Monthly Archives: September 2010

Review: James LaBrie – Static Impulse [2010]

When it came down to previewing the most recent solo release from Dream Theater frontman James LaBrie, my expectations were fairly low, not in the pits but they were definitely below average.  However, upon first listen it is instantly apparent that LaBrie has done something very special here.  Static Impulse is comprised of 12 blistering gems, each of them an absolute killer.

Here’s the refreshing kicker: this album is not at all taxing on the listener.  In fact, it is a refreshing departure from the progressive style of 8-minute plus cuts.  I have always been a huge fan of Dream Theater but sometimes it takes an incredible amount of patience to get through their material.  And sometimes you are just not in the right frame of mind, nor have the time for that style.

Static Impulse is different. Most of the tracks here last between 4 and 5 minutes.  Furthermore, they are thrashy, heavy, and extremely catchy.  There is a fantastic contrast orchestrated by the split vocal style featuring LaBrie’s melodic perfection and drummer Peter Wildoers’ massive screams.

From the hard-charging thrashfest, “One More Time,” this album never lets down its guard.  The riffs really will blow your head off.  Even the ballads aren’t ashamed to finish extra hard (“Just Watch Me”).  LaBrie’s vocal performance is topnotch, while his lyrics are solid, interesting, and fluid.

Guitarist Marco Sfogli is an amazing talent offering some nasty chops.  His style is similar to Petrucci but much heavier.  If you don’t already know him from 2005’s Elements of Persuasion then you better be on the lookout for this one.  He is a demon.

Wildoer is a total madman behind the drumkit while longtime LaBrie collaborator Matt Guillory tackles the keys diligently.

You will not find a better LaBrie album than Static Impulse.  He assembled one hell of an army and he sounds better than ever.  This record destroys.

James LaBrie is James Labrie (Vocals), Marco Sfogli (Guitars), Ray Riendeau (Bass), Matt Guillory (Keyboards), & Peter Wildoer (Drums/Vocals).

Track Listing:

  1. “One More Time”
  2. “Jeckyll Or Hyde”
  3. “Mislead”
  4. “Euphoric”
  5. “Over The Edge”
  6. “I Need You”
  7. “Who You Think I Am”
  8. “I Tried”
  9. “Just Watch Me”
  10. “This Is War”
  11. “Superstar”
  12. “Coming Home”

Review: Martians From Uranus – More Dead Than Alive [2010]

For those looking for a tight rock and roll band with a sound punk rock framework and a soft spot for zombie love affairs, then look no further than New York rockers’ Martians From Uranus.  MFU’s sound on their newest disc More Dead Than Alive can best be described as an intoxicating concoction of Elvis Presley, The Ramones, and Social Distortion.

Like traditional rock bands, MFU understands the value and beauty of simplicity.  On “Zombie Love” the refrain, “I’m just a fool, just a fool for you” might as well be playing on a jukebox in an ice cream parlor circa 1957.  Once you factor in the protopunk era of the mid-70s and today’s modern rock scene, you get MFU.

The highlight of this studio/live split disc is a tune by the name of “Wreckin’ Ball,” a lyrically endowed number featuring layered lead vocals, swift guitar hooks, and a malted percussive groove.

“Lee Edwards” offers a catchy refrain in the line “everybody’s watching me,” as well as diligent lead guitars, with a straightforward eighth-note rhythmic backbone.

Other notables from MFU include the anthemic opener “Less Than Zero,” the scuttle buttin’ “Wipe That Face Off,” and a lively rendition of Presley’s “Suspicious Minds.”

MFU is a rad rock and roll band that has been around since their 2002 debut Addictions.  Their music was even featured in HBO’s Sex And The City.  They have underwent several transformations over the years leading to their current and best reinvention yet.  Check out More Dead Than Alive to hear for yourself.

Track Listing:

  1. “Less Than Zero”
  2. Wreckin’ Ball”
  3. “Zombie Love”
  4. “Lee Edwards”
  5. “Wipe That Face Off”
  6. “She’s Alright (Live)”
  7. “Wanna Be Loved (Live)” Johnny Thunder and the Heartbreakers cover
  8. “Goin’ Down (Live)”
  9. “I Don’t Care (Live)”
  10. “Suspicious Minds/Burma Shave (Live)” Elvis Presley cover/Roger Miller cover

Review: Methods of Mayhem – A Public Disservice Announcement [2010]

There was one very cold winter day in 2001 that left me very angry and upset.  Some low-life hooligan had busted into my station wagon (don’t laugh, if you are poor and in a band, it works) at college and taken my massive CD booklet.  There were a lot of lost soldiers that day, but one of the biggest tragedies was the debut disc from Methods of Mayhem.

Since the release of that album on December 7, 1999, Tommy Lee has kept the mayhem at rest opting for many Mötley Crüe tours, a couple solo records, and Rockstar Supernova (a great CBS show that is still in need of a new season).  Waiting for the right idea and the right time, Lee held out until 2010 before finally delivering A Public Disservice Announcement.

Working alongside longtime collaborative producer Scott Humphrey, Lee asked rockers worldwide to upload demos to thepublicrecord.com for possible use on the new record.  The songs, or parts of songs, that Humphrey and Lee liked made the cut.

The result of this innovative recording style is overall positive.  There are basically three types of tracks: the pop-rockers (along the lines of Sugar Ray), heavy modern rockers (think Papa Roach), and the industrialists (somewhere between NIN and Prince).

“Fight Song” is the most aggressive of the lot and represents Lee’s heaviest work in years, at least since 2002’s Never A Dull Moment.  The two songs that stick in the listener’s head more than any other are single “Time Bomb” and the infectious ballad “Louder.”  “Blame,” another enjoyable ballad could have easily fit on Tommyland: The Ride.

If you can recall Lee’s 2002 cover of David Bowie’s “Fame,” there was a certain percussive bass guitar sound. Humphrey employs that same sound on “Talk Me Off the Ledge,” a riff-heavy frenzy that also consists of Middle-Eastern lead tones.

There are some decent guitar solos on this joint.  In addition to “Talk Me Off The Ledge,” “Only One” features an above-average extended solo break.

“Drunk Uncle Pete,” the opening track, is a funny Smash Mouth-type song that is partly reminiscent of Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag.”  In other words, this is the catchy one that will get stuck in your head all day.

“Back To Before” begins like something off of The Who’s Quadrophenia (cool!), then morphs into some sort of cross between Fergie and Coldplay (ewww).

One of the more bizarre concoctions of the bunch is “All I wanna Do.”  On first listen, I almost pulled over to the side of the road to do the “Batdance.” Please play this one with caution.

The worst of the lot is the closing waste-of-space, “Party Instructions,” containing Nintendo-like sounds, artificial beats, and DJ scratches.  However, I am sure it would obtain a decent ranking on DJ Pauly D’s scale of good music.  I think it just drags on too long.

Considering the method of recording, the cutting and pasting of diverse user-submitted material, the album flows very well.  While there are some wild transitions, the transitions are very smooth for the most part.  I have not listened to Methods of Mayhem since my CD’s were robbed in 2001, so I am happy to say that A Public Disservice Announcement is a pleasurable listening experience and well worth the wait.  Although there are some awkward moments, the finer songs make them easy to ignore.

Track Listing:

  1. “Drunk Uncle Pete”
  2. “Time Bomb”
  3. “Louder”
  4. “Fight Song”
  5. “Blame”
  6. “2 Ways”
  7. “Talk Me Off The Ledge”
  8. “Only One”
  9. “All I Wanna Do”
  10. “Back To Before”
  11. “Party Instructions”

Review: Santana – Guitar Heaven [2010]

After many years, guitar legend Carlos Santana has finally released something interesting.  Guitar Heaven features covers of twelve classic-rock gems, ranging from The Beatles to Def Leppard.  Each tune contains a different guest singer; some bad ass (Chris Cornell, Scott Weiland), some lame (Nas, Rob Thomas). Here’s the deal:

Each of Santana’s renditions are infused with a fresh energy and a hint of Latin flair.  However, the sickest track you will find on this effort is “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” featuring Stone Temple Pilots’ Scott Weiland.  It is a very noble effort, as this Rolling Stones classic has such an insane groove.  There are very few songs throughout the history of mankind that have reached this astronomical level of rock.  Santana and Weiland managed to do this tune justice.

Jacoby Shaddix of Papa Roach does an excellent job leading Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” and Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell delivers a blistering performance, opening the album with an aggressive version of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.”

Train’s Pat Monahan belts out surprisingly decent David Lee Roth vocals on Van Halen’s “Dance The Night Away.”  Perhaps Eddie can pick this guy up the next time Roth leaves.

With all of the new-school names of rock singing lead, it is very cool that the talent of Joe Cocker from the old school appears to tear up Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing.”

Who would have ever thought that The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm” would sound much better with a Latin groove? Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington lends his voice, pulling it off mainly because of the low-key spoken vocals.  Whenever I have seen Linkin Park live (about five times between 2000 and 2003), he never sounded that great on the more taxing tunes so this was a good song choice.

“Back In Black” featuring Nas is whack.  The beauty of the original riff is assaulted and Nas’ rap vocals are insulting to Brian Johnson’s masterful gut growls.  The backup singers during the chorus sound great and Carlos does tear it up in the solos, but they are his own creation.  Was he too lazy to learn the joy that is Angus Young?

Gavin Rossdale does his Bushy thing on T-Rex’s “Bang a Gong,” but Santanas leads become far too irritating and monotonous.

Even though Rob Thomas and Santana have had great success on their collaborations over the years, “Sunshine of Your Love” lacks some of the electricity I was expecting on a cover like this.  Another disappointment is the rendition of The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” which is a top-ten all-time great.  Santana’s lead guitars again become very irritating forcing the track to drag on.

It is great to see that Santana is releasing some cool material.  I was not expecting for this legend to pique my interest ever again.  With lively interpretations of songs that are more relevant than ever in the Guitar Hero age, Guitar Heaven will keep fans engaged for a few days.  However, due to the butchering of AC/DC and The Beatles, these short-comings take this effort down a couple notches.

Track Listing:

  1. “Whole Lotta Love”
  2. “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking”
  3. “Sunshine of Your Love”
  4. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”
  5. “Photograph”
  6. “Back in Black”
  7. “Riders On The Storm”
  8. “Smoke On The Water”
  9. “Dance The Night Away”
  10. “Little Wing”
  11. “I Ain’t Superstitious”

Review: Avenged Sevenfold – Nightmare [2010]

Over the last decade or so, we have all witnessed the rise of Avenged Sevenfold.  While worshiped by suburban teenagers worldwide, this is one of those bands that has only caused me immense frustration—that is until now.

Coming fully loaded with insanely talented guitarists and a tight rhythm section, it has always made me wonder: why in the hell would they recruit such an awful singer to lead this army?  In all honesty, M. Shadows is not that bad, but compared to the musicianship of Synyster Gates (Lead Guitar) and Zacky Vengeance (Rhythm Guitar), there seems to be a lack of balance in talent, fueling a massive disequilibrium en route to their compositional mastery.

With the death of drummer The Rev, Avenged Sevenfold hired Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater (who has since quit Dream Theater because of this…err), literally one of the true all-time greats. One would think that this would throw M. Shadows even further out of his league.  However, on the latest Avenged Sevenfold album, Nightmare, M. Shadows owns the mic, killing it, proving that he can stand up and lead this beast.

It is no secret that this band puts on a sick live show. However, on previous releases that live vibe was hardly existent.  Nightmare finally offers that energy which past records have been missing.  This is partly due to none-other than M. Shadows.  On some tracks, he’s an absolute animal and on others, he channels his inner Axl Rose (it may be “Chinese Democracy” Axl, but still Axl nonetheless).

The lead guitars on the slower tracks throw out a Slash vibe (a “November Rain” Slash vibe), while the leads on the faster tunes are worthy enough to stand next to Mustaine and classic Maiden.  Portnoy’s influence can be distinctly heard in several spots, especially the expanded tom fills.  But then again, Portnoy was a huge influence on The Rev, making this transition very fluid.

Nightmare is one of the better albums of the year, as it contains the best studio material from Avenged Sevenfold to date.  This is one that you will still be banging a year from now.

Avenged Sevenfold is M. Shadows (Vocals), Synyster Gates (Guitars), Zacky Vengeance (Guitars), Johnny Christ (Bass), The Rev (Drums), & Mike Portnoy (Drums).

Track Listing:

  1. “Nightmare”
  2. “Welcome To The Family”
  3. “Danger Line”
  4. “Buried Alive”
  5. “Natural Born Killer”
  6. “So far Away”
  7. “God Hates Us”
  8. “Victim”
  9. “Tonight The World Dies”
  10. “Fiction”
  11. “Save Me”

Nza’s Review: Weezer – Hurley [2010]

I remember a time when I had to wait many, many, many years for a new Weezer album.  Nowadays, between Rivers releasing solo records and new Weezer discs, fans of the nerd rock misfits have no worries.  Hurley has been released less than 11 months since Weezer’s last, Raditude, and its pretty much a continuation of that.  It could work for them or it may not, that’s your call.  For me, Hurley is not a terrible effort but it really lacks any growth or compositional maturity.
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“Memories” is everything that Red Albums’ “Heart Songs” should have been.  Oozing with bubblegum pop that makes your teeth hurt.  It supplies you with a sing along chorus (featuring a gang vocal by the Jackass crew headed by Johnny Knoxville) and a 1-2-3 pop verse that makes it nearly impossible not to bop up and down.  “Ruling Me” is a Blue Album b-side at best, a decent tune.  “Where’s My Sex?” was inspired by Rivers’ daughter asking her daddy where her socks are—kind of cute and bizarre at the same time—sounds like part Cars and part Jesus and Mary Chain. Sweet mandolin and backing vocals from Michael Cera (Juno/Arrested Development/Nick&Nora) make “Hang On” a standout track and another singalong.  Steady backbone by Scott Shriner and Pat Wilson are always a given with Weezer, while melodic backing vocals, solid guitar and key make Brian Bell irreplaceable.
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Two versions of Hurley are available: Standard and Deluxe with 4 extra songs including the World Cup anthem “Represent!”
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Perhaps next time around, Rivers can write the material all by himself and see what comes up.  The last few he has gotten some help.  Not that I dont like what I hear but switch it up again, or revert back to old formula that made Weezer who they were.  It’s been a long while since the glory days of Pinkerton Nza
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Weezer is Rivers Cuomo (Vocals/Guitar), Brian Bell (Guitars/Vocals), Scot Shriner (Bass/Vocals), & Pat Wilson (Drums/Vocals).
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Track Listing:
  1. “Memories”
  2. “Ruling Me”
  3. “Trainwrecks”
  4. “Unspoken”
  5. “Where’s My Sex?”
  6. “Run Away”
  7. “Hang On”
  8. “Smart Girls”
  9. “Brave New World”
  10. “Time Flies”

Review: Apocalyptica – 7th Symphomy [2010]

I remember strolling the CD aisles of Nobody Beats The Wiz at the local mall in high school like it was yesterday.   Every Saturday I would stop to pick up Apocalyptica Plays Metallica By Four Cellos.  First I would chuckle, mumble “uh that’s interesting,” then put it back on the rack to only repeat the same process the next week.  This is why I find it so interesting that Apocalyptica has become such a legitimate and well-respected international heavy metal act.  Now on their seventh studio album, aptly titled 7th Symphony, the band continues to show that they are much more than a one-disc folly.

The Finnish wizards of the cello have certainly evolved since their Metallica tribute, enlisting the aid of some of rocks most relevant frontmen:  Corey Taylor of Slipknot, Cristinia Scabbia of Lacuna Coil, and Till Lindemann of Rammstein.  And let’s not forget the invincible drumming by Dave Lombardo of Slayer.

7th Symphony plays much the same way as the band’s recent records by offering vocals by four more prominent vocalists including Joe Duplantier of Gojira, Gavin Rossdale of Bush, Lacey Mosley of Flyleaf, and Brent Smith of Shinedown.  Almost needless to say, Duplantier is the clear victorious destroyer of the bunch; however, Rossdale’s vocal performance on “End of Me” is also pretty sick.

“Broken Pieces” featuring Mosley could pass for any of the Flyleaf singles that have been released in the past.

The rest of the songs are instrumental performances.  The opening “At The Gates of Manala” is a harrowing journey through the Finnish underworld or realm of the dead.  Agonizing string work dons the seven-minute trek over a fiery river of death.

“Rage of Poseidon” is a jittery thrash frenzy lasting nearly nine minutes while “On The Rooftop With Quasimodo” gushes with progressive melody. Lombardo delivers a thunderous onslaught of his own on “2010,” with his rapid footwork.

For those that download the disc from iTunes, the band offers a really chill cover of Black Sabbath’s “Spiral Architect” which is iPod worthy.

7th Symphony is another metal victory for the cellists of doom.  It is the perfect mix of mainstream rock diligence and progressive competence to engage all heavy listeners.

Apocalyptica is Perttu Kivilaakso (Cello/Additional Vocals), Paavo Lötjönen (Cello/Additional Vocals), Mikko Sirén (Drums/Additional vocals, & Eicca Toppinen (Cello/Additional Vocals).

Track Listing:

  1. “At The Gates of Manala”
  2. “End of Me”
  3. “Not Strong Enough”
  4. “2010”
  5. “Beautiful”
  6. “Broken Pieces”
  7. “On The Rooftop with Quasimodo”
  8. “Bring Them To Life”
  9. “Sacra”
  10. “Rage of Poseidon”

Review: Filter – The Trouble With Angels [2010]

First off I’d like to tell you about my Empire Strikes Back pop-up book that I got in 1980.  It was amazing; not only easy to read for a two year old, but it also included a mighty Hoth Wompa, Master Yoda, or Lord Vader all jumping out of the book with almost every flick of the page.

Thirty years later, it seems like every other album I open this year (last month Nonpoint, this month Filter) contains some sort of cardboard pop-up. Why did it take three decades for 3D-style technology to catch on? Frankly, I’m bored of the idea by now. You hear me James Cameron? You were three decades too late!

Filter’s latest record comes packaged with a blue pop-up booklet, which doesn’t impress me much either; doesn’t come close to Lando Calrissian flying the Millenium Falcon.  As far as the disc’s content is concerned, Filter does offer a few cool modern rock tunes on their latest release The Trouble With Angels. The best being “The Inevitable Relapse” and most pleasant being “Fades Like A Photograph (Dead Angel).”

One thing is for sure, all the songs sound very familiar which seems to be part of Filter’s appeal.  You get catchy programming and Richard Patrick’s dragged out “YEAHHHHH!” on many of the tunes.  He does a damn fine job at it.  You can almost equate it to that funny sound that Disturbed’s David Draiman makes on every single song.

Some of the tunes on The Trouble With Angels seem to blend into one another, while the track “No Re-Entry” stands out more than others in terms of careful composition.

Going back to the pop-up art work; Filter did a much better job than Nonpoint’s Miracle because Filter had the decency to offer a sleeve so the disc does not screw up the consistency of your CD rack—Good looking out Filter.

This disc definitely stands up to their previously released work. If you were a Filter fan before, then it would be foolish to say that this disc accomplishes anything different than earlier releases Short Bus or Title of Record.

Filter is Robert Patrick (Vocals/Guitars/Programming), Mitchell Marlow (Guitar), John Spiker (Bass/Programming), & Mika Fineo (Drums).

Track Listing:

  1. “The Inevitable Relapse”
  2. “Drug Boy”
  3. “Absentee Father”
  4. “No Love”
  5. “No Re-Entry”
  6. “Down with Me”
  7. “Catch a Falling Knife”
  8. “The Trouble with Angels”
  9. “Clouds”
  10. “Fades Like a Photograph (Dead Angel)”

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

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.

Review Brief: The Sword – Warp Riders [2010]

I have always found it very difficult to dislike The Sword.  They always take me back to the good times of the mid-90s when there were so many blistering riff-assaults from the likes of Corrosion of Conformity, Monster Magnet, and Kyuss.  The Sword is one of the few bands today that keep the flame alive. Warp Riders is a Sci-Fi concept album that rips, tears, and grooves.  You know, it makes you proud to represent the metal flag.  If I was in a band, it would sound a lot like these guys—very heavy yet very chill.