influences prior to 1987 with enough King Diamond, RAGE FOR ORDER-era Queensryche, and Candlemass bits installed to maintain the soaring levels of classic metal copiously flowing through this 35-minute affair, going as far as to include an efficient cover of the well-tread Judas Priest classic “The Ripper” to further exhibit just where this troupe’s allegiances lie. www.cleopatrarecords.com -Mike SOS

HAKEN: AQUARIUS

UK prog metal unit Haken do an exemplary job at juxtaposing a decisively heavier histrionic Dream Theater modern slant and a Marillion meets power metal revelry on their lengthy seven-track debut AQUARIUS. This collection of tunes by this newly formed squad are a bit challenging despite a first-class production value and a driving rhythm section anchoring the entire affair, and are totally smothered by prominent keyboard and synth work that drag the entire affair down numerous make or break points between magnificent and meh. Yet this sextet reveal the knack for creating a type of white-knuckle composition comprised from a balance of obvious influences and divergent musical styles with an abundance of rousing choruses and oddball musician charm to come off as an awkwardly fresher alternative than the usual sect of prog-metal merchants. www.lasersedgegroup.com -Mike SOS

HARVESTMAN/US CHRISTMAS/MINSK: HAWKWIND TRIAD

Seminal UK psychedelic rock outfit Hawkwind’s cult appeal is widespread and bountiful, especially within today’s tripped-out post-metal circles demonstrated by this three-band, appropriately titled 11-track split disc homage HAWKWIND TRIAD. The most stunning aspect regarding this release is far and away the this album’s seamless flow which all but disregards the fact that this is the input from three separate bands yet sounds as fluid and cohesive as if one band comprised the whole endeavor, as US Christmas, Harvestman, and Minsk nail the tracks they tackle with a respectful regard towards the original version’s cosmic visions acting as each band’s foundation to renovate the overall sonic resonance of classics like “Master of the Universe” (done by US Christmas) and “Assault and Battery/ The Golden Void” (as interpreted by Minsk). Truly capturing the essence of their subject while giving the pioneer unit’s rich music a meticulously conducted modernization that virtually remains authentic to the original compositions, this release ensures the spirit of Hawkwind’s unique musical freak outs are still a major influence and will continue to flourish. www.neurotrecordings.com -Mike SOS

WUTHERING HEIGHTS: SALT

Danish progressive power metal crew Wuthering Heights return with their fifth installment of melodic metallic fare, an epic nine-track offering that takes to the sea for inspiration this time around entitled SALT. Comprised of exercises in symphonic speed metal with a propensity for galloping harmonies and interludes derived from both forest-dwelling folk metal and eclectic progressive metal, this sextet exude virtuoso chops with painstaking attention paid to the rousing and detail oriented power metal characteristics which allow melodies to soar with a distinct hard-hitting gracefulness (“The Desperate Poet”). Imagine the uplifting atmosphere of Blind Guardian with the technical prowess of Dragonforce (“The Last Tribe”, “Tears”) with a fiery lead vocalist leading the affair through the vast waters of the metal world for a reference point of what to expect from this passionate and boisterous bunch and their latest theatrically-driven metal affair. www.thelasersedgegroup.com -Mike SOS

FLOURISHING: A MOMENTARY SENSE OF THE IMMEDIATE WORLD

NYC grinding death metal trio Flourishing exhibit their set of unorthodox and raw wares on the unit’s five-track endeavor A MOMENTARY SENSE OF THE IMMEDIATE WORLD. This band’s unhinged abrasiveness and buzzing dissonance merges bleak black metal malice with apocalyptic post-hardcore, sounding like a cross between a harsher version of Helmet and a more spastic Bloodlet (“Watching Sparrows”) while implementing a lithe array of industrial metal’s clangs and bangs into the fray for an increased increment of malevolence. Capable of causing a big mess yet able to survive amongst the wreckage thanks to shards of melody that rise from the rubble long enough to be noticed before the tumultuous and dense attack starts up again, Flourishing presents a discordant delight for those who yearn for a dose of extreme noise terror every now and again. www.thepathlesstraveledrecords.com -Mike SOS

SLAM ONE DOWN: THE BASEMENT DEMOS

Taking equal cues on how to make folks move from both hardcore and metal, New Jersey quartet Slam One Down throw down a familiar yet heavy-handed blend of hard nosed music on their eight-track offering THE BASEMENT DEMOS. Striking the fertile middle ground between the brutality of Pantera and Hatebreed, this outfit is hopped up with a hellacious fury that surges through each pummeling riff (“Music, Money & Girls”) and gravel-throated growling vocal (“What I’ve Done”), giving the kids in the pit a soundtrack they feel proud enough of to beat the hell out of each other to. Despite the Hellyeah-esque missteps found when the band opts to change tempos (“Hell Doesn’t Want Me”), Slam One Down provides a barrage of musical firepower that contains the metallic muscle to summon a full-scale riot on the dancefloor. www.reverbnation.com/slamonedown -Mike SOS

ORDER OF ENNEAD: AN EXAMINATION OF BEING

Order of Ennead doles out another installment of technically inclined blackened metal on their latest nine-track expedition AN EXAMINATION OF BEING. Ripping out streams of blistering guitars, tortured screams, and relentless double bass pummeling that reaps the benefits of this quartet’s broad extreme metal scope and advanced sense of composition, Order of Ennead’s blend of modern technical death metal and belligerent black metal yields numerous flashes of excellence, especially when John Li shreds a solo mid-tune, yet may not sound as diabolical as you’d imagine. In fact, this unit offers a unique take on extreme metal’s darker elements, opting to thrust levels of musical aggression and overall velocity to overload while keeping a menacing element constant but never overpowering the inner workings of their complex music. Melding skull-crushing heaviness and a morose gracefulness with a sleek sound that many metal fans may frown upon as too sterile, the latest album from Order of Ennead showcases this band’s experimental nature while dishing out a proficient slab of well-structured extreme metal. www.earache.com -Mike SOS

TRIDENT: WORLD DESTRUCTION

Featuring members of Dissection and Necrophobic in their ranks, it’s not too difficult to figure out what Swedish black metal unit Trident is going to deliver. Whipping up a guitar-heavy and furious yet all too familiar blend of anti-Christian aggression, this troupe’s 10-track debut WORLD DESTRUCTION yields a solid yet unspectacular mix of the elegant malevolence you expect from groups who cross-pollinate across the metal spectrum. Imbued with a genre standard rasp-ridden darkness, this quintet’s musical output contains a smattering of razor-sharp thrash that brightens the brutal blasts of blackened metal blasphemy significantly on the title cut and the standout “Stockholm Bloodbath”.  Unlike their peers, Trident uses a rash of slower tempos yet still maintains the necessary ominous atmosphere (“Nemesis”, “Slaves to Anguish”) that when coupled with the discernible melodic edge tacked on, gives this album a boost without tampering with the overall harshness factor. www.regainrecords.com -Mike SOS

ROTTEN SOUND: NAPALM

Paying homage to pioneers while displaying their own destructive wares, Finland’s Rotten Sound blast through a high quality yet short and sweet six-song EP comprised of three new songs and three covers of Napalm Death tunes on the aptly titled NAPALM. Designed to split skulls open, Rotten Sound’s menacing mixture of depraved tones, distorted rhythms and blistering speed make for a vicious listening experience chock full of the crusty chaos grind fans crave (“Dead Remains”), while the faithful recreations of classic Napalm Death tracks “The Kill”, “Missing Link” and “Suffer the Children” come off as proper tributes to one of the undisputed pioneers of the movement. With a noticeable increase in speed and power, this veteran act churns out a deadly dose of skillfully executed grindcore goodness leaving listeners exasperated and begging for more. www.relapse.com -Mike SOS

UFFOMAMMUT: EVE

Italian progressive sludge metal trio Ufomammut propel their bruising and burly psychedelic sound dipped in doom deeper into the vast cosmos on this forward-thinking unit’s latest body of work, a multiform 45-minute long single track dedicated to the first woman on earth entitled EVE. This ambitious Pink Floyd meets Isis by way of Electric Wizard offering renders a mass of mammoth musical movements laden with molten metallic monotony that doles out waves of heavy hypnotics while the accompanying buried in the back vocal presence emits a desperate scream from faraway effect, strengthening this act’s galactically-minded creepy crawling vibe.  While an untrained ear or those unaccustomed to the type of zoning out this squad is capable of mustering can easily write this album off as tedious, the syrupy swirls of technically manipulated multi-layered guitars, the smidgens of unorthodox synths, and the filling-rattling rhythmic explosions chisel through your cranium until bone is broken and the oppressive sounds infiltrate your brain, resulting in a trip-laden series of intense sludge metal oscillations and moody atmospheric shifts perfect to throw on when ready to run away from the outside world. www.supernaturalcat.com -Mike SOS

JON OLIVA’S PAIN: FESTIVAL

Giving loyal fans languishing through year after year of Trans Siberian Orchestra’s heavy metal cash in on Christmas concerts something to rejoice about, the latest offering from prolific metal musician Jon Oliva fully revives the complete package of luxurious instrumentation, driving tempos, sinister symphonics, brooding atmosphere and dramatic heaviness from his best known band Savatage at their peak on FESTIVAL, a decisively dark and stimulatingly stirring 10-track release chock full of teeth-gnashing hard-edged rockers and soulfully heartfelt ballads. This release is an intense endeavor steeped in a traditional heavy metal mindset with Oliva’s trademark emotionally raw vocal delivery and soaring melodic composition skills working on overdrive to create the closest thing resembling a full-on Savatage reunion sans the actual members reforming. www.afm-records.com -Mike SOS

ORWELL: ENDEAVORS

Midwestern metal maulers Orwell provide a sturdy yet predictable form of modern metal on the 10-track ENDEAVORS. Doling out a standardized heard it all before blend of death metal and metalcore that an endless stream of bands seems to employ, this quintet makes no bones of heavily borrowing from the playbooks of expected influences, as snippets of everything from Hatebreed to Black Dahlia Murder can be found here. Orwell manages to juxtapose the nuances of Killswitch Engage, Darkest Hour, and As I Lay Dying with sparks of ingenuity though, drawing tastefully from both their Swedish metal CD collection and the second stages of every summertime American metal festival to create a unremarkably unoriginal yet spirited album showcasing a talented band whose tremendous metal acumen would benefit greatly from finding a distinct identity. www.zerobudgetrecords.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.

SOS Metal Reviews: Through The Eyes of The Dead, Fozzy, Enthroned, Gamma Ray, and more…

Posted in SOS Metal Update with tags on April 18, 2010 by gearsofrock

THROUGH THE EYES OF THE DEAD: SKEPSIS

South Carolina’s Through the Eyes of the Dead have endured a revolving door’s worth of lineup changes in their short span, yet have held enough together to unleash a seething 10-track death collection of songs entitled SKEPSIS. Shaded with more hues of traditional death metal while keeping its deathcore sensibility intact, songs like “The Manifest” and “Dementia” display the troupe’s newfound concoction firing at all cylinders. Bolstered by new vocalist Danny Rodriguez and his menacing phrasings and malevolent bark, while some this quartet’s self-produced output utterly reeks of a cross between retreads from the glory days of Swedish death metal and stagnantly standardized deathcore (bring back Erik Rutan behind the board, guys), their lethal blast-beat lunges bear a jugular-grabbing intensity matched by few currently on the circuit. Featuring some of the most skull-rattling rounds of pummeling double bass drumming and nimble yet nefarious guitars, SKEPSIS is a relentless record that strikes a brutal balance between modern and classic extremes. www.prostheticrecords.com -Mike SOS

VICIO: WAR ON YOU

Vicio is a punchy female-fronted pop-rock quartet that features members from both Brazil and the United States. Adorned with eclectic personal and musical upbringings, this band’s multiethnic rock ‘n roll middle ground is reflected on the four-track endeavor WAR ON YOU. Despite the presence of sleek modern production with cutesy hand claps aplenty and a seemingly endless stream of feel-good vocal hooks, this band showcases a daring experimental flair and a keen sense of musicianship that propels songs like “Knock One Two” straight from dance rock bliss into something way less fleeting. Surprisingly substantial and endearingly engaging, Vicio’s solid guitarwork and penchant for writing songs with good melodies that also take chances helps this crew stand out amongst the sea of other bands championing their common sound. www.myspace.com/vicio -Mike SOS

ALDAARON NOUS: REVIENDRONS IMMORTELS

Radiating their brand of malicious mayhem with a majestic hue that sheds light in the shadows in the forests of black metal, France’s Aldaaron deliver a glacial eight-track offering steeped in traditional rawness entitled NOUS REVIENDRONS IMMORTELS. While an arsenal of unabashed regressive tendencies screaming for blood kick out at full blast (“Nirnaeth Arnoediad Part 2”), this unit also demonstrates the knack to throw in a barrage of well-placed atmospheric downshifts and clever dynamic tempo fluctuations that keep the listener intrigued and stick true to black metal ideals (“Nirnaeth Arnoediad Part 1”). While the album’s muddy production can be taken a breaking point for some, the band’s overall presentation contains its share of standard accoutrements from panicked vocal shrieks to solid accompanying keyboards (“En Route Vers La Bataille”) while sharp enough to exhibit a grim and foreboding aura draped in black metal’s shimmering bombast. www.paragonrecords.net -Mike SOS

ANNOTATIONS OF AN AUTOPSY: THE REIGN OF DARKNESS

Reinvigorated UK metal upstarts Annotations of an Autopsy return with an unrequited mix of brutality on the 11-track THE REIGN OF DARKNESS. While this quintet has endured its share of growing pains, their strong allegiance to the deathcore sound has shifted somewhat to include noticeable nuances of classic death metal destruction a la the likes of Suffocation, Morbid Angel and others from the vintage Tampa sound era, bolstering the squad’s overall ambush significantly (“Impale the Sun”). Yet there’s still pieces missing throughout AOAA’s overall attack despite blood-thirsty thrusts on songs like “In Snakes I Bathe” where things grind to ho-hum halts and become monotonous beyond normal standards, almost as if the band made an outline of a drawing and forgot to color it completely in, especially glaring on slower-paced tracks (which the disc is heavy on). Even though it seems that this group is headed on the right path of death metal destruction, they’ve got a long way to go before being considered in the same league as their newfound aforementioned influences, but should appeal to the under 21 crowd that likes to mosh it up. www.nuclearblastusa.com -Mike SOS

CHARRED WALLS OF THE DAMNED: CHARRED WALLS OF THE DAMNED

Iced Earth alumni Richard Christy and Ripper Owens work together again on Charred Walls of the Damned eponymous offering. This nine-track offering serves up a smattering of traditional heavy metal with an emphasis on presenting a progressive and powerful platter, complete with Owens’ histrionic vocals and Christy’s clinical percussion work at the forefront of the strike (“Fear in the Sky”). Providing a well-balanced metallic assault of neck-break paced technical excellence and memorable melodic sweetness (“The Darkest Eyes”), Charred Walls of the Damned deliver a solid slab of raise your fist and yell heavy metal executed with a sniper-like stealth (“Creating Our Machine”) that ardent fans of metal can definitely latch onto. www.metalblade.com -Mike SOS

RENAE: …AND HELL FOLLOWS HOTFOOT

Illinois-based post-hardcore quartet Renae demonstrates an impressively slanted rage channeled full on through the five tracks from …AND HELL FOLLOWS. Effortlessly juxtaposing the best parts of screamo, metalcore, and emo punk with intense barrages yielding to suave transitions which aid this batch of lengthy songs from overstaying their welcome, Renae exhibits the ability to draw their own musical conclusions from influences such as Poison the Well, Glassjaw, and Norma Jean without sound like a cheap rip-off, injecting their own quirks along the way. Fortified with a strapping vocal presence with a raucous range that falls somewhere between enraged and enamored leading this grip on the rail modern heavy rollercoaster ride, Renae’s knotty jam band mentalities and kaleidoscopic blend of aggression combine to force the listener to feel the battering brunt of this band’s unorthodox assault on the ears. www.hotfootrecords.com -Mike SOS

THIS MOMENT IN BLACK HISTORY: PUBLIC SQUARE

The third release by taut punk rock outfit This Moment in Black History yields the monstrous 13-track effort entitled PUBLIC SQUARE. This Cleveland, OH quartet mesh terse shards of hardcore punk with dollops of stoner rock fuzz, robot rock precision, jazz-induced atmosphere, and garage punk experimentation unleashing a hellacious attention-getting hybrid sound chock full of bastardized screams and clever call and responses (“Makes My Teeth White”), anarchistic keyboards, and jagged rhythmic patterns that transcend across generations of rock ‘n roll genres. Unafraid to either rip the room to shreds (“About Last Night”) or push an extended musical jam towards the outer limits (“Pollen Count”), TMIBH exhibits an appetite for destruction with the organic soulfulness missing from the majority of music today, developing a brand of unabashed and raw music all their own that rarely misses the mark in delivering something that knocks you flat on your ass. www.smogveil.com -Mike SOS

HEATHEN: THE EVOLUTION OF CHAOS

After a near 20-year absence, Bay Area thrashers Heathen return to the metal world with a hard hitting11-track studio album entitled THE EVOLUTION OF CHAOS. This quintet’s comeback rings true to form with the classic thrash metal feel of yore at its core, complete with a majestic feel laden with solid twin guitar harmonic interplay, effective progressive metal movements, and a vocal presence graced with both NWOBHM’s soaring melodic tactics (“A Hero’s Welcome”) and old school thrash metal’s unmistakable malevolent snarl (“Dying Season”). Rather than taking a quick stab at the thrash piñata, this veteran act’s well-built excursion is a genuine example of revisiting roots the correct way, coming off as well oiled and refined rather than a hapless retread attempt to cash in on the genre’s revival. If you dig the most recent works of vintage squads such as Exodus, Overkill, and Testament, there’s no reason why Heathen’s latest shouldn’t be in your collection. www.mascotrecordsusa.com -Mike SOS

FOZZY: CHASING THE GRAIL

CHASING THE GRAIL is the album that helps you forget that Fozzy is a terrible band name and the unit’s lead singer is pro wrestler Chris Jericho with three-quarters of Stuck Mojo behind him, as the squad’s latest 12-track batch of tunes proudly showcases a killer band that bring a wicked amalgamation of metallic styles helmed by Jericho’s assured vocals to the table. Gelling as a band like previous albums never showed, Fozzy comes into their own here with a hearty smattering of heavy and melodic songs with a bevy of influences yield from Ozzy and Metallica to Avenged Sevenfold and Five Finger Death Punch that display an increased intensity, especially in the guitar department (“Pray for Blood”) while blending a steady stream of classic and modern influences from Blind Guardian to All That Remains (“Under Blackened Skies”). Retaining the patented Atlanta metal stomp guitarist Rich Ward helped to pioneer (“Grail”, “Martyr No More”) and going as far to include an 11-minute epic complete with a rash of twists and turns that would make Dream Theater proud, Fozzy’s latest album truly covers all bases and delivers a top to bottom solid shot of metal with a grab-bag, something for everyone disposition that erases the stigma placed on the band since their inception. www.fozzyrock.com -Mike SOS

TRIBELLA: THIRTEEN

Austin, TX all-female trio Tribella dole out a shimmering serving of psychedelic pop-rock with hard edged underpinnings revealed by a powerhouse percussive performance on the unit’s latest album THIRTEEN. Underneath smooth ripples of guitar (“Mister Mister”), unorthodox bass grooves and a muscular yet miniscule female vocal lie an undercurrent of imminent distress, almost as if breathy vocals act as the messenger breaking the news to you about the end of the world without an ounce of panic (“13”). Reminiscent of a cross between riot grrl rage and steady shoegaze with dashes of garage rock charm strewn about (“CSUS4”), Tribella’s post-rock potpourri constructs a luxurious realm where sticky sweet and unsettling pop strike a tenuous middle ground that manages to keep it all together even when indicating it’s all falling apart. www.tribellatheband.com -Mike SOS

PSYCHO: THE GRIND YEARS

Seasoned Boston grindcore pioneers Psycho have been at it since the early 80’s, maintaining an endearing DIY mentality with an unquestionably staunch disregard for anything that foolishly gets in the way. Digging through their vaults to excavate a cavalcade of d-beat bashings with hardcore punk sensibilities complete with razor sharp riffs and a guitar solo or two thrown in for good measure, foundational grunts and growls, and lightning fast tempos, the 52-track offering THE GRIND YEARS is a lot to take in at once yet provides thick chunks of classic brutality. Revisiting their salad days without removing a spec of grit and crud from the recordings from 20 years back, Psycho’s prolific presence and the primal power demonstrated on this collection allows for a consistent stream of unfiltered ferocity to shine, firmly fitting in between Nasum and early Napalm Death without an ounce of reservation. www.selfmadegod.com -Mike SOS

STELLAR VECTOR: A FLOCK OF COWARDS

Quirky Minneapolis, MN quintet Stellar Vector provide a 11-track excursion laden with a bevy of stylistic shake-ups coupled with a prevalent pop sensibility and an electronica edge (“Fall-Out”) that gives A FLOCK OF COWARDS a well-rounded and contemporary feel. Staying in line with today’s alternative rock structures while falling back on a totally 80’s vibe on occasion (“Closing Notes” “February 14th”), this cerebral unit juxtaposes bouncy melody lines (“The Boy Who Cried Wolf”) with intricate borderline prog rock elements to create a complex and wistful strand of keyboard-driven rock music with a scope whose broad range leaves the listener on their toes anxiously awaiting the next cleverly picked genre jump or tricky musical passage. www.stellarvector.com -Mike SOS

GAMMA RAY: TO THE METAL!

German power metal kingpins Gamma Ray return with their 10th studio effort, appropriately titled TO THE METAL! This 10-track affair features the quartet’s signature musical maneuvers and retains the outfit’s traditional metal approach, keeping a fever pitched energy level (“All You Need to Know”) and melody lines soaring high in the sky (“. Branching out a bit this time around to include an orchestral introduction before kicking it up a notch (“Chasing Shadows”) as well as a tender piano-led (“No Need to Cry”) in between dollops of Euro-heavy racing power metal and groove-laden Priest-esque rockers (“To The Metal!”), Gamma Ray presents a solid yet unspectacular slab of metal that stays true to the veteran group’s classic metal predilections. www.gammaray.org -Mike SOS

WORMROT: ABUSE

Singapore grindcore trio Wormrot doles out a superior blast of authentic and substantial hyper-speed insanity on the aptly titled 23-track, 22:45 excursion ABUSE. Mercilessly expounding the values and virtue of developing short and sweet blasts of bass-less quickness while dialing volatility up to maximum thresholds, this affair is laden with relentless drums that jackhammer your skull while thick riffs bludgeon what’s left of your face and the chaotic vocals varying from scintillating shrieks to caustic Cookie Monster rumbles assault every cavity in your body (“Good Times”, “Condemnation”). Proudly following in the footsteps of bands like labelmates Insect Warfare and elder statesmen Napalm Death, Wormrot’s raucous racket make it simple to surrender to the breakneck paced tumultuousness this triad of rapid-fire technicians employs, implementing a slew of dastardly d-beats and infusing jagged fragments of hardcore punk (“Blasphemy My Ass”) into their centrifuge of carnage that you’ll find yourself sideways and broken because of in no time. Essential for speed freaks. www.earache.com -Mike SOS

ANIMA: ENTER THE KILLZONE

German deathcore troupe Anima makes a return back to the scene with another run of the mill offering in the form of 12-track disc ENTER THE KILLZONE. While songs like “I Am Sick I Want to Kill” display touches of metallic maturation with an increased death metal vibe prevalent, this quintet ultimately falls prey to the familiar genre trappings with many of their peers with a horrendous array drum triggers and unrealistic guitar tones at the forefront of this mind-numbing attack (“Welcome to Our Killzone”). Despite a beefed-up Black Dahlia Murder-esque approach (“The Omnipotent Torture King”), Anima is still playing catch up with the likes of The Acacia Strain and Job for a Cowboy in terms of providing something more than a shot of banal brutality. www.metalblade.com -Mike SOS

UNLEASHED: AS YGGDRASIL TREMBLES

Swedish death metal mainstays Unleashed return with their 10th endeavor, the 13-track affair AS YGGDRASIL TREMBLES. This renowned squad continues their quest to praise Odin while lacing into your skull with some of the grueling and grooviest death metal gallops this side of Amon Amarth (“Far Beyond Hell”), complete with crushing guitars (“Dead to Me”) and seething streams of diabolical death metal growls leading the charge towards Nordic enlightenment (“Cannibalistic Epidemic Continues”). While Unleashed does their usual perfunctory job of laying Viking imagery on thick, this veteran outfit’s unquestionably thunderous poundings, versatile viciousness (“Wir Kapitulieren Niemals”) and precision-driven solos (“This Time We Fight”) render a cohesion strong enough to void any lyrical schlock and appeal to fans of all types of extreme metal. www.nuclearblastusa.com -Mike SOS

ENTHRONED: PENTAGRAMMATON

Belgium black metal merchants Enthroned are a seasoned unit who have been marred by a checkered consistency with both maintaining a lineup and producing advanced output through their long-standing career, but this curse seems to have bypassed their latest 11-track affair PENTAGRAMMATON. Showcasing a step in the right direction, Enthroned’s barrage of blistering riffs, blazing drums, and bellicose vocal work especially intense during periods of the vicious triple vocal assault with a tenacious tact, ripping through your speakers (“Rion Riorrim”) with a panic-stricken aggression black metal requires (“Pentagrammaton”). Despite feeling a bit genre-standardized at times, Enthroned’s overall presentation endearingly exhibits all the necessary brutality to get the job done with a bombastic sound, a firm handle on controlling atmosphere from track to track and an arsenal of clever nuances sprinkled throughout that traditional black metal fans can’t help but appreciate (“Unconscious Minds”). www.regainrecords.com -Mike SOS

THE AUGUST INFINITY: VOICES OF A GENERATION

Skillfully straddling the line between larger than life hard rock musings and multi-faceted modern rock malaise, NYC quintet The August Infinity exhibit a diverse sound that strikes a few familiar chords throughout yet doesn’t solely belong to any one particular genre on the 13-track VOICES OF A GENERATION. Adorned with a powerful vocal presence whose broad range and higher register resonates a superstar ‘80s metal edginess with a soulful pop-rock side, the music behind the pipes finds itself spanning across many shades of the rock spectrum as well without losing an ounce of melodic bliss, adroitly skipping from Warped Tour pop punk bounce (“Feel This”) to shadowy pseudo-metal boom (“My Confession”) to alternative rock contagiousness (“Push, Pull, Shove”). Merging the wares of Coheed and Cambria, The Killers, Sevendust, Avenged Sevenfold, and Story of the Year into slickly produced explosive tunes that sound way too good to have been done at a home studio, The August Infinity stands out amongst the pack thanks to their undeniably fiery delivery and clever genre juxtapositions that are bound to appeal to a large cross-section of rock fans. www.theaugustinfinity.com -Mike SOS

RIFOKI: SPERM DONOR

Taking the notion of presenting an EP to heart, the tandem known as Rifoki have produced an explosive five-track, six-minute endeavor entitled SPERM DONOR. Brimming over with intensity while maintaining its strict sense of brevity, the duo comprised of Steve Aoki (Dim Mak Records founder) and Bob Rifo (The Bloody Beetroots mainman) step back into old skins, ditching high-profile positions in the music biz and spots behind the wheels of steel to let loose and immerse themselves into a self-induced hardcore punk time warp chock full of meaty morsels moshpit angst and aggressive angularity (“Zombie Attack”). Way too short but ultimately rewarding, Rifoki is a combustible entity that allows this twosome the luxury to shamelessly revisit their roots and show the scene they still got it in them to boot. www.dimmak.com -Mike SOS

RAGNAROK: COLLECTORS OF THE KING

Veteran Norwegian black metal clan Ragnarok return to the frontlines of the battlefield with a tried and true black metal offering in the form of the relentless nine-track COLLECTORS OF THE KING. Despite a major lineup reshuffle and a solid yet unspectacular arsenal of raspy demonic growls, diabolically crafted riffs, and frantic drums, this corpsepainted crew’s unmistakable disdain for humanity, sinister sense of raw aggression, and heinous lyrical viewpoints help thrust songs like “The Ancient Crown of Glory” from the commonplace to something totally crushing. Effortlessly comprehending the evilest chapters of the metal handbook only to spit them with a bloodthirsty sense of destruction heading their learned surge, the latest from Ragnarok offers few surprises yet unleashes a beastly slab of punishing yet predictable rage straight from the lungs of hell (“Wisdom of Perfection”). www.regainrecords.com -Mike SOS

STARK: RACE TO THE FLOOR

NYC female-fronted trio Stark unleashes a pretense-free slab of snarling yet simple rock directly from the gut on their latest nine-track excursion RACE TO THE FLOOR. Crammed with a gaggle of foundation-shaking riffs (“End of the Line”) and the gritty no nonsense Joan Jett meets Pat Benatar-esque vocal presence of Lani Ford leading the entire affair (“What It Is”), this release is anchored with an unabashed rock ‘n roll spirit (“Get It”) that so many modern bands lack today. Stark resurrects the punk rock attitude the Big Apple used to own with their own spin, injecting a slew of muscular hard rock elements (“Drunkaholic”) and a loud and proud DIY aesthetic that rounds out this unit’s punchy and infectious four on the floor stomp. www.starknyc.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! All of the above releases can be found in our store.

SOS Metal Reviews: Orphaned Land, Mnemic, AM Conspiracy, and more…

Posted in SOS Metal Update with tags on March 13, 2010 by gearsofrock

ORPHANED LAND: THE NEVER ENDING WAY OF ORWARRIOR

Israel’s Orphaned Land dazzles the senses and gives a bang for your buck with their latest 15-track offering. This unit’s multi-faceted metallic approach contains an abundance of ingrained native musical influences with genuine instrumentation intertwined with a progressive mix of ornate death metal underpinned with elegant epic power metal tendencies a la Nightwish. Weaving intricate guitarwork and a meticulous percussive attack into complex tapestries bursting with world beat rhythms and cascading melodic metal hooks (“New Jerusalem”), this squad’s solid metal attack and authentic nationalistic appeal yield a chameleon-esque release for fans of metal with an ethnic flair to thoroughly enjoy. www.centurymedia.comMike SOS

NORIEGA: DESOLO

Scouring the bottom of the barrel to gather the filthiest and nastiest metallic sounds possible, Los Angeles quartet Noriega punishes past the threshold of safety by delivering an abrasive five-track offering titled DESOLO. Merging the bowel-shaking bombastic breakdowns from metalcore’s heavyweight acts, forward thinking hardcore’s spastic irregularities and foreboding auras from doom metal’s highest ranked harbingers of nihilism, this sludgy squad produces a cavalcade of viscous tones driven into your skull with a belligerent bark brimming with despair steering the entire affair into murky malevolence. Showcasing a fair amount of Meshuggah, Eyehategod, and The Acacia Strain trickery as an influence while stamping their own jostling jazz metal footprint, Noriega’s apocalyptic anger-ridden anthems dole out an insufferable amount of aggression that will leave welts on your ear canals. www.viablerecords.comMike SOS

VTT: SYMPTOMS OF SIN

VTT display a versatile hard rock style that spans a few decades on their nine-track affair. Pumping out modern metal melodies a la Trivium with an electronic pulse not unlike that of Mudvayne or Static X (“Never Died Before”) while retaining the classic rage of acts like WASP (“You’re My Punishment”), this troupe’s cavalcade of strong riffs is sprinkled with a bevy of intriguing acoustic flourishes (“Looking For Serenity”, “Deleted Scenes”) providing the album a proper foundation that supports its constant switches in mood and atmosphere. Developing a style where Nu metal immediacy collides with metalcore’s rhythmic chug yet doesn’t forget to consult the vintage blueprint from where both were spawned, VTT’s gritty sensibilities and memorable hooks hit hard and are bound to leave an impression on anyone with an ear for the sound of today’s aggression. –Mike SOS

SONS OF AZRAEL: SCOUTING THE BONEYARD

Blasting down the gates with cartoon sense of blasphemy and gore and a skillful set of extreme metal chops to back up the frivolity, Sons of Azrael let loose with a barrage of dastardly black metal with a Swedish death metal twist that is competent but relies too much on traditional treadmill ideas and the modern cut and paste cookie cutter card to be considered a cut above. Despite a rash of demonic dive-bomb riffs and scorching rhythms with a proper death croak growlingly guiding the affair, the sophomoric splatterhouse vibe is a tough one to shake, rendering this disc a durable quick fix that reveals a fair share of Emperor, Immortal and Entombed influence. www.metalblade.comMike SOS

WHITE WIZZARD: OVER THE TOP

Carefully dissecting the NWOBHM spirit, White Wizzard displays a knack for classic metal tones and structures on their latest nine-track offering. This unit stepped up with a pronounced early Maiden street punk vibe running through their high-octane compositions while a tasty Thin Lizzy-like twin guitar interplay and top-notch bass presence (“High Roller”) keeps the inevitable histrionic clichés away from teetering towards glam rock grandiosity, opting to stay somewhere in between Manowar, Motorhead, and Mercyful Fate. Presenting a well-versed set of metal influences ranging from power metal fury to classic metal grace dispersed throughout, there’s enough variety in the traditional songwriting and arrangements to warrant repeat listens despite blatant attempts to recreate the glory days of the initial denim and leather era. Demonstrating the audacity to namecheck themselves in their own songs, White Wizzard  confidence level is pretty high but they earn the right. by doling out an array of mammoth metal chops with a convincing vengeance to back it up. www.earache.comMike SOS

ARSIS: STARVE FOR THE DEVIL

STARVE FOR THE DEVIL marks the return of technical thrash outfit Arsis to the fold and the Virginia-based band wastes little time to proclaim an exhilarating comeback from the opening strains of “Forced to Rock”, a full-throttle thrash anthem with intricate musical interludes nestled within. Destroying all speakers with their vitriolic riff and piledriving rhythms combinations (“Sick Perfection”) while band leader James Malone slices and dices his six-string machine with a shredding virtuoso style and delivers venomous vocal shrapnel to boot (“Escape Artist”), there’s no denying that this group can light it up at a moment’s notice when their Swedish melodeath predisposition kicks in at full force (“From Soulless To Shattered (Art In Dying)”, “Beyond Forlorn”). Arsis succeeds in whipping up a dexterity-driven 10-track adventure giving fans complex arrangements and pounding aggression with a comprehensive understanding of the genre that allows this squad to stand out amongst modern thrash metal’s elite acts. www.nuclearblastusa.comMike SOS

LIQUID DIVINE: AUTOPHOBIA

Germany’s Liquid Divine is a EBM project with a plethora of darkwave elements that allows this 12 track collection to tear up the dance floor with dramatic synths and Peter Murphy-esque vocals leading the charge (“Sojourner”). Mixing in some robot rock with a dramatic edge not unlike the merger of New Order and Kraftwerk (“Comagirl”), this shadowy and sinewy release resonates with jabs of electronic throb and layers of haunting atmosphere that will make you groove in the dark recesses of your mind (“Planet Zoo”). www.metropolisrecords.comMike SOS

HYDROVIBE: NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE

Explosive yet formulaic female fronted hard rock comes courtesy of Hydrovibe and their latest 15-track excursion NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE. Bolstered by a massive production value that beefs their brand of commercially savvy rock ‘n roll up considerably, the snarling guitar drive and revisited nu metal rhythms leave a modern radio rock impression while the impassioned vocals are steady and packed with power (“No Fury”), rarely missing a moment to accentuate without going overboard (“Suture”). Featuring a pristine polish with a down and dirty approach that displays all the tools needed to rock out arenas (“Savior”), Hydrovibe meshes a menagerie of modern rock tones with a penchant for writing memorable choruses and down home melodies, developing a brand of larger than life hard rock with enough of their own identity intact to sit snugly between Evanescence and In This Moment. www.hydrovibe.comMike SOS

BARNBURNER: BANGERS

A rumble of ‘70s heavy metal thunder comes courtesy of Montreal’s Barnburner and their gnarly 11-track disc BANGERS. This four-piece unit kicks out the jams with a stoner rock pretense fuzzing out the entire affair (“Half Past Haggard”), at times sounding like a hybrid of middle-era COC, Baroness, Clutch, Every Time I Die and CKY. Swampy blues cranked to 11 and a classic metal swagger are the backbone of this band’s heavy boogie stomp, showcased on tracks like “Medium Rare” and the Thin Lizzy meets Pantera inspired “Brohemoth”, but Barnburner hurl a couple of stylistic curveballs out within the disc that add the necessary spice to give their organically-grown groove-laden heavy music approach a wide-ranging crossover appeal that transcends across decades. www.metalblade.comMike SOS

LESION: SENIORS BALL

NYC by way of Germany rock act Lesion have enjoyed much underground and indie success from their brash musical adventures, live performance mash-ups and raucous film escapades, yet this time it’s their latest 10-track album SENIORS BALL that gets the spotlight. Ripe with punk rock chaos (“The Witch’s Tit”) and an early new wave edge with an unorthodox shock metal foundation, imagine Danzig collaborating with the B 52’s (“Back of the Shed”) or Devo jamming with System of a Down (“So Well, Oh Well”) with a dramatic flair and over the top theatrical vibe reminiscent of early Alice Cooper wrapped in a combustible package ready to unravel at any given moment.  This fearless troupe’s versatile knowledge of heavy music from Queen to The Dead Boys to AC/DC (“Jump Ramp”) and horror-movie lyrical topics project a vivid first-hand picture of what living in Lesion’s debauchery-laden land of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll excess is like. www.lesionallevil.comMike SOS

AETERNAM: DISCIPLES OF THE UNSEEN

Montreal’s Aeternam adapt many different forms of metal into cohesive blend of their own for the duration of 10-track endeavor. From symphonic keyboard neatly tucked into the mix to bludgeoning metalcore breakdowns to black metal growls and shrills to touches of dazzling musicianship to modern metal’s cleansed choruses, this group strikes with a force whose familiar furies can easily be traced back to influences such as Swedish melodeath (“Ouroboros”), even going as far to throw in a pinch of ethnic flair to render a different Nile-esque slant (“Iteru”). Retaining a majestic death metal presence isn’t easy, yet this crew switches up styles without losing an ounce of might, slashing and burning a mix of At the Gates, Dark Funeral, and Vader through speakers that forms a credible effort with a tenacious warmongering spirit. www.aeternum.comMike SOS

INDYUS: ASHES OF DYSTOPIA

Austrian death metal quartet Indyus have cultivated their sound in a live setting, having played over 90 shows throughout Europe before heading into the recording studio, and this type of precision is apparent on their debut 10-track full-length ASHES OF DYSTOPIA. Shards of Obituary, Deicide, Moonspell, and Napalm Death can be felt flying overhead as this band strives to resurrect the old school aura of fast beats and pounding rhythmic punishment with a barrage of wild guitar solos and a menacing guttural throat at the forefront of the mayhem. Despite some cheesy production work, this 10-track endeavor’s hard hitting retreads carry an early death metal eagerness to destroy, assisting every borrowed nuance from dive-bomb solo to tribal percussive strike in registering with resonance on this spirited but scattershot offering. www.indyus.netMike SOS

AM CONSPIRACY: AM CONSPIRACY

Former Drowning Pool vocalist Jason “Gong” Jones returns with AM Conspiracy and the quintet’s eponymous 14-track excursion. Meshing the heavy accessibility of Gong’s past group with an arena-rock immensity championed by the likes of Godsmack and Disturbed, this troupe dials in the middle of the road paint by numbers hard rock formula as a template for their multi-faceted grungy modern rock meets nu-metal assault (“Myself”, “Far”). Brazen with an exceptionally in your face bass performance, intense guitars that take a page or two from Sevendust here and there and a vocal style that can rip out a roar as easily as croon with convincing emotion (“Down”), even though much of their presentation is bogged-down with derivations straight from the commercial rock carousel featuring Shinedown, Soil, and Saliva to be considered mandatory listening, AM Conspiracy’s songwriting techniques seem custom made for today’s rock radio in mind and prove durable enough to go toe to toe with any other band on the circuit. www.burnhillunion.comMike SOS

FACE VALUE: RIDE HARD PUT AWAY WET CLEVO HC ’89-93

Digging through the archives to document their stint as hardcore go-to band of the Midwest, Cleveland, OH’s Face Value exhibit a prolific span of activity from 1989 to 1993 on this 31-track CD and live performance DVD collection. Taking songs from all of their releases and sharing video footage that ranges from crude to surprisingly crisp from their countrywide treks, this compilation serves to remember the salad days of the DIY scene from the perspective of an unruly squad of dudes with unbridled energy who thrived in a live setting with a songbook that bridged the gap between punk, crossover, and hardcore and is recommended for enthusiasts to give a spin. www.smogveil.comMike SOS

THE DEADLYZ: THE DEADLYZ

NYC quartet The Deadlyz play a brand of rock best falling into the garden-variety modern metal category, as they boast the beefy bottom end and stinging riffs of bands like Staind with soccer-stadium cheering choruses of Papa Roach with the underlying brash attitude that a band earns from beating the streets of the Big Apple apart to make their distinct heavy melodic concoction. This four-track sampler demonstrates a Buckcherry on steroids vocal presence (“Take It”) with the salvo of explosive grooves, gritty rhythms and dirty riffs working together to get the job done (“Poisoned”). But it all comes crashing to a complete halt with “Cut You”, the band’s shameless attempt to impact hit radio in the form of an overwrought and awkward ballad. Nonetheless, The Deadlyz are pretty tight when they keep it away from conformity and are a reliable unit to choose when you need the music that helps you rear back and push the pedal to the metal. www.thedeadlyz.comMike SOS

MNEMIC: SONS OF THE SYSTEM

Opinions on Danish metal troupe Mnemic are definitely divided amongst the metal community, as this squad either rates at the top of fan’s best in the world list or are labeled as offenders of the worst rip-off scheme in recent memory. While the unit’s modern metallic mash-up is sanitized to specifications and comes off as a bit too cleansed for its own good for those who can’t stomach the newer versions of metal, there are points on this 11-track disc that demonstrate undeniable melodic mastery intertwined within an all-too familiar Devin Townsend meets Soilwork by way of Meshuggah thought process actually rendering a nifty sense of soaring pop music catchiness that you’d be hard-pressed not to hum as you walk down the street (“March of the Tripods”, “Diesel Uterus”). Unfortunately, Mnemic’s cheesy clasp on industrial-tinged progressive metal produces an overload of messy polyrhythmic mish-moshes, overblown keyboards and jarring stylistic clashes whose blatant attempts to synthetically force square pegs into round holes misfires more than hits the bulls eye. www.nuclearblastusa.comMike SOS

A FAMILY PLOT: A FAMILY PLOT

A Family Plot is a NYC based quartet that supplies an intriguing amalgamation of indie rock splendor on their six-track self-titled disc. Fueled by a damning darkened twang pulled straight from the prairie, this troupe of skilled players (featuring members of Candiria) have created a unique musical pulse fusing secrets from the shadows of NYC streets with desperation from the heartland. Fortified with hunks of gut-wrenching post-hardcore twists and a sly Goth rock by way of Americana sensibility (“If I Only Knew”), this band teeters the line between rock and country more than you’d expect a band of city slickers to but ventures into wondrous layers of chilling melody through it all (“Till It Bleeds”), striking the nerve between the outlaw hardcore of Poison the Well, the boozy blues of a Desert Session and the technical prowess of Coheed and Cambria. www.afamilyplot.netMike SOS

VULTUS: VULTUS

Vultus is a NYC sludge metal band at heart whose three-track effort reveals a predilection for classic metal pretense and haunting doom tempos turned sideways via a bevy of hardcore dissonance and swampy Sabbath-esque rhythmic grooves. Meshing Iron Maiden, Lamb of God, and Goatsnake sounds like a mess, yet Vultus pull off a middle ground of moshpit majesty subdued by a side of sinewy stoner rock, complete with tasty lead guitar breaks, bare-knuckle drumming, and volatile vocal screams and wails. Blending metal genres into a thick and thunderous concoction of undeniable power, Vultus provide a shape-shifting heaviness that blends quite an intriguing concoction of metallic power. www.vultusnyc.comMike SOS

XP8: DROP THE MASK

Rome, Italy’s hard electronic unit XP8 keeps the dance-floor immersed with a sensual sweat on the duo’s latest 13-track offering DROP THE MASK. Fortified with an electric pulsating beat perfect fit to be played in a dark and smoky environment (“Born Dead”), this techno squad retains its audio authority to keep the crowd moving (“Out of Control”) yet demonstrates an ominous vibe that permeating throughout  each track on the entire affair (“Blind”, “Want It”), adding a refined mystique to their darkened throb approach and overall brooding atmosphere (“Our Time (pt II)”). www.metropolisrecords.comMike SOS

BONA TO VADA: BONA TO VADA

Queens, NY quartet Bona to Vada pull off a pleasing pack of punchy pop-rock tunes on their eponymous four-track offering. Sounding like a cross between The Smiths, REM, and Death Cab for Cutie, this band maintains an edgy guitar jangle and a bustling rhythm section (“Hormones”) while the jaded vocal melodies echo a slightly angst-ridden post-punk sentiment (“Heaven or Below”) and the lead guitar pours copious lines of syrupy melodic goodness. Solid across the board and bolstered with an excellent production that reveals every snazzy drum lick and undercurrent of xylophone, Bona to Vada display an uncanny propensity to successfully create a somber and shimmering blend of rock ‘n roll. www.bonatovida.comMike SOS

BALACLAVA: SHAME

On latest four-track offering SHAME, crusty Richmond, VA punk metal troupe Balaclava steamrolls over the competition with an underlying feeling of grime oozing from every one of the quartet’s thick twin guitar riffs and muscular multi-vocalist’s roar. Exuding a forward-thinking hardcore mindset armed with the musical acumen to whip up a soothing interlude before lapsing into sweet sounds of savagery (“Shame”), this unit’s delightful d-beat damnations carry the power to shatter eardrums and propel the pit into a tizzy. If you dig Tragedy and Cursed, this album is chock full of the downshifting debauchery and anarchistic tendencies you crave. www.forcefieldrecords.orgMike SOS

REVENANT DEAD: TWO EVILS

Versatile UK metal troupe Revenant Dead unloads a bountiful blend of heavy styles on their 11-track sophomore effort TWO EVILS. Armed with an overpowering modern metal stance that slyly delves into darker areas on the metal spectrum with an emphasis for destruction, everything from black and industrial to Goth punk and symphonic death metal take part in this quartet’s potent equation to create a band that the band themselves wants to see and hear (“Severance”). With a perpetual black cloud seemingly hanging overhead at all times, this band weaves an ornate tapestry enriched with solid melodies and bursts of clever interludes ridden with a majestic multi-faceted attack of suspenseful shifts in mood and atmosphere. Ever think what a bastardized combination of Dimmu Borgir, Danzig, System of a Down and Sisters of Mercy would sound like? Wonder no more, as that is just a fraction of the type of hybrid concoctions Revenant Dead develops, truly supplying a flair for the dark and dramatic. www.revenantdead.comMike SOS

SOCIAL STANDARDS: NOT SO FAST

Five tracks of hyper-speed punk metal graced with unexpected twists and turns galore is what NY trio Social Standards specialize in on NOT SO FAST. Schizophrenic and volatile vocals collide with a three-prong nimble guitar, hulking hardcore punk bass and technically sound and tenacious drum attack while oodles of unorthodox influences from ska to death metal meander in and out of this hybrid display of spastic rock (“Out of Luck”). Fusing the brevity of punk, the adventure of progressive rock, and colossal clobbering nature of metal, Social Standards present a confrontational and cathartic whirlwind release whose in your face tendencies and cohesive chaos leaves a lasting impression that fans of Fugazi, Propagandhi, and Strung Out will surely appreciate. www.myspace.com/socialstandardzMike SOS

KILLING TIME: THREE STEPS BACK

After a lengthy hiatus from releasing new material, seminal NYHC unit Killing Time returns with a brand new studio album, the 12-track THREE STEPS BACK. Settling in back where it all began some 21 years ago (drummer Anthony Drago’s parents’ garage) before hitting the studio, this offering reflects what an assured band’s delivery of a genre they helped to found should sound like, as songs such as “Mingus” and “Lookout” showcase the reliable slash and burn burly style that doesn’t try and be something that it’s not just to get over (“Inheritance”). In fact, this collection rarely deviates from the slamming bass lines, gruff matter of fact vocal confrontations (“Crouch”), and melodic guitar chugs (“Rope a Dope”) that made Killing Time such a revered entity in the worldwide punk and hardcore sect alongside Agnostic Front, Cro-Mags, and Sick of it All. Genuinely resonating an underlying raw sound while liberally building new jams from old school schematics, Killing Time’s latest disc is an unapologetic and rugged affair that could easily be mistaken for something from the band’s vintage era, a testament to the stark strength and gutwrenching honesty of the songs on this triumphant comeback release. www.deadcityrecords.comMike SOS

VALKYRJA: CONTAMINATION

Swedish black metal mob Valkyrja return hot on the heels of Metal Blade’s re-release of the THE INVOCATION OF DEMISE with another whirlwind of blistering black metal entitled CONTAMINATION. This misanthropic 10-track entity showcases this Scandinavian squad’s rekindled relentless intensity, boiling over with an evil intent and summoning a darker set of spirits for this quartet to broadcast their dastardly demonic wrath with (“Welcoming Worms”). Fluctuating between warped tremolo blasts, memorably majestic riffs and powerful and precise guitarwork locking in with a rampaging rhythm section while an aptly suited raspy roar leads the entire punishing processions through creepy catacombs and barren ice fields (“Solstice in Withdrawl”), this troupe’s dead-on black metal belligerence, while easy to trace, is as authentic as it gets. Despite lacking derivation from a checklist of obvious influence’s catalogs, Valkyrja present a durable slab of hostility with the detail-attentive structures and beefed-up songwriting ardently demonstrating a band with a comprehensive understanding of the extreme. www.metalblade.comMike SOS

KILLCODE: TAKING IT ALL

NYC hard rock quintet Killcode are no strangers to the rock scene, as their members have been in many high-profile Big Apple acts prior to their formation. This veteran status, alongside an enriched set of divergent musical tastes, make for a huge-sounding and raucous six-track offering entitled TAKING IT ALL. Merging the swagger of a band commandeering the Sunset Strip with a brazen only in NY attitude, this squad’s radiates a take no prisoners approach containing a surprising array of mass-market friendly melodic moments that trails off the synthetic Nickelback-esque pedestrian path with a rash of distinct twin guitars and a gritty outlaw underbelly which complements the pristine production polish, allowing Killcode a luxury of reaching multiple sets of hard rock listener’s ears.  www.myspace.com/killcodeMike SOS

SECTIONED: PURULENT REALITY

UK death metal merchants Sectioned eschew the genre’s modern nuances, dialing their seven-track affair back towards classic ugly with the vicious tones championed by the pioneers at the forefront of their warmongering charge on PURULENT REALITY. Chock full of depraved death growls (“Village of the Sun”), frenzy-inducing riffs (“Mirrors”), and pulverizing rhythmic hammerings, Sectioned displays a vintage death metal assault that resonates like a buzzsaw blade searing through human bone while blood uncontrollably splatters everywhere. If you yearn for a dash of destructive metal without all of the bells and whistles that cuts right to the chase, Sectioned has got you covered. www.paragonrecords.comMike SOS

NASSAU CHAINSAW: THE ASPHALT CHRONICLES

Everything about NYC outfit Nassau Chainsaw is over the top, from the quartet’s street credible hip-hop meets NYHC by way of industrial metal hybrid sound to their extended live performance that regularly features a crew of suspension artists (known as the Disgraceland) and explosions galore. The troupe’s latest eight-track excursion is bolstered by a trio of heavy-hitting guest spots by Carly Coma, Tim from VOD, and Sal from Sworn Enemy during the first-half of the album, beefing up the overall presentation and giving it a vicious start. From there, Nassau Chainsaw swings towards a discernibly more rap feel, as guitar crunch is swapped for pulsating synthetic rhythms while frontman Razor Tongue spits truths that hit hard. This band is not for everyone and at times their conflicting styles may deter purists from checking it out, but Nassau Chainsaw undeniably provides a spectacle that truly expounds rock ‘n roll’s virtues at their most visceral. www.nassauchainsaw.comMike SOS

IMMOLATION: MAJESTY AND DECAY

Veteran NY disharmonic death metal outfit Immolation returns with a scalding new release, the 12-track MAJESTY AND DECAY. This seasoned quartet once again throws down a volatile blitzkrieg of technical and brutal death metal that builds off the group’s strengths without changing the unit’s complexion a lick, complete with trademark wailing guitars solos, exemplary percussion, and unearthly roaring vocals that seemingly get stronger and better upon every new release. Equipped with a set of superb composition skills and a true passion for doling out captivating rounds of punishing death metal, Immolation’s experimentally-tinged yet focused musicianship truly shines here, while this squad’s penchant to implement off-kilter interludes, unique structures, unorthodox switches, and clever climaxes into its viscous and dissonant viciousness forges their unique extreme music blend past the ordinary into a category where they have few peers. Mind-blowing without being overwhelming and absolutely heavy as fuck, Immolation’s latest collection of death metal supremacy is a triumphant offering from the band and truly essential listening for enthusiasts of the darker edge on the spectrum. www.nuclearblastusa.comMike SOS

ATROCITY SOLUTION: TOMORROW’S TOO LATE

Rambunctious ska-punk crew Atrocity Solution rolls out a treble-charged screeching seven-track offering entitled TOMORROW’S TOO LATE. Meshing the chaotic crunch of bands like Anti-Flag and the Casualties with a flurry of reggae-infused moments (“Scales of Injustice”), this raging Wisconsin quartet still need to overcome some growing pains yet manage to provide enough heartfelt punk charm and solid chops to keep them at the top of the heap, especially if you dearly miss the music of bands such as Operation Ivy. www.myspace.com/atrocitysolution666Mike 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! All of the above releases can be found in our store.

SOS Metal Reviews: Baroness “Blue Record,” Skeletonwitch “Breathing The Fire,” Manegarm, and more…

Posted in SOS Metal Update with tags on February 12, 2010 by gearsofrock

BARONESS: BLUE RECORD

Baroness follows up their stunning previous effort THE RED ALBUM with another colorfully titled endeavor BLUE RECORD. Despite taking discernible steps away from their comfort zone this time around, most notably by choosing burgeoning producer John Congleton known more for indie rock savvy than sludge metal salvation, this unit’s unbridled spirit and daring musicianship is stretched way past parameters set from prior releases, expanding into areas as divergent as Windham Hill folk rock to majestic classic rock movements with a interlocking barrage of startling arrangement twists and stylistic musical swerves from psychedelic rock to mainstream metal. Uplifting and emotional aren’t usually two ways to describe a metal album, yet this mysterious quartet manages to implement a boisterously buoyant bounce into the molten mix without cracking their chalice of menacing metallic fury. Whether it be from the picturesque cascading rhythms blooming from rootsy acoustic interludes underpinned with a distinctly southern rock charm, the album’s fluctuating atmospheric shifts yielding an edgy rise and fall prog-rock continuity, or the mesmerizing mixture of glorious half- Maiden, half-Thin Lizzy twin-guitar gallops and sophisticated and multi-faceted mountain jams, Baroness demonstrate a flawless musical fluidity that provides countless memorable phrasings and contagious grooves that when summoned pack a provocative and thunderously heavy punch powered with an air of elegant urgency. Baroness has raised the bar by which artsy metal shall be judged once again, with an advanced interplay that makes this album the perfect companion to THE RED ALBUM and a winning blend of newfound nuances form-fitted to render the affair capable to stand on its own merits. www.relapse.comMike SOS

AETHERIUS OBSCURITAS: BLACK MEDICINE

Hungarian one-man band Aetherius Obscuritas unleashes a foreboding assault with an old school black metal foundation on his fifth offering in as many years BLACK MEDICINE. This 11-track affair’s rabid death rasped wickedness contains a tasteful share of shake-ups though, implementing strokes of Pagan metal, an elegantly haunting acoustic number (“In the Wake of a Remain Footprint”) and a slew of intriguing bass lines startling to hear in this environment into the melodic melancholy to freshen up murky atmospheres in tracks like “Freezing Embrace” before chillingly dipping headlong into Norwegian and Swedish extreme metal playbooks. Solid and surprising in spurts (the cover of Running Wild’s “Black Demon” is especially left of center), this album’s greatest success lies in the seamless and organic flow pulled off by one singular being’s dedicated focus towards producing a bountiful blasts of despair with a reverence for history and a desire to explore. www.paragonrecords.orgMike SOS

JAVELINA: BEASTS AMONG SHEEP

Philadelphia foursome Javelina continues to churn out a convincingly caustic and downtroddenly discordant punk metal hybrid as shown on the eight-track BEASTS AMONG SHEEP. This grimy eight-track affair steps it up considerably in many areas but beefs up especially in the metal department, tossing around twin guitar solos in between passages of Buzzoven-esque sonic crush and hazy Sabbath-like grooves with the tenacity of Maiden as interpreted via Mastodon. Sludgy and bruising with its three-pronged vocal attack accentuating the chaotic sense of panic conveyed via the viscous wall of sound, Javelina’s full-fledged fury runs rampant on their primal and visceral sophomore effort, rendering a whiplash-inducing and sadistically satisfying experience from the underbelly of the metal realm. www.translationloss.comMike SOS

SKELETONWITCH: BREATHING THE FIRE

Brazen Ohio metal machine Skeletonwitch waste no time in setting a tumultuous tone upon their return, ruthlessly hurling 12 tracks of their bastardized blend of blackened thrash from the catacombs on BREATHING THE FIRE. This crushing quintet keeps the gas pedal pinned to the floor from start to end, accelerating with a predominant thrash gallop with dashes of death metal decadence and black metal malevolence woven in to provide an unabashed demonic spirit (“Longing for Domination”). Add in a pair of sinewy NWOBHM-esque twin guitars diabolically dialed down to ensure every inch of evil is extracted (“Where the Light Has Failed”, “Blinding Black Rage”) topped with a sinister vocal rasp that effortlessly fluctuates between high-pitched shrieks to guttural bellows to commandeer the entire affair (“Crushed Beyond Dust”), and this mammoth release specializing in melding only the most potent elements from the extreme metal spectrum demonstrates all the nefarious nuances to be considered a slab of classic modern metal. www.prostheticrecords.comMike SOS

STRUCK BY LIGHTNING: SERPENTS

Featuring former Mouth of the Architect guitarist and vocalist Gregory Lahm at the helm, SERPENTS is the 11-track introduction to the masses by Struck By Lightning, a quartet whose sound denotes a drastic difference from Lahm’s prior sprawling efforts. More in tune with early Swedish death metal and spastic hardcore punk spots on the spectrum than previous forays into psychedelic metal, think Disfear meets Mastodon when pinpointing a SBL D-beat smash and burn slugfest (“Widowmaker”, “The Watchful Eye”) while a discernibly death ‘n roll vibe can be conveyed from cuts like the rollicking “Silent and Still”. Propelled by an intriguing intensity whose firm grip tightens by the track, Struck By Lightning skillfully straddles the line between crust punk and prog metal without losing an ounce of vitriol from its abrasive bite or driving aggressiveness. www.translationloss.comMike SOS

SWALLOW THE SUN: NEW MOON

The fourth installment of gloom and doom from Finnish act Swallow the Sun conveys a bleak and glacial atmosphere where funeral doom dirges and black metal oblivion converge (“Sleepless Swans”). Presenting pain at a methodical pace, everything from the deliberately sprawling guitar progressions to the well-measured tempos (“And Heavens Cried Blood”) to the clean singing into death growling changeovers (adorned with an extra boost courtesy of some solid female vocal tradeoffs) to the custom fit keyboard overlays on NEW MOON reveal a brooding and hulking eight-track beast encapsulated in its own depressive darkness, frozen in its own oppressiveness (“Servant of Sorrow”) yet thawed out enough in spots to rage with an overpowering chill comprised of bombastic blasts of sorrowful arctic winds that compellingly blankets the barren and sunless tundra where this outfit resides (“Weight of the Dead”). www.swallowthesun.netMike SOS

MÅNEGARM: NATTVÄSEN

Swedish Viking metal unit swing the axe once again on their latest endeavor NATTVÄSEN. This authentic to the Nordic tradition (sung entirely in Swedish to further the genuine feel) nine-track offering seamlessly immerses itself into the black/pagan/folk metal template, complete with old world instrumentation (violins aplenty), a menacing vocal rasp that hammers home the joy of victory and the agony of defeat, and rousing rounds of razor sharp guitars bordering on Teutonic thrash leading this squad of warrior’s charge into the past. Despite coming off as more than slightly similar to previous releases, this sextet’s heartfelt attention to preserving heritage and their gamut-running array of grandiose metallic compositions from somber (“Bergagasten”, “Delling”) to bloodthirsty (“Draugen”) assist this disc to achieve powerful and poignant retellings of Månegarm’s customs and homeland tales that have been passed down from generations.  www.regainrecords.com -Mike SOS

KING HELL: RHYTHM AND BRUISE

Intertwining the headbanging crunch of metal with the fluid funky flow you’d find on a Parliament album (“The Living Dead”), King Hell makes quite a raucous impression on their 13-track disc RHYTHM AND BRUISE. Flanked by two co-vocalists who keep the interplay hyperactive while the durable guitar, bass and drum triad gets down and dirty with their bad selves (“Shotgun”), this unorthodox troupe is a surefire pick to raise the spirits (as well as a few eyebrows) when they hit the stage. Despite employing whimsical lyrical content and a vocal style that at the very least can be described as over the top (think David Lee Roth meets Serj Tanakian by way of Tom Jones), King Hell’s very un-PC debauchery-filled rock ‘n roll regalia can easily be dismissed as kind of a joke upon a quick first listen, yet after a few spins it becomes apparent from their metal pedigree (“Retarded Forces of Doom”) that this quintet is pretty serious about rocking your ass off while putting a smile on your face. Not for the easily offended or those without a sense of humor or rock ‘n roll sensibilities, King Hell’s cartoonish demeanor and solid chop combination make for an animated listening experience that comes off well on disc but is probably best experienced live. www.kinghellmetal.comMike SOS

DARK FUNERAL: ANGELUS EXURO PRO ETERNUS

Swedish second wave death metal squad Dark Funeral straddle the line between new age nefariousness and instinctive destruction on their latest offering, the nihilistic nine-track affair entitled ANGELUS EXURO PRO ETERNUS. Perpetually spewing venom albeit musical or vocal, this disc radiates with black-holed brutality, truly seething with an implicit hatred as if some sort of a dark force’s overbearing power guides every bestial drum blast and sordid vocal line (“The Birth of The Vampiir”). Altering tempos from broodingly atmospheric (“My Funeral”) to inhumanly fast (“The End of Human Race”) while steadfastly maintaining their sinister musical slam and evil outlook regarding the world and its inhabitants, this unit’s fifth demonic studio offering yields a sordid array of intense incantations of iniquity whose rounds of relentless savagery satisfies the loyal fan craving for depravity without overshadowing the effect of the modern touch-up techniques employed by metal juggernaut Peter Tagteren. Realistically recreating the recorded rawness of the “cave” sound with a razor sharp essence that eschews the usual uneven end results, Dark Funeral serve up a Satan-pleasing platter of malicious metal that dutifully summons demons from the abyss to scare the hell out of the unassuming. www.regainrecords.comMike SOS

SIX FEET UNDER: GRAVEYARD CLASSICS 3

Third time’s the charm, right? In the case of groove-laden death metal merchants Six Feet Under, not quite. This long-standing Florida-based unit, who actually started out as a quasi-cover band before making their brand of death metal their main focus, are no strangers to paying punishing homage to their peers, even going so far as to cover an entire album (AC/DC’s BACK IN BLACK) as part of their sinister series. So why is it that their latest installment of amped-up versions of hard rock and metal classics (insightfully entitled GRAVEYARD CLASSICS 3) sounds so trite? Possibly thanks to the trademarked one-dimensional output of lead singer Chris Barnes, whose monotone growl works in some spots yet absolutely butchers tunes by Van Halen and BTO (yes, Bachman-Turner Overdrive) past the point of reproach. Careening past novelty to crash headlong into the wall of fiery death, this disc runs solely on kitsch factor fumes from end to end despite a commendable razor-sharp production especially noticeable on their durable cover of Metallica’s  “Frayed Ends of Sanity” and a spotty but acceptable selection of songs. Can’t wait until Volume 4…perhaps another full album tribute of the incendiary Black Sabbath album of the same name? www.metalblade.net -Mike SOS

PISTOL WHIP: TERMINAL

Even though Erie, PA is approximately 325 miles away from NYC and miles further from the UK, Erie’s native sons Pistol Whip built their sound and attitude around the most notable punk rockers from the late 1970’s punk rock heyday judging by the lavish CD/DVD collection chronicling their career TERMINAL. Laden with catchy hooks led by big guitars (“Tellin You”, “Losing My Grip”) while implementing an organ into their arsenal to give tracks like “All That Jazz” and “Terminal” a gritty garage rock vibe, Pistol Whip matched the sneer of the brattiest of Brits and the flash of the most brash from across the pond while displaying the fearlessness of the CBGB’s set in their music, in turn making this 12-track potent punk rock concoction plus DVD retrospective worth a spinning for everyone from the mall punk of today to the crusty safety pin punk from days gone by. www.smogveil.comMike SOS

DEATHALIZER: IT DWELLS WITHIN

NYC metal unit Deathalizer triumphantly slams down four tracks of titanic thrash metal on the squad’s latest offering IT DWELLS WITHIN. Busting out of the gate with the kind of galloping guitars that scream 1983, if nothing else, this quartet’s breathtaking attention to detail in replicating the classic thrash metal aura is an immediate attention getter. But of course there’s more, and by Deathalizer throwing the right blend of modern metal elements such as clever pinch harmonics, metalcore vocal melodies and breakdown-esque interludes in between chunks of their hellacious homage to the Bay Area and beyond sound, this unit’s powerful metal prowess only gains momentum. Featuring a refined amalgamation of components, from a Hetfieldian roar and Hammet-like chops to Lamb of God twin guitar twists to a Testament meets Exodus by way of Death Angel rhythm section fluidity all working together to crush you into dust, Deathalizer’s authentic exposition is well-worth the time for those who live and breath by the ways of the metal. www.deathalizer.comMike SOS

IMMORTAL: ALL SHALL FALL

Reunited and it feels so evil, the mighty black metal force known as Immortal have returned after a seven-year recording slumber with the seven-track ALL SHALL FALL. Staunchly sticking to the nefarious blueprint they helped spawn while employing the slick production hand of Peter Tangtren which assists the collection’s overall mammoth sound, this seminal Norwegian unit’s glacial guitarwork and harsh vocal delivery tandem remains their most potent weapon to express their malevolent musings (“Mount North”) while the pervasive aura of mysticism and swirls through every frost-bitten riff and blustery blast beat exerted (“All Shall Fall”). While not everything clicks and clunkier moments showcase that there still a bit of rust that needs to be knocked from their spiked garbs, Immortal’s studio comeback provides a discernible share of memorable hooks (“Arctic Storm”) exuding the grim sense of grandiosity that should appease longtime followers and pique the interest of those curious to comprehend why this black metal entity’s undeniable appeal goes far beyond their kitschy promo pictures. www.nuclearblastusa.comMike SOS

LEO BIOLLO: FROM THE DEPTHS OF HELL TO THE GATES OF HEAVEN

Proving that the one-man band set-up isn’t just for black metal misanthropes anymore, Canadian metal musician Leo Biollo reveals his versatility by single-handedly playing every instrument and singing every cut off his seven-track offering FROM THE DEPTHS OF HELL TO THE GATES OF HEAVEN. Drawing heavily from thrash metal’s initial period of proliferation with hearty helpings of both progressive and traditional heavy metal abound (imagine Death meets Savatage for a rough idea), this artist’s vast understanding of metal’s dramatics and dynamics results in well-rounded cuts like “Desire to Rage” carrying a genuine atmosphere that sounds as if unearthed from a forgotten session of early Megadeth or Testament.  Bolstered by rounds of furious guitars that incorporate many different styles without losing a classic metal touch, despite the lack of a dedicated rhythm section (especially a live drummer) dragging the affair down at times, the top-notch songwriting fluctuating between forward-thinking NWOBHM and old school thrash fretboard acrobatics and tantalizing musical technicality demonstrated (“The Gates of Heaven”) more than make up for the miniscule shortcomings from Biollo’s latest endeavor. www.leobiollomusic.comMike SOS

THE RESURRECTION SORROW: HOUR OF THE WOLF MIDNIGHT DREAMS

NYC quartet The Resurrection Sorrow is a troupe of grizzled underground heavy music scene veterans who have joined forces and unleashed a monstrous 10-track debut that yields a release with a definitive stoner rock heft with an abundance of doomy hard rock rhythms woven within the molasses-esque framework. Implementing the murky and syrupy tempos derived from both the flannel and denim and leather eras of metal music (“Unholy Divine”), the hypnotic nature of the guiding larger than life riffs found in tracks like “Buried Dreams” rightfully seize control of your central nervous system while “Soul of the Soulless” stomps with a unabashed fury not unlike a blend of COC and a more subdued High on Fire. TRS rarely trade in doses of sonic battering for melody, often times fusing the two to form an accessible yet menacing bond capable of crushing everything in its path.  Resonating with the swampy and sinewy hip-shaking swagger much like Danzig, Sixty Watt Shaman, Seemless and Down (“Bloodshot Eyes n’ Soul”), The Resurrection Sorrow’s tasty guitar licks and well-measure dollops of ominous atmosphere place this band in a prime position on the path towards balls-out down and dirty metallic salvation. www.resurrectionsorrow.comMike SOS

IMPIOUS: DEATH DOMINATION

Impious add little of note to their version of the patented Swedish death metal paradigm yet this veteran squad aptly demonstrates they possess the sharpened skill to unleash a barrage of necessary destructive tendencies to render a thrashing death metal bonanza on latest 10-track offering DEATH DOMINATION (”Abomination Glorified”). Graced with blast beats aplenty and a dastardly grizzled growl leading the listener’s descent into depravity, this quintet’s faithful following of the blueprints set by their countrymen comes with little derivation barring a touch of Middle Eastern flair on “And the Empire Shall Fall”, but is highlighted by a consistent sinewy snarl whose insidious impact is most intense during the early part of the album (“The Demand”). While Impious’ acceleration pedal seems as if permanently pinned to the floor to produce a blistering experience, the album’s combination of a ferociously frantic pace with a lack of sustainable riffs and an overall by the numbers approach leaves little for the memory to retain but does pack that textbook whirling wallop that ardent supporters of the style will undoubtedly clamor over. www.metalblade.comMike SOS

MEGASUS: MEGASUS

Rhode Island metal troupe Megasus unleash an eponymous seven-track excursion that dually draws from its member’s noise rock pedigree (especially percussively) and their newfound molten sludge and doom metal crunch. Cutting their collective teeth in bands such as Lightning Bolt in the underground while working at the company that produces Guitar Hero and Rock Band by day, the superlative spirit of Black Sabbath ominously encompassed this squad to develop such a histrionic Hessian hybrid sound whose sonic thickness packs a menacing wallop whose tumultuous trembling fits rattles cavity fillings and scares small animals (“Swords”). Ditching the 9 to 5 and temporarily tossing their other musical musings to the side to live after midnight, this quartet brutalize and bludgeon with a viscous Entombed-esque guitar buzz (“Red Lottery”), ‘70s fuzz and space rock interjections, vocals that fluctuate between Slayer-like rabid battle cries grunge metal’s most wallowing tortured wails and an array of High on Fire rhythmic rumblings guiding the swampy surges (“Paladin vs. Beserker”). Megasus virtually guarantees a traditionalist’s emphatic thumbs-down by providing hearty helpings of intriguing angularity to a generally stalwart style, conversely creating a veritable lava-ridden cornucopia for open-minded modern-day doom and sludge followers to readily get immersed in (“Iron Mountain”). www.20buckspin.comMike SOS

KARNIVOOL: SOUND AWAKE

Heralded hard rock unit Karnivool may be unfamiliar to many music fans outside of their native Australia even though they’ve been on the radar for over a decade, but this exhilarating quintet’s latest offering SOUND AWAKE should change all that if there’s any justice in the world. Despite epic being the most overused and ultimately depreciated hyperbole known to man, this 11-track endeavor truly deserves the majestic moniker in every sense possible. From the soaring vocal melodies and provocative lyrics of consummate lead singer Ian Kenny to a progressive minded yet primal guitar presence swerving in and out of the versatile rhythm section’s dexterous switches between tastefully bashing skulls and commandingly developing rounds of lush atmospheres, this squad’s multi-layered musical output warrants repeat listens to absorb all of its intricacies yet contains the proper measures of arena rock enormity to equally explode with an attention-getting allure via even a casual listen.  Karnivool can lazily be compared to Tool for many reasons, as a common ground between the two can be derived from a shared menacing bass and drum assault to Kenny’s histrionic delivery sounding similar to Maynard James Keenan, but Karnivool take enough clever left turns and unexpected detours throughout the exploratory excursion to rise above the obvious and firmly stand on their own. Perfect for those who enjoy the type of bands that hold melody and dramatics in high regard while maintaining a stark balance between complexity and accessibility, SOUND AWAKE is an album that you not only can hear, but you will feel. Prepare to be blown away. www.karnivool.com.auMike SOS

SEXSTONE: THE PAINFUL SIDE OF TRUE

Industrious Kentucky rock quartet Sexstone project their predictable pop-rock predilections on the 10-track THE PAINFUL SIDE OF TRUE. Falling somewhere between the superfluous fodder of Matchbox 20 and Daughtry, you can expect a barrage of rote bar band riffing and tender middle of the road modern balladry in between a slew of heard it all before lyrical cliché clutter via songs like “The First Time”, but there’s an air of simple down-home honesty embedded in cuts the acoustically heart-wrenching “Wait for Me (Soldier’s Song)” and the tug at the heartstrings Three Doors Down-esque “Falling Away” that showcases an overall likeability that absolutely screams for mainstream radio airplay. If you dig bands like Puddle of Mudd, Fuel, or mopey rock ‘n roll on a whole, Sexstone’s latest is the perfect accompaniment album for shedding a tear in your beer to. www.sexstoneband.comMike SOS

AOSOTH: ASHES OF ANGELS

Blasphemous French black metal merchants Aosoth strike an impressive balance between haunting atmospherics and blistering ferocity on their aggressive 10-track offering ASHES OF ANGELS, retaining the classic made in a cave rawness furthering the album’s demonic texture in the process. Throwing an abundance of off-kilter dissonance predominant in much of the metal coming from France these days into their misanthropic blend of buzzing guitars and strained and sinister vocals (“Embrace and Enlightenment”, “Cries Out of Heaven”), Aosoth have comprised a formidable strand of despair and gloom that significantly stands out amongst the of corpsepainted warriors willing to perform the biddings of the lord from below. www.agoniarecords.comMike SOS

PICASTRO: BECOME SECRET

Dubbed sleep rock and chamber rock by some and Gothic folk by others, the concurring notion is no matter how you might label their music, Canadian collective Picastro display a firm handle of the intricacies necessary to dole out melancholic music as their latest nine-track affair BECOME SECRET somberly suggests. With an intriguing instrumentation consisting of mainly cello and piano with minor electronic flourishes and a notable absence of percussion guiding the listener through this ethereal unit’s perpetual gray-skied world, the bare bones moodiness renders an air of desolation that showcases a solemn dourness that creeps into your conscience and sticks in your brain long after the ghostly piano chords and eerie squeaks and squeals diminish. www.myspace.com/picastroMike SOS

FEAR REPORT: THEORY OF THREES

NYC rock troupe Fear Report resurrects the murky and anguished tones of grunge into a hard-hitting three-song sampler entitled THEORY OF THREES. Chock full of hook-ridden guitars whose homogeneous mix of gunk and gleam captures the distinguished Seattle vibe while chunky rhythms aplenty keep the attack just menacing enough to allow melody to seep through, this inspired retread goes deeper than the typical STP and Soundgarden sound-alikes, channeling the hard-edged flannel-wearing spirits of lesser-known acts like Sugartooth, Seven Mary Three, Gruntruck, and Jimmie’s Chicken Shack to recreate that unmistakable smell of teen spirit all over again. www.fearreport.comMike SOS

INFERNO: BLACK DEVOTION

Czech Republic’s Inferno dispenses a fast and furious strand of malignant black metal on BLACK DEVOTION. Bolstered by rounds of explosive percussion and an abundance of nefariously nimble fretwork, this veteran troupe’s 11-track effort adapts the design from templates set by the genre’s Norwegian forefathers with little derivation, making tracks such as ” Way to Illumination Lies in Darkness” and “Holy Poison” as close to a ‘90s black metal homage as you’ll find on today’s metal landscape. Keyboard-less and stocked with malevolent expedience, this offering offers little in the way of anything groundbreaking, but does a fine job in dutifully summoning evil from the world below. www.agoniarecords.comMike SOS

GRENDEL: CHEMICALS + CIRCUITRY

Dutch aggrotech unit Grendel return with a collection of remixes with a few new throbbing tunes strewn in on their latest endeavor, the 10-track CHEMICALS + CIRCUITRY. Exposing a more pronounced dance music feel this time around (especially via the remixes), this outfit beefs the bass up to obscene levels while keeping their trademark EBM darkness profoundly in the mix, opting to let the typical harshness subside in favor of showcasing a bevy of favorable choruses and memorable hooks that will have you throwing the PVC suit you buried deep in the recesses of the closet and strapping on the combat boots tailor-made for damage on the dancefloor on in record time. www.metropolis-records.comMike SOS

VARIOUS ARTISTS: GRIND MADNESS AT THE BBC

Earache Records cracks the vaults open to unearth an 118-track, three-disc affair taken from the archives of the live in-studio performances from some of the most destructive metal forces ever captured at their most organically raw by legendary UK syndicated host John Peel’s revolutionary radio program. Properly entitled GRIND MADNESS AT THE BCC, this meaty compilation yields a wealth of material that exemplifies the extremity of underground metal from the very roots of the genre (remember that most of this material was recorded between 1987 and 1990). From the surgical strike apparent in early Carcass to the mechanized chill brought on by Godflesh to the unabashed ferocity wielded by classic Napalm Death lineups to the death metal tumult of Bolt Thrower to the punkish anarchy implemented into blistering bits of speed championed by Extreme Noise Terror and the lesser-known UK-bred Heresy, this colossal collection fuses the furious fragments and punishing portions of an bygone era together to form a sturdy cross-section of incendiary heaviness that still packs the primal power to severely injure anyone at any given time. Rendering a veritable template from which bands still turn to today for inspiration and influence, GRIND MADNESS AT THE BBC is an essential release crafted with the unique aural needs of fans of the envelope-pushing early days of metal primarily in mind. www.earache.comMike 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!