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metal music reviews (new releases)

RAGE Seasons of the Black

Album · 2017 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.20 | 6 ratings
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Rage have been kicking around for an eternity releasing their debut album Reign Of Fear back in 1986. They’ve also been on my radar for almost as long with albums like Black in Mind particularly impressing me but for some reason I’ve never actually bought much by them. There’s a few of their albums on my ridiculously long Amazon wishlist but there always seems to be something that takes precedence and there they stay.

Seasons Of The Black is studio album number twenty two if my maths is correct. If you know Rage then you’ll know what to expect here – Power metal injected with thrash and traditional touches. Probably because they’re old school they manage to a large extent to avoid the cheesy clichés and excesses of much European power metal which is fine with me. SOTB has a smoother production than their last album, 2016’s The Devil Strikes Again and whilst not totally absent they’ve reigned in the thrash elements here. It’s good for sure but not great as a whole and they’ve certainly done better. It has great moments though like opener Season Of The Black which pelts along at a fair pace with some strong riffs and hooks. In fact it’s the faster stuff that works best for me like the thrashier Walk Among The Dead and All We Know Is Not. The biggest problem with SOTB is that nothing after the opener really grabs me in a big way until Walk Among The Dead. Songs like Time Will Tell and Septic Bite whilst not bad by any stretch leave no strong lasting impression. Nevertheless it can be very good at times. Apart from the previously mentioned highlights songs like Justify impress with strong melodies and Bloodshed In Paradise packs plenty of punch. There’s also a bonus six tracks available on the vinyl and digipak versions and songs like Faster Than Hell are better than some that made the final cut so if you’re buying I’d recommend getting one of these versions.

There’s too many gaps in my knowledge of Rage’s albums to start talking about where SOTB sits in terms of their best. What I can say though is despite my previous reservations the strong moments impressed me enough to buy it so that’s got to be thumbs up.

HAMFERÐ Tamsins Likam

Album · 2018 · Funeral Doom Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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I’ve only just discovered Faroese doom metal band Hamferð. Their first album Evst released in 2013 having totally passed me by. Still, better late than never and I’m certainly glad to have caught up with them now as Tamsins Likam is the best album I’ve heard in the doom realm for quite some time.

Tamsins Likam is part three of a trilogy that began with their 2010 EP Vilst Er Siðsta Fet. It’s the story of a man who’s racked with guilt over the fate of his family. The story however goes backwards, starting with his death on the EP. Evst was the run up to his death and Tamsins Likam goes back to an earlier time where he and his wife are dealing with the loss of a child. You’ll have to take my word for this however as all the lyrics are sung in Faroese.

Funeral doom is a genre that I generally can only take in small doses despite enjoying work from Evoken, Shape Of Despair and Ahab in particular. The deathly slow tempos wear a bit thin with me after a while and it can sometimes come across as a little one dimensional with little room for variation despite many bands injecting atmospheric and mellower moments between the crushingly heavy riffs. Whilst Hamferð take funeral doom as a starting point, there is more to them than this. Sure there’s the expected doom drenched guitar riffs but drummer Remi Johannesen has a musicality not often seen in the genre amongst drummers with some inventive patterns shaping the song structures. I know very little about the Faroe Islands other than it’s around 200 miles north of the top end of Scotland, but through their music they manage to convey a feeling of cold stark beauty echoing my impression of the place, or what I imagine it to be anyway. This gives their music a unique flavour making them stand out from the doom crowd.

The album kicks off with Fylgisflog in a very understated way. Sparse guitar work and Jón Aldará’s clean mournful vocals take centre stage until it explodes into more familiar doom territory with Aldará using growls for the heavier sections. The music has a cinematic feel for want of a better way of putting it, aided by atmospheric keyboard work, with big riffs displaying a melodic sensibility with much musical tension present. There’s a beauty in this music that in a way reminds me of the way Opeth used to do it in their metal days – the way they could inject beauty in and around the most heavy riffs. Don’t mistake this for thinking they sound like Opeth though but you could say Hamferð are to doom what Opeth were to death metal. This sets the scene for much of the album with quiet restraint juxtaposed against the heavier sections. An exception is the death doom of Hon Syndrast which sounds huge from start to finish with some imaginative chord progressions, riffs and time changes making for a totally captivating listen and is perhaps my favourite of the entire album.

Tamsins Likam is a complete masterpiece of metal and I was so impressed I immediately ordered their last album Evst and plan on doing likewise with their first EP shortly. So early in the year yet I can already declare with confidence that this will be one of the best albums I’ll hear in 2018.

WATAIN Trident Wolf Eclipse

Album · 2018 · Black Metal
Cover art 4.45 | 2 ratings
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It’s been five years since Watain last released an album. The Wild Hunt divided opinion with many praising the growth of the band, which to be honest was nothing new and has been an ongoing thing since Rabid Death’s Curse. Others thought it a band aiming for a more accessible sound and losing something along the way. It was certainly epic and sprawling at over an hour in length and a big production sound certainly made it easier on the ears than many black metal albums. Whatever, I think it was the equal of anything they’d previously done in the past and joint contender with Lawless Darkness as my favourite from the band.

Forward to Trident Wolf Eclipse and on the face of it, it’s a little perplexing. This is certainly no Wild Hunt part 2. In many respects it seems like a backwards step. Immediately apparent is the raw production, more akin to earlier work and the songs don’t waste any time getting into their stride. One after another they’re in, do their business and bugger off. The one two salvo of Nuclear Alchemy and sacred Damnation is ferocious, both maintaining a frantic pace, as does most of the album. The recognisable Watain chord progressions remain intact however. You won’t mistake this for anyone else, even if Erik Danielsson’s rasp wasn’t there to give the game away. Thankfully the songwriting is excellent and consistent with each song needing little time to ingratiate itself, in part down to them cutting off all the flab. Likewise the musicianship, with the band operating like a well-oiled machine which when you’ve been at this game as long as they have is to be expected. Missing from my vinyl copy is the closing instrumental Antikrists Mirakel but it’s none the worse for it as it plods along somewhat aimlessly, even detracting from the flow of the album to an extent.

Trident Wolf Eclipse at this point in time isn’t my favourite Watain album but it’s damn good nevertheless and a great way to kick the year off. Where they go from here is anyone’s guess but like all the best bands they won’t be bowing to fan expectations I’m pretty sure. Let’s not wait another five years though hey guys.

EVILFEAST Elegies of the Stellar Wind

Album · 2017 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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It's been quite a while since the release of Wintermoon Enchantment (2011), the last full-length release by Polish atmospheric black metal solo project Evilfeast. Although there's been both an EP and a demo in the meantime, musician GrimSpirit has emerged back in full force at the tail end of 2017 with Elegies of the Stellar Wind, an album that may just upset any established lists of the best black metal releases of the year once you hear it.

Comprised solely of long songs (the shortest is over eight minutes) with no messing around with separate intros, interludes or outros, Elegies of the Stellar Wind is clearly written with being immersive in mind and it's very effective in succeeding at that. This is the kind of atmospheric black metal record where it's almost like a paradox against what metal music is usually about, featuring traditional raw and cold riff work that often merely serves to lay the groundwork for an even colder ambience (actually the first thing you'll hear when the album kicks off with The Second Baptism... Shores in Fire and Ice), to do its thing.

There are plenty of parts where the ambient elements are withdrawn and the focus is purely on the raw riffs and growling vocals of course (which every so often are switched to clean singing, which features prominently when used, especially in the final track Inclinata Resurgit... Rebirth of My Noble Dark Kingdom), such immediately following the ambient introduction of the opener. The album's certainly at its best and most majestic when the two worlds combine though. I'm reminded of a mix of the likes of Striborg and the raw yet atmospheric sound heard on albums such as Autumnal Melancholy (2008) and Midnight Odyssey through the majestic ambient parts such as on the Shards of Silver Fade (2015) album.

While the extremely raw sound of the album may prove a detriment to all but the most fervent of black metal listener, to those among us who appreciate the style that Elegies of the Stellar Wind delivers the record is quick to establish itself as being something special. The mood captures both the winter season that the album was released in while also giving off some dark, medieval vibes. It's enough to be drawn in straight away, then keeps hold of my attention throughout, despite the considerable total length of 67:24 minutes. The first listen can easily be spent just revelling in all the fine details coming off the synths that it's only on the next go around that an appreciation starts to form for the real old school black metal guitar riffs that GrimSpirit has crafted. I usually prefer my black metal to sound a bit less fuzzy than this, but I have to admit that anything more would throw the combine atmosphere of guitars and synths off kilter. It's a delicate thing to balance, but one which is handled to perfection here.

It may not be pretty or polished, yet Elegies of the Stellar Wind resonates high up on the levels of creativity. It's an excellent release and even surprising work that despite it's late year release has quickly cracked my black metal top five for the year. It's because of that late in the year release date that I nearly missed it in time to include it in my annual best of year list. That would have been a shame, so don't make the same mistake I almost did.

NIGHT VIPER Exterminator

Album · 2017 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.50 | 3 ratings
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Sweden. As far as metal goes it's probably best known for its death metal, a lot of it of the melodic death variety, especially the Gothenburg scene. It's also got a strong heritage in both black metal and doom metal through acts such as Dissection and Katatonia respectively, among others. What it's less known for it's it's output of classic heavy metal bands, especially in the eighties. There's Heavy Load who are likely the best known band unless one counts the more hard rock chart bothering Europe, the neoclassical metal virtuoso Yngwie J. Malmsteen or the relocated Oz (who are Finnish), Swedish heavy metal in the eighties is mostly made up of lesser known acts who you're most likely to have only heard of if you either A) are Swedish or B) have extensively researched the scene.

In spite of this, Sweden does keep turning out modern bands that fly the flag for traditional metal, old school sound included. So arguably the country actually has a better heavy metal scene now than it ever did, which in times where modern traditional albums continually get overlooked in favour of their eighties counterparts is quite something. Night Viper, a female fronted act who released their self-titled debut album in 2015, is the latest of these to come my attention and they've really got me excited about what their country has to offer the heavy metal genre. Exterminator (2017), is their second full-length effort.

If you've previously heard the Night Viper self-titled effort, then it will be quickly apparent when Exterminator kicks off with No Escape that the band have had a little bit of a shift in sound in the couple of years since the first album's release. They're still playing old school heavy metal with a nice, crisp production sound that really highlights the riffs, but it's been tempered with an often pronounced edge of speed metal or thrash metal, depending on the song. This starts off right away with some speed metal references in No Escape, but is most prominent in the following track, the short but powerful Summon the Dead, which is the closest the album comes to having a full on thrash metal song. These additional influences give Night Viper's material a faster and more aggressive edge than traditional heavy metal usually has, while still being more about classic galloping rhythms.

Starting with Never Win we start to hear some more straight heavy metal from the band like that found on their debut, which while not as hard hitting is still just as satisfying work. Following this we hear the speed/thrash edge again in tracks such as the Exterminator title track, Ashes, Lady Bad Luck and All That Remains, while the rest is more classic old school heavy metal. Regardless of whether the song in question has this or not though, the one thing that's uniform across the album is the band's growth as instrumentalists. They come across as a real tight unit across the board, while vocalist Sofie-Lee Johansson has a strong melodic voice that carries the songs well; making them easy to follow and to keep the choruses going around in your head.

Whether the speed/thrash metal edge heard on and off on Exterminator is an indication that Night Viper is evolving more towards that kind of sound remains to be seen – the kind of thing that will only be answerable with the hindsight of time and another release from the band – but one thing's for sure: they've delivered a heavy metal highlight of 2017 in this one. Exterminator is the kind of release that's fun to listen to and doesn't inflict anything that a metalhead of any taste shouldn't want to hear: if you like heavy metal, you should like this album. And if you don't like this album, then I'll have to presume you don't like heavy metal.

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Album · 1989 · Glam Metal
Cover art 3.10 | 8 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
Coming from Boston, USA, the funk glam metal band EXTREME formed from the ashes of several other bands imploding before they barely got started. Gary Cherone (vocals) and Paul Geary (drums) from a band called The Dream, Pat Badger (bass) from a band called In The Pink and guitarist Nuno Buttencourt coming from Sinful. Once the four hooked up and began writing songs, the chemistry was complete and quickly caught attention in the live circuit of the Boston region. While forming in 1985 it only took a year to win the Boston Music Awards in both 86 and 87. This caught the attention of A&M Records turned PolyGram in 1988 and soon thereafter the band was signed and released their eponymous debut album catching the wave of the 80s alternative funk metal scene coupled with a glam appearance.

Despite the attempts to pigeonhole EXTREME into any sort of categorization however they were actually quite distinct from other bands of the day with their tracks consisting of catchy Van Halen-esque guitar riffs accompanied by funky syncopated counterpoints. Nuno Betterncourt was a particular developed guitarist offering super fast and technically advanced guitar soloing much in the vein of Eddie Van Halen. These guitar antics are most pronounced on “Mutha (Don’t Wanna Go To School Today)” and the track “Play With Me” the latter of which took parts of Mozart’s “Rondo Alla Turca in A minor” as the intro and outro with a sizzling classical infused solo in the middle. “Play With Me” track was featured in the films “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” and “Jury Duty” which helped get the band some greater national attention. Also, Gary Cherone had a deep voice sounding a lot like Paul Stanley of KISS and the band also employed three-part harmonies especially on the slower ballady tracks such as “Watching, Waiting” and “Rock A Bye Bye.”
 While exhibiting a funk metal approach to the compositions, EXTREME comfortably fit in the glam metal scene as well with the standard gaudy hairspray and stretch pants of the day but mainly with the catchy pop hooks wrapped up in heavy rock riffing and extended soloing. On this debut album the band was still struggling to shed their influences which despite having a fairly unique sound still has plenty of sections that sound like they would fit right off a Van Halen or Queen album. The band also displays their love of genre jumping with not only classic heavy rock but the more subdued slower tracks as well but nothing near the more expansive free reign of their second album “Pornograffiti.” The album enjoyed moderate success selling over 300,000 albums with the help of the singles “Little Girls,” “Kid Ego,” "Mutha (Don't Wanna Go To School Today)" and "Play With Me" which found airplay on MTV and select radio play.

EXTREME is a fairly pleasant album to experience. The musicians are all tight with Nuno Bettencourt showing a highly developed sense of melodic virtuosity beyond the standard of the day. The tracks have an innocent playfulness to them as they are all associated with childhood experiences and the rhythms are not only catchy but have a bouncy carefree delivery save the two slower tracks. This debut album is actually a pretty accomplished recording but there a few issues i have with it. First of all the production is a little lackluster and sounds a bit too thin as if it was released on an MP3 before they existed. Secondly the band tends to try too hard to be other bands on any given track and a unifying chemistry hadn’t quite gelled yet as they were still getting their feet wet. All in all, EXTREME is a decent debut for a band that had a larger musical palette than most of their contemporaries. This debut was successful in garnering enough attention that would allow their followup to break them into the mainstream.

WITH HONOR This Is Our Revenge

Album · 2005 · Hardcore and crust
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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Vim Fuego
Dismissing With Honor as just another straight edge hardcore band would be a mistake. Their sound is straight from the old school and their message takes precedence over image. Besides, there's very little on `This Is Our Revenge' which could be considered typical straight edge anyway.

Musically, there's nothing here which hasn't been done thousands of times before, but damn it, these guys are tight, and well-performed hardcore is as powerful now as it has ever been. The band aren't afraid to experiment a little either, something which doesn't often happen in this genre. The guitars on "Bottoms Up" have an almost metal tuning, and the song is reminiscent of Poison Idea. Furthermore, the acoustic introduction to "You Always Said" is a nice touch of subtlety.

Vocalist Todd Mackey is turbo charged fury personified but he does have a few variations he can pull out. He's not just a one-dimensional shouter, actually being able to hold a tune or lighten the mood when needed, and he performs a moody spoken section on "Plot Two" to great effect. "20 Strong", a lighthearted song about touring, is more tuneful, sung in almost a So-Cal punk vein. Almost...

The lyrics are quite a change from the genre's norm, for once not targetting the "evils" of drugs, drink and meat, or wittering on about unity and "the scene". Mackey's message seems to be about how modern life is detached from reality, with messed up priorities making people more concerned with the trivial than the important, but the lyrics are such that the ultimate interpretation is up to the listener.

This isn't going to be to everyone's liking, but it's not meant to be. Bands like this make music for themselves and their close-knit fans without compromise, and if you don't like it, that's your problem.

DEAR SUPERSTAR Confessions Of A Twisted Mind

Album · 2006 · Metalcore
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Vim Fuego
There was a time, believe it or not, when the first thing someone wanting to play in a rock band did was to go out and actually learn how to play an instrument. Dear Superstar do the decadence and excess thing, but unlike many a hairspray rock pretender, these guys earned the privilege first.

If you like hearing guitars being shredded, but without the heavy metal attitude, you can't go far past "Sunset Strip Suicide". The title and lyrics might be straight out of mid-'80s LA, but it doesn't have the posture or pose of yet another Mötley Crüe tribute song, because guitarists Rockhurst and McNasty can actually play. The song also has a delicious drunken swagger to it.

Sure, impressive licks and high tensile hooks are good, but are merely decorations if there is no medium in which to express them. Well, Dear Superstar do songs too. There's not a hint of filler anywhere. The title track drives like Guns N' Roses at their best. "Falling Apart" is a hard edged power ballad, and yes, you guessed it, a girl is the cause of the troubles. The main recurring riff to "Break Up" sounds like Eddie Van Halen playing a cameo, but the rest of the song is surprisingly more like One Minute Silence, vocals included.

Vocalist Micky Satiar has the occasional shouty emo lapse, but then redeems himself with moments of pure Zodiac Mindwarp-style theatre, minus the unintentional self-parody. In other words, he can sing and doesn't sound like a big girl doing it. Satiar shows a fairly diverse range. OK, so he's no Mike Patton, but he does melodic, clean, emotion-charged, rapped, shouted, whispered and roared. It often sounds like the band has more than one singer, but it is just the single larger-than-life personality in the spotlight.

If you're sick of bands promising much and then delivering fuck all because of lack of ability or attitude, Dear Superstar could well save a lot of disappointment. Try other bands first, by all means, but do yourself a favour and check these guys out soon.

RIOT Rock City

Album · 1977 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.53 | 11 ratings
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"Shine, shine on, Warrior."

Exploding onto the quickly growing metal scene in 1977, Riot unleashed the first taste of their high octane traditional metal with their debut Rock City. By this time, heavy metal was evolving out of it's development stages, and into a second wave of bands that propelled the genre into the 80's and into a more focused sound. So along with Judas Priest, Scorpions, Motorhead, and Heavy Load, Riot brought heavy metal into a truly "traditional" sound.

Already Riot feels very comfortable in their own sound, as this debut is not far off from the band's legendary classics like Narita and Fire Down Under. Influences from Sweet's heavy metal moments can be heard, as well as some more hard rock leaning moments reminiscent of bands like Led Zeppelin and UFO. Overall though, it can easily be compared to what Judas Priest would be doing on Killing Machine just a year later.

The album opens right up with a one-two punch of "Desperation" and "Warrior", which have everything that's great about late 70's metal. The title track follows with a more hard rock sound, though the solo is pure metal all the way. "Angel" and "Heart of Fire" are a couple more high energy bursts of classic metal, especially the latter. It just explodes right out the door, and has an absolutely driving main riff that pulses with energy. While it's close with that song, the best on the album would probably have to go to "Overdrive", which has such a massive drum sound that makes it impossible to not stomp your foot.

Something that I absolutely love about the first three Riot albums, is how much personality there is. A lot of that personality comes from Guy Speranza's vocals. He has such a unique voice and has the perfect combination of metal attitude and beautiful melody. The closest comparison I can make is James Young of Styx, who sang on the band's heaviest tracks. "Overdrive" and "Heart of Fire" have that great heavy metal attitude blended with wonderful melodies, while "Gypsy Queen" has one of the most beautiful melodies in 70's metal.

Like with many debuts, Riot's is another one that has gone underrated. Ignore the atrocious cover art, and get ready for a ride of awesome classic metal that screams of personality. It's a great start to a fantastic career. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!


Album · 1974 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.40 | 28 ratings
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It's crazy to believe that this uninspiring release would spawn one of the most iconic and legendary rock bands in history. Though, what Kiss would lack in memorable hits they certainly made up for in marketability. Admittedly, I've always had a soft spot for the band. In fact, it was their 'Destroyer' album that changed the life of 12 year-old me back in 1999 when it introduced me to rock music. So going back to the bands early albums has sadly failed to live up to expectations.

Not that there really were any expectations to begin with, mind you. Kiss have always had a penchant for dumb, womanizing, sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll anthems, but their biggest trait has always been their image and their ability to sell products. Especially when their early albums were as lacklustre as this one.

Featuring ten tracks that top in at 35 minutes, 'Kiss' is a very raw release that is very straight forward and to the point. Songs about women, partying, drinking and more partying is the name of the game, but none of these songs are as noteworthy as the groups later material.

If I had to be generous, 'Strutter', 'Cold Gin' and 'Let Me Know' are alright, but pale in comparison to albums like 'Destroyer', 'Love Gun' and 'Creatures of the Night', and considering a lot of the other rock bands that were around in 1974, it's not hard to imagine where this band would be right now if not for their iconic face paint and stage shows.

Still, it's Kiss. How can you be mad at them?

ANTHRAX Fistful Of Metal

Album · 1984 · Speed Metal
Cover art 3.37 | 36 ratings
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I like Anthrax. I really do. In fact, I feel somewhat bad for them, as they've always seemed like the ginger stepchild of what's known as the Big Four of thrash metal (including Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer), but like so many early thrash bands, their debut album is fairly unremarkable, with a lack of finesse being evident in their naive and unpolished song writing.

And I know, this is thrash metal, right? What am I expecting? But like all their contemporaries, their later material shows a huge maturity and growth which their earliest releases lack. Such is the case with Anthrax's debut, 'Fistful of Metal'. Although the album starts off well, it quickly loses whatever charm is has as repetition and a lack of any real creativity sinks in.

While guitarists Scott Ian and Dan Spitz have an immediate chemistry, and drummer Charlie Benante proves himself as one of metals most underrated stickmen, it's vocalist Neil Turbin who's performance fails the band. I find his vocals grating, mostly resorting to high pitched wailing that shows a good range, but something about it just annoys the hell out of me.

Still, songs like 'Deathrider', 'Metal Thrashing Mad' and a cover of Alice Cooper's 'I'm Eighteen' salvage this record, and makes it my second favourite of the Big Four's debut albums (Metallica's 'Kill 'Em All' being the best of the bunch). But like so many bands from that era, their best material is yet to come, and earlier releases such as this will soon be left in the shadows.

LATEXXX TEENS Moloko & Ultra-Violence

EP · 2006 · Industrial Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Vim Fuego
Are you missing the Marilyn Manson of old, instead of the increasingly bland and commercial automaton he's been replaced with? Do you lament at Rob Zombie's neglect of his music career in favour of dodgy horror movies? Love the teeny-Goth image of the Murderdolls and Cradle Of Filth? If you said yes to all three of these, bad luck - your life is pathetic. Um, you might just like this CD though. `Moloko And Ultraviolence' is a fairly standard but fun mishmash of electro/dance/rock and comic book Gothic image, simple as that. It's not going to reinvent the wheel or change the world as we know it, but you can dance to it.

Latexxx Teens seem to be able to out-Manson Marilyn Manson with ease. The dance beats are suitably bouncy, the guitars so drowned in effects as to be almost synthetic, and the bass throbbing. But the best thing about Latexxx Teens' sound is the simple little fact they know how to create memorable, fun songs. Try not singing along to a rousing chorus of "United Shits of America!" Try not headbanging to the great riff of "Maschine Zeit".

Lex Kaos is a strong vocalist, almost sounding like Atari Teenage Riot's Alec Empire, minus a genuinely venomous edge. He's a little hard to understand at times, perhaps because the whole band is Italian, and he's singing in English, but that matters little. The lyrics are reasonably good plays on words, and hey, the kids will love it!

`Moloko And Ultraviolence' is not a release for brain surgeons or great philosophers of our time. It's just good, dumb non-pretentious fun. Turn it up loud on a Sunday morning to scare off the Jehovah's Witnesses.

COHEED AND CAMBRIA Good Apollo I'm Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness

Album · 2005 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.30 | 42 ratings
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Looking back at many reviews, it seems like this album is mostly getting an okay rep, but I think this album deserves 5 stars. I don't say that often at all, and I will explain just what led me to my decision.

Initially, actually, I didn't think much of the album. With each listen though, the album grew on me. While I'm sure that this album will disappear amongst my music list in the next month or so, every listen since I tried it 2 weeks ago has bounced this album to its essential ranking.

After my first listen, I was happy to give the album 3 stars as it really didn't do anything for me. However, by the 2nd listen and the 3rd listen, I was noticing epics such as the 4-part "The Willing Well" and the energy-filled "Welcome Home."

Then, by my 4th and 5th listen I was really digging more and more songs from the album. Particularly, "Always and Never" held high replay value for me. It reminded me of a short preview to Steven Wilson's song "Pariah." They both just felt like they should've been longer, but they weren't so I found myself replaying them over and over!

My 5th listen was mostly for the lyrics. The story seems exaggerated but valuable, though I'm partial as to whether I should buy the parallel graphic novels.

Finally, my next few 6th, 7th, and 8th listens were just really fun. The album isn't all that technical and it is very poppy. They move through concepts quickly, and all-in-all it makes the album very fun to listen to when looking for something to bounce around to. Very worth trying out!

OVERKILL Under The Influence

Album · 1988 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.03 | 36 ratings
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Combining tight songwriting, straight-for-the-throat thrash aggression, and emotive lyrics taking a frank look at various issues, Overkill's Under the Influence stands out from the 80s thrash crowd less for its originality (there were a lot of bands throwing together similar elements at the time) and more for its execution.

Sure, it's hardly the only album taking this approach from this era, but Overkill seem to have an extra bit of grit that much of the competition don't have. By the standards of their later discography it also feels slightly more light-hearted than some of their later works - take Drunken Wisdom, for instance (which also seems to have a somewhat more grown-up and balanced take on alcohol consumption than was typical for thrashers of the era - everyone knows someone who's a total bore when they're drunk, and the song's a great takedown of such a person). An early highlight of their career.

YOUR CREATION The Line Ends Here

Album · 2006 · Hardcore and crust
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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Vim Fuego
You know immediately what you're dealing with when you first pick up Your Creation's latest album. 'The Line Ends Here' is hardcore, through and through.

Forget any melodic metalcore pretensions, knocking out third-rate At The Gates impressions. When I say hardcore, I mean hardcore. There's no room for melody with this much testosterone and adrenaline. Vocalist Lance Slaney seems to be in constant danger of bursting all the veins in his neck, like Henry Rollins at full fury. The guitars grind and roar in that ever familiar sub-death metal manner. Drummer Ricky Boam hits hard and loud with no time for messing about with fancy fills.

This is what Hatebreed would be like if Hatebreed ever bothered to do something even remotely interesting. The formulaic song structures which often dog this style of hardcore are conspicuous by their absence. Sure, there are breakdowns, but they don't always arrive where you think they might. "What Matters Most" has a staggering staccato passage mid-song which would probably confuse the average mosh pit. Your Creation also understand the value of varied tempos, rather than just sticking to the tried-and-true mid-pace chug. There's the odd experimental moment too, with unusual instrumentation or discordant riffs, which is not quite in the league of Candiria or Shai Hulud, but adds an extra dimension.

The songs include the obligatory salutes to the scene and the lifestyle, but what would a hardcore album be without those? If you're into hardcore, you already know the score, and songs about dragons, cannibal zombies and Satan's undies wouldn't fit anyway.

Metalcore fans will struggle with this, because it's too much core and not enough "metal", but that's just too bad. Your Creation aren't the sort of band to alter their style to suit anyone but themselves. Expect to lose teeth and break bones if you ever see these guys live.

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