Category Archives: SOS Metal Update

SOS Metal Reviews: Accept “Blood of the Nations,” Bonded By Blood “Exiled To Earth,” The Acacia Strain “Workwood,” And More…

ACCEPT: BLOOD OF THE NATIONS

German metal masters Accept return with BLOOD OF THE NATIONS, a 12-track album that displays this Teutonic unit’s classic loud and fast dynamic with some discernible twists. This disc (the band’s first studio offering in 14 years), brings on some major changes in the lineup for starters, as former TT Quick singer Mark Tornillo replaces the mighty Udo behind the microphone while Herman Frank returns to the fold to reform one of metal’s most underrated twin guitar tandems alongside the blistering six-string blitzkrieg of Wolf Hoffman (“No Shelter”, “Rollin’ Thunder”). Despite these massive shakeups and the decade-plus long studio layoff, Accept sounds as determined and rejuvenated as ever, retaining their vintage musical bite while exhibiting a hard rock snarl that finds Tornillo formidably projecting an Udo-like presence while interjecting slices of his vocal personality into Accept’s tried and true slabs of concrete hard rock seasoned with the contagious songwriting that puts this troupe squarely in the annals of metal history. This disc truly has everything a fan would want in a comeback album and more, as the changes the band endured allows them a greater range for the music to develop and organically venture into unseen territory while never getting in the way of the band’s patented classic gang vocal choruses (“New World Comin’”), stomping style (“Beat the Bastards”) or underlying mission to deliver the most heartfelt and hard rocking traditional metal excursion possible with a potent and polished metallic punch giving this band a solid second wind. www.nuclearblastusa.com -Mike SOS

CHAMBERS: OLD LOVE

New Jersey quintet Chambers kick out the jams with a spirited old school rock ‘n roll swagger and a fierce hardcore sensibility on their raw 11-track affair OLD LOVE. Striking down with bountiful arrays of pit stomping rhythms and razor sharp riffs while displaying an infectious sing a long quality that lies somewhere between Sick of it All, American Nightmare, AC/DC, and The Bronx (“Old Love”, “Take My Juice”), Chambers proudly maintains the unremorseful and honest approach of yesteryear’s hardcore punk while opting to abrasively apply a slash and burn attitude to a batch of seething compositions with an inescapably vitriolic vocal delivery unfettered by excess. Chambers is far from innovative yet they stay cranked to the max without fail, exhibiting a relentless sheer sonic force that gets the job done. www.myspace.com/chambersrock -Mike SOS

KOZELJNIK: DEEPER THE FALL

Serbian black metal unit Kozeljnik projects a consistent stream of mid tempo bleakness on DEEPER THE FALL, the latest six-track effort by the recently paired down duo. Exerting disdain with vengeful wrath via a set of meandering old school tinged black metal compositions, Kozeljnik sticks a bit too close to the blackened playbook for the more demanding yet reveal the propensity to explode with a flurry of fury when needed, dynamically dispersing rage with rapid fire drums and discontenting downtuned guitar runs. Applying influence from the likes of Mayhem, Celtic Frost, and Immortal to develop a reliably glacial blend of black metal, Kozeljnik meshes in lush string arrangements and modern atmospheric elements for pizzazz yet the squad’s drawn-out song structures require modest amounts of patience in order to get to the points of interest, derailing the meat and potatoes music’s intended maliciousness. www.paragonrecords.com -Mike SOS

DELAIN: LUCIDITY

Re-releasing their first album with extra tracks, Dutch female-fronted symphonic power metal act Delain present LUCIDITY to those who missed this formulaic yet fierce unit’s amalgamation of soaring Gothic rock and metal while offering longtime fans bonus material to savor featuring acoustic renditions of tracks from the album, with “See Me in Shadow” standing out in particular. Bolstered with sufficient dollops of melancholic piano and heartstring tugging falsetto vocals, the reintroduction of Delain’s debut disc offers a graceful and grandiose metallic experience catering especially to followers of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Leave’s Eyes. www.lasersedge.com -Mike SOS

BONDED BY BLOOD: EXILED TO EARTH

Thrash revivalists Bonded by Blood return with a conceptual sophomore album entitled EXILED TO EARTH. This California quintet once again makes no bones about their influences, as ‘80s thrash is the order of the day for these metal mavens, referencing everyone from Testament and Kreator to Vio-lence and Overkill throughout this blatantly brazen 11-track retread while an alien versus human sci-fi storyline is set to the band’s borrowed backdrop of frenzied guitars, thunderous drums, and high pitched vocal sneers. Showcasing a particular affinity for early Exodus (from whom the band derives its name from), songs like “Sector 87” and “Prison Planet” could be mistaken for cleaned-up outtakes of Baloff-era material with its tantalizing twin guitar work while tracks like the title cut melds Megadeth with Forbidden and “Genetic Encryption” gives props to modern day Slayer with its dastardly riffing and mighty percussion work. While their rapid-fire interpretations are far from original, Bonded by Blood does a fine job in shaking up their thrash metal concoction to produce a palatable offering that produces a solid listen for those concerned with nothing besides banging their head. www.earache.com -Mike SOS

VOTUM: METAFICTION

It is plain to notice within the first few minutes of near 10-minute opener “Falling Dream” that Polish progressive metal troupe Votum leaned on the obvious suspects for inspiration while crafting the atmospheric sounds heard on their latest seven-track affair METAFICTION. Nonetheless, possessing the adroit ability to retain intensity without fully shifting into overdrive is a trait not so easy to pull off, and this sextet comfortably nestles in where boundary lines between Opeth, Porcupine Tree, and Karnivool intersect, fusing soaring guitar lines and haunting synths with hypnotic tribal rhythms bathed in melancholy to emanate a morose yet majestic feel. Chock full of breathy vocals with a sense of danger lurking underneath bursts of knotty musicianship, Votum’s softer stance assuredly showcases the band’s elegant style yet rambles through waves of psychedelic rock too often for anyone who would enjoy Votum’s music to make sense of the multifaceted direction. www.eagelrockent.com -Mike SOS

THE BROUGHT LOW: THIRD RECORD

Renowned NYC power trio The Brought Low have returned after a five-year studio hiatus to unleash a bare bones rock ‘n roll record with the fittingly no frills title of THIRD RECORD. Infusing jolting surges of Southern rock hospitality into gritty blues-rock paradigms peppered with twang of country is what this band specializes in and truly delivers in spades here  (“Slow Your Roll”, “Old Century”), yet songs like the acoustic stomp “A Thousand Miles Away” and the somber shuffle “Last Man Alive” strips the usually thick and meaty band’s sound down considerably but still manages to come off as cranked to 11.  Fusing a Black Crowes-esque smoothness, a stoner rock swagger and a majestic ‘70s hard rock rumble, this nine-track record is lean, mean, and bad to the bone and rocks with refreshing efficiency and a rolled-up sleeves sense of organic intensity that screams retro in all the right ways. www.smallstone.com -Mike SOS

THE TONY DANZA TAP DANCE EXTRAVAGANZA: DANZA III: THE SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS

Tennessee’s favorite grinding math metal mavens The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza return after a major lineup overhaul with a 12-track face melting affair entitled DANZA III: THE SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS. Melding punishing rhythmic blasts with skronky shrills, nasty shards of dissonance and brutal palm muted riffs galore courtesy of a shining guitar performance (“Hour of the Time”), this disc displays an unrelenting modern metal aggressiveness yielding no shortage of pit moving tunes for the kids to go insane to (“W.A.L.L.S.”, “The Lost and Damned”) while alternatively offering technical metal followers a bevy of abrasive off-kilter arrangements to swoon over (“Suicide’s Best Friend”). This pulverizing album allows TTDTDE to usurp the deathcore circle and turn it upside down with their dauntingly daring and dastardly songwriting, gaggles of gargantuan grooves, and devastating low-end bitterness spearheading this unsung squad’s callous aural assault. www.blackmarketactivities.com -Mike SOS

THE ACACIA STRAIN: WORMWOOD

The Acacia Strain demonstrates a blunt and belligerent melding of modern brutality and metallic melody on the polarizing quartet’s latest endeavor WORMWOOD. Earning their ominous deathcore stripes once again with a bevy of volatile nuances exploding like neutron bombs throughout the duration of the disc yet not entirely entrenched within the redundancy of it all to lean completely toward a full-on deathcore assault, Vincent Bennett and company provide minor shakeups within their sonically crushing rage-filled rants, throwing in some Meshuggah-esque odd time signatures and a hint of Crowbar-like nihilism to illicit response from beyond the normal demographic but still make enough room for their patented bombastic breakdowns and punishing low-end wallop to keep the misanthropic Hot Topic folks satisfied. www.prostheticrecords.com -Mike SOS

ARMAGEDDA: I AM

Defunct Swedish black metal duo Armagedda raided the vaults and unearthed four malice-laden tracks in the process, entitling the discovery I AM. This seething affair displays a welcomed minimal production value (it was made between 2000 and 2001 after all) with a bevy of fierce compositions created to be performed by a band with the unadulterated raw black metal spirit that this tandem expounds. Harsh and haunting at times, Armagedda’s excavation yields a fruitful experience for those who tread the darker end of the metal spectrum with a penchant for a primal blast of black metal evisceration. www.nordvisproducktion.com -Mike SOS

KARMA NEVER FORGIVES: CORRUPT STATE

New Jersey troupe Karma Never Forgives is a grizzled quintet featuring members from such bands as Bulldoze and Agents of Man whose multi-faceted hardcore assault employs a number of styles as shown on the three-song sampler CORRUPT STATE. Discernible tough guy influences wrestles with a progressive Snapcase-esque edge throughout while catchy choruses display dance floor potential with threads of modern melodic metalcore, developing a sound that falls somewhere in the middle of Freya and Madball. Karma Never Forgives embraces broadening their musical approach while incorporating a decisively metallic influence but retaining a hardcore songwriting style, resulting in a jarring and compact shot of infectious aggression. www.myspace.com/karmaneverforgets -Mike SOS

BLOOD OF KINGU: SUN IN THE HOUSE OF THE SCORPION

Misanthropic Ukranian unit Blood of Kingu unleash a belligerent yet atmospheric black metal onslaught with discernible similarities towards the pioneers of the genre on the seven-track SUN IN THE HOUSE OF THE SCORPION. Meshing elements of exploratory doom and drone with harsh screams and cavernous riffs sounding as if captured from underneath the core of the earth, this troupe also implements ample rounds of velocity and seething levels of scorn into its songs to recreate the threatening sense of dread usually reserved for its Norwegian forefathers while bleak buzzsaw guitars, glacial tempo shifts, and lush instrumentation intertwine to conjure a creepy yet chaotic feel that lingers throughout the duration of the album. www.candlelightrecordsusa.com -Mike SOS

KING GIANT: SOUTHERN DARKNESS

Washington DC/Virginia based bruisers King Giant deploy dollops of down and dirty southern stoner rock on the quintet’s aptly titled 10-track album SOUTHERN DARKNESS. Despite this band drawing inspiration from a more than obvious set of influences spanning everyone from Godsmack and Volbeat to Black Sabbath and Danzig, their ornery adaptations of standard sludge and doom metal melodies reveal the band to be much more than a mere offshoot of the many faces of Wino combined with some COC and Clutch thrown in for good measure. King Giant finds a fair share of back alleys and shortcuts to venture in within a bevy of wah-wah solos and downtrodden rhythms which assist them in gliding through a gritty mix of grunge, sludge, and space rock drenched in whiskey with threatening dark clouds constantly hovering overhead. www.kinggiant.com -Mike SOS

WHAT REMAINS: LOST WONDERLAND

Female fronted modern rock quintet What Remains exhibit a cut above mix of vocal-driven melodic hard rock on their five-track EP LOST WONDERLAND. Taking cues from the likes of Evanescence, Flyleaf, and Lacuna Coil on how to deliver poignant rock with potent vocal power, this NYC squad employs thick walls of guitars with tasty fills and skilled rhythmic strikes that keeps the pace brisk while adroitly balancing moods between heavy and fragile (“Unwanted”). Veering into familiar territories while hitting with a supercharged modern rock attack assisted by punchy songwriting techniques, What Remains displays a panache for creating engaging music laden with hooks with its fair share of bite. www.whatremainsnyc.com -Mike SOS

PROGHMA-C: BAR-DO TRAVEL

The output from Polish quartet Proghma-C emits a complex style of heaviness that intertwines divergent influences and off-kilter sounds to form the eclectic 10-track offering labeled BAR-DO TRAVEL. Demonstrating the versatility to disperse both paint peeling polyrhythmic blasts and airy ambient soundscapes (usually entrenched within the same song) while proudly showcasing the Tool and Meshuggah brandings making it all possible in plain sight, this act’s ambitious endeavor runs on fumes at times and leans a bit too much on the side of the aforementioned to be considered wholly original yet backs its claim of substantial idol worship with enough downtempo elements a la Katatonia and a rash of forward-thinking synth-induced twists and turns to alter the overall mood, ultimately setting this band aside from being castoff as just another retread in the endless line of bands emulating metal’s most daring artists. www.eaglerockent.com -Mike SOS

HEATHEN FORAY: THE PASSAGE

Austrian metal unit Heathen Foray (not to be confused with the British band of the same name) unleashes an aggressive assault suitable for any wayfaring minstrel or nomadic warrior to rock out to on their debut 10-track disc THE PASSAGE. Straddling the line between melodic death and folk metal, this clan does an sufficient job of hammering home the undeniable gallop necessary to conquer lands by (“Winterking”, “Dragon’s Eyes”) while exhibiting the propensity to rip out soaring solos over dastardly death growls (“Chants”), yet fall a bit short by sounding a bit too formulaic to get past the point of cohesiveness and break through the mold, though a few tasty guitar riffs found here do instill some hope (“Fortress of Faith”). www.black-bards.de -Mike SOS

BORIS/IAN ASTBURY: BXI

The teaming of Japanese experimental doom metal merchants Boris and The Cult’s lead singer Ian Astbury seems like a very disparate pairing any way you slice it, yet a four-song EP entitled BXI demonstrates an organic shot of mystical rock as only this colossal collaboration can deliver, but take heed fans Boris fans; this release bears little from their exploratory side. In fact, it’s almost as if Boris stepped into custom made leather pants from the SONIC TEMPLE era for this one, as this unit renowned for their unpredictability obliges to this notoriously cavernous crooner’s strengths and readily kowtows to basic tempos and direct structures sans a round of breathy vocals by Boris guitarist Wata on the trippy cover of The Cult’s “Rain”. Adapting Astbury’s murky hip shaking rock ‘n roll swagger into their gameplan to produce sweeping rock anthems with scattered traces of the ambience you’d expect, this disc displays Astbury at his most wistful in a long time and Boris at their most restrained by choice and still light years ahead of most. www.southernlord.com -Mike SOS

MOTH EATER: THE THUNDER GOD OF MONSTER ISLAND

Doom-laden sludge metal quartet Moth Eater have cut their teeth in acts such as Dirty Rig and Scar Culture, yet their newly-formed unit takes a decisively darker tone and employs a foreboding pace as heard on THE THUNDER GOD OF MONSTER ISLAND. Merging the down tempo fury of Eyehategod with the quirky metallic firepower of early Clutch, this foursome churns out deliberate dollops of snarling vocals, rumbling bass, and nimble fretwork without losing the intent to obliterate everything in its path, creating an ominous sound drenched in metallic lava spewed from the core of the volcano. Showcasing three original tunes and a delectable downtuned cover of “Rockin’ in Ma Business” by unsung rock troupe The Four Horsemen, Moth Eater produce a volatile entity geared to melt faces and break spirits. www.motheaternyc.com -Mike SOS

WARFEAR: 4 LEFT DEAD

Underground NY grindcore quartet Warfear showcase the capacity to whip up chaos at the drop of a dime on latest six-track offering 4 LEFT DEAD, an album chock full of splattercore splendor and crust metal cacophony drizzled with d-beat delights. This sordid affair is noisy, abrasive, offensive, and downright nasty from the phlegm-riddled screams plaguing the entire disc to this outfit’s punishing blend of face-ripping quickness and suffocating heaviness consistently jabbing into your cranium until you have no choice but to submit. While their modern hardcore nuances come off a bit undercooked and a tad cliché, Warfear’s overall presentation exhibits a know how of what violent music should sound like, yielding a fast and furious joyride straight to hell. www.myspace.com/warfear -Mike SOS

SOLACE: AD

New Jersey stoner doom metal quintet Solace have experienced an inordinate share of hardships during their decade-plus career, going through drummers quicker than Spinal Tap while enduring unexpected hiatuses, serious medical situations, and lineup rearranging, yet this unit’s unsurpassed perseverance with a shred of good fortune has rewarded this hexed crew with a sensational sinewy nine-track offering entitled AD. From the persistent streams of blistering twin guitar to the ominous Black Sabbath shadow cast over the entire collection of tracks (especially vocally), this disc willfully wallows in sludgy recesses of the hard rock continuum with a Monster Magnet-esque warble, a hardcore backbone, streams of grizzled melodies, and a thick and plodding bottom end keeping the atmosphere brooding while leading their sojourn through the haze. Seven years between albums is an eternity especially in today’s rapid-pace world, yet Solace took their time, assembled the proper band, and created a mammoth multi-faceted stoner metal tour de force full of the molten riffs and dynamic compositions that demand attention and deserve respect in the process. www.smallstone.com -Mike SOS

HELL WITHIN: GOD GRANT ME VENGEANCE

Massachusetts-based quintet Hell Within tenaciously tows the metalcore line on their latest 11-track endeavor GOD GRANT ME VENGEANCE. Armed with a well executed assault that deviates from genre expectations and a paint by numbers formula just enough to warrant repeated listens for subtle guitar changes and undeniably catchy Swedish metal jumpoffs (“Lament for the Fallen”), this seasoned troupe’s metallic mixed bag takes equal parts from fellow statesmen Shadows Fall, Unearth (“Assembly of the Locusts”), Diecast (“Remnants of a Failed Creation”) and Killswitch Engage to concoct a durable yet predictable outpouring of emotional heaviness chock full of a much maligned yet utterly resilient sweet chorus and knuckle-dragging breakdown one two punch. www.thorprecords.com -Mike SOS

MASTER: THE HUMAN MACHINE

Veteran trio Master maximize their two-decade long experience to craft a nefarious and downright nasty slab of extreme metal on their tenth studio offering THE HUMAN MACHINE. This unit’s brazen 10-track affair champions the technical side of brutal music much like Death with a crusty D-beat demeanor and tons of thrash metal nuances peppered into a relentless and deliberate old school death metal assault. Throw in a distinct vocal style whose venomous demonic rasp bolsters the music’s overall impact and never sounds less than crushing, and this Midwest meets Eastern European squad strikes a balance that never wears its welcome out or merely rehashes prior glories without any decisive progression, resulting in a multifaceted face-melting rampage that fans of classic bands like Obituary and Celtic Frost as well as folks that dig the likes of High on Fire and Lair of the Minotaur will have little problem getting into. www.pulverisedrecords.net -Mike SOS

SARAH JEZEBEL: DEVA A SIGN OF THE SUBLIME

Sarah Jezebel Deva steps out of the background for her debut solo effort entitled A SIGN OF THE SUBLIME, providing a moderate departure from Deva’s lauded Goth metal repertoire. Best known for her work with Cradle of Filth, the bombast associated with this singer’s usual work is still very much a part of the program here (“The Devil’s Opera”), yet songs like “Daddy’s Not Coming Home” and an authentic cover of the very non-metal Meredith Brooks song “Bitch” allow Deva to spread her wings and display other influences with her commanding vocal sweetness in full effect (“They Called Her Lady Tyranny”). Exhibiting an eclectic array of styles built around a convincing Goth rock foundation thanks to a solid collection of musicians behind her that skillfully succeed in finding the comfort zones to nestle between Deva’s past projects, fans of Lacuna Coil and Nightwish should embrace this disc wholeheartedly. www.candlelightrecordsusa.com -Mike SOS

THE FUNERAL PYRE: VULTURES AT DAWN

American black metal mavens The Funeral Pyre have created a malicious yet misguided eight-track collection entitled VULTURES AT DAWN. Drawing from both traditional genre philosophies and darkened modern progressive thought for inspiration while opting for a raw and ruthless sound drowned in drone and dipped in depravity (“To Watch the Earth Rot”), The Funeral Pyre’s shifting stylistic stance seems to be lacking something between their glacially sprawling atmospherics and blistering black metal battering to properly link the entities together and make the most of their monstrous presence. Yet when the evil outfit fires at full capacity and settles into a singular destructive vision, a shot heart-pounding creepiness with unadulterated metallic mayhem much like a blast of Nordic disdain ensues as the dread-laden end result (“Blistered Hands”). www.prostheticrecords.com -Mike SOS

TRIGGER THE BLOODSHED: DEGENERATE

UK quintet Trigger the Bloodshed effectively employs a simpler streamlined approach to their strand of technical death metal on the eight-track effort DEGENERATE. Chock full of a malevolent mix of belligerent growls with a massive sonic musical crush, songs like “Dead Vein” comes off as a well designed merciless beast while “The Soulful Dead” condenses punchy riffs with face-ripping percussion to create a wallop mired in sheer brutality sans the typical trappings most bands in their realm fall towards. Solid guitar runs and an attention to song arrangements also assist this album’s overall intensity while raising the bar on the unit’s bludgeoning aggressive tendencies (“A Sterile Existence”), in turn making a focused and ferocious modern death metal album worth seeking out. www.candelightrecordsusa.com -Mike SOS

HAWKWIND: BLOOD OF THE EARTH

UK psychedelic rock pioneers Hawkwind epitomize the never say die spirit of rock ‘n roll, as this legendary troupe continues to boldly go where no man has gone before in their musical travels after 40 years as documented on this outfit’s latest journey through sound BLOOD OF THE EARTH. Leader Dave Brock may be pushing 70, yet this resilient artist and associates still push musical boundaries by doing what this act has been doing since 1969, building alternate universes with a blend of synths, guitars, and studio wizardry to create galactic soundscapes that radiate an unmistakable cosmic glow with an impenetrable rock ‘n roll soul at the core of it all. Even though this disc lags at times and demonstrates a lack of an earthbound focus even by this lauded unit’s standards, plenty of moments where the listener can tune in, turn up, and embrace their inner space cadet can be found on Hawkwind’s latest exploratory offering to appease the rabid follower as well as serve as an ample introduction to this prolific band’s work. www.hawkwind.com -Mike SOS

QUEST OF AIDANCE: DARK ARE THE SKIES AT HAND

Swedish metal mavens Quest of Aidance have produced a six-song near 15-minute EP inspired by the PREDATOR movie series entitled DARK ARE THE SKIES AT HAND. Armed with a punishing death metal sensibility with a grindcore-esque sense of brevity, the first three songs of the affair are pure Swedish meets British extreme metal savage indications that this band means business despite their odd choice of subject matter. The band then takes an ill-advised left turn into Hollywood sound effects and movie soundtrack land that disappointingly eats up a majority of the album’s running time before redeeming themselves with a crushingly blunt closing tune that puts things back on track. A focus on less frills and more kills would have made this a must-have, but given the limited scope Quest of Aidance chose to work with, this disc provides a short subtle shock to the system. www.pulverizedrecords.net -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: 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.

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

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…

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…

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…

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…

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.com -Mike 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.com -Mike 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.com -Mike 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.com -Mike 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.com -Mike 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.com -Mike 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.com -Mike 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.com -Mike 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.com -Mike 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.com -Mike 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.net -Mike 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.com -Mike 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.com -Mike 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.com -Mike 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.com -Mike 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.net -Mike 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.com -Mike 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.com -Mike 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.com -Mike 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.org -Mike 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.com -Mike 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/socialstandardz -Mike 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.com -Mike 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.com -Mike 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/killcode -Mike 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.com -Mike 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.com -Mike 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.com -Mike 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/atrocitysolution666 -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: Baroness "Blue Record," Skeletonwitch "Breathing The Fire," Manegarm, and more…

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.com -Mike 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.org -Mike 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.com -Mike 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.com -Mike 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.com -Mike 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.net -Mike 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.com -Mike 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.com -Mike 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.com -Mike 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.com -Mike 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.com -Mike 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.com -Mike 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.com -Mike 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.com -Mike 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.com -Mike 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.au -Mike 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.com -Mike 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.com -Mike 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/picastro -Mike 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.com -Mike 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.com -Mike 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.com -Mike 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.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!

SOS Metal Reviews: Nile "Those Whom The Gods Detest," Scar Symmetry, Slayer, and more…

NILE: THOSE WHOM THE GODS DETEST

Those Whom The Gods Detest is the sixth studio endeavor from South Carolina’s technical death metal mavens Nile. Blisteringly brutal as previous works while maintaining the band’s trademarked Middle Eastern influence both lyrically and musically, Nile’s flurries of dastardly twin guitars and consistently jaw-dropping percussion work remain the envy of every death metal outfit, as this band’s inimitable prowess raises the bar of extreme metal once again for other bands to try and attain (“Kem Khefa Kheshef”). Fortifying their colossal attack on the cranium by interjecting smatterings of memorable vocal lines that you will surprisingly find yourself shouting in the shower (“Kafir”) while implementing a fair share of dynamic downshifts and mid tempo chugging riffs into their ruthless arsenal to assist listeners to latch on a bit easier than before (“4th Arra of Dagon,” “Iskander Dhul Karnon”), Nile ascends to the forefront of the metal world with a stunning 10-track display of renewed aggression tweaked with just enough differences to stand out way ahead of their peers and slightly ahead of their already lauded catalog. amazon.comwww.nuclearblastusa.com -Mike SOS

THE ERUPTORS: SEDUCE AND DESTROY

Explosive UK punk troupe The Eruptors return with a scalding 14-track offering on Seduce And Destroy, playing their raucous brand of punk rock as if it were a collegiate-sized tutorial in kicking ass. Despite a couple of these tracks appearing on this tumultuous trio’s previous albums, they contain a similar devil may care attitude that fits right in with the new material’s sinewy swagger and gritty traditional feel, completing the band’s mission to rock your face completely off of your skull. Meshing infectious bits of street punk (“Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!), chunks of rock ‘n roll rabble rousing, and a volatility of something freshly escaped from the garage (“Tow the Line”) spiked with a newfound bad boy hard rock spirit, the down and dirty amalgamation employed by The Eruptors simultaneously channels the essence of Cock Sparrer, The Misfits, Motley Crue, and Motorhead to create a supercharged sojourn chock full of a true sense of danger that proudly proclaims this act as the real deal. www.theeruptors.50megs.com -Mike SOS

MR. DEATH: DETACHED FROM LIFE

Unbelievably, no band used this name before in death metal prior to this Swedish (surprise) squad of hardened veterans, as Mr. Death is a pretty basic yet effective moniker. This quintet’s 11-track debut (recorded at the seminal Sunlight Studio) prescribes a brazen death metal assault that captures almost to the point of paying tribute the definitive old school sound championed by the likes of Dismember, early Entombed and Grave. There’s nothing flashy or excessive to be found on this terse and thunderous release, as songs like “Black Blood”. “Misery’s Womb” and “Combined Agony” exhibit the furiously fuzzy ferocity straight outta Stockholm whose gruesome grooves and slash and burn style rings out with familiar yet ass-kicking conviction. www.agoniarecords.com -Mike SOS

SCAR SYMMETRY: DARK MATTER DIMENSIONS

Swedish metal unit Scar Symmetry return after lead singer Christian Alvestam’s abrupt departure with not one, but two singers in tow on their fourth album Dark Matter Dimensions. This now sextet’s 11-track offering showcases an outfit who keep things moving along without skipping a beat despite their inner turmoil, as both new growler Roberth “Robban” Karlsson and clean throat Lars Palmqvist suit the bill and make a respectable clean/harsh vocal duo while the technically gifted musicians behind them hammer away with the mechanically-inclined complex mix of power metal and melodic death metal with emphasis on guitar gymnastics (“Radiant Strain”) that they’ve been lauded for since their inception (Sculptor Void,” “The Consciousness Eaters”). While Alvestam’s absence is apparent, the new guys do an adequate job of assisting Scar Symmetry rebound with a solid if somewhat unspectacular offering whose clinical feel and formulaic approach stays the course, not really gaining ground but picking up right where previous release Holographic Universe left off. amazon.comwww.nuclearblastusa.com -Mike SOS

RAISE THE RED LANTERN: RAISE THE RED LANTERN

The latest album by Chicago quartet Raise the Red Lantern is an eponymous eight-track offering ripe with shredding metal chops, prolonged prog-metal jams with the right balance of bombast and grandiosity, and a off-kilter melodic edge that could be passed as merely a surrogate for acts such as Baroness or Pelican in haste. Upon closer inspection however, this unit’s 80’s thrash metal roots become apparent thanks to some gnarly guitarwork as well as a homage-like bass solo seemingly to Cliff Burton (“Deliver Us/ Deliverance”), while a predilection to intertwine progressive sludge metal a la Kylesa with New Wave of American Heavy Metal like Killswitch Engage can also be found smashing its way within tracks like “Oracle”. Comprised by members of Yakuza and Emperor Custom Cabinets and recorded by Windy City metal guru Sanford Parker, Raise the Red Lantern features an impressive cast of hands on deck whose penchant for pushing the envelope falls in line with many of the bands they’re constantly compared to, significantly spicing up their sumptuous stoner rock stew. www.atalossrecordings.com -Mike SOS

WHITE MICE: GANJAHOVAHDOSE

Shocking Providence, RI outfit White Mice get as whacked-out as possible without losing musicality on their latest release (the band’s 20th) Ganjahovadose. This oddball trio’s 10-track smorgasbord of reckless sonic excess is not for the squeamish or prudish, as this act’s crude and unrepentant demeanor via the defamatory album artwork aiming its rage against religion and song titles like “Placenta the Crotchtower” are every bit extreme as the hypnotic stoner rock pounding meets cold industrial metal clangs and bangs thrown into their chaotic centrifuge of metallic venom (“The Narcomacaul-eeekalcoholicost”). Assaulting eardrums with an intriguing setup of gargantuan bass and drum rhythmic explosions, destructive electronic manipulations, and humorous dialogue samples without a trace of guitar allows the incessant harsh barrages of wild and warped grooves (“The Ape-Caca-Lips”) to infiltrate hips before scrambling headspaces. Known just as much for having an outrageous stage show where the trio performs in horror movie mice men garb as they are for their diabolical black metal vitriol meets ambitious anarcho-punk rock musical output, this eccentric unit’s dark noise rock aesthetics and sludge-ridden evilness reveals a startling wealth of tightly-wound depravity, fueling their technically intense soundtrack’s mission to make a stark impression. www.20buckspin.com -Mike SOS

HANDFUL OF HATE: YOU WILL BLEED

Handful of Hate are a blasphemous black metal band from Italy whose fifth disc You Will Bleed doles out a relentless demonic assault dripping with evil intent. While the unit’s malevolent rhythmic strikes, atmosphere draped in despair, and piercingly glacial riffs are diabolical and durable, those fully immersed in the world of darkness can find this squad’s by the book song structures a bit too commonplace, as it sticks to a tried and true established gameplan a bit too stringently to overly excite an already tough to please underground metal sect. Nonetheless, this band blend of violating lyrics and volatile vocals with shards of sinewy guitar riffs explodes with serpentine fury and work to get the blood pumping, while the percussion’s hardware abuse is definitely a cut above the normal black metal mixed bag. You Will Bleed isn’t going to change your miserable existence, but it is definitely worth a spin if you’re looking for a reliable source for expressing your hatred for the world by. amazon.comwww.cruzdelsurerecords.com -Mike SOS

EXEMPTION: HARMONY OF THE SPHERES

Childhood buds and Long Island trio Exemption return with a six-track encounter entitled HARMONY OF THE SPHERES, a robust release that thrusts this unit’s kicking and screaming cosmic blues metal into parts unknown. Featuring a healthy dollop of wailing guitars whose modern shred and classic soul mix one part Hendrix and one part Dimebag, a restless chameleon-esque frontman comfortably fluctuating between punk yowls and barbaric wildman screams, rhythms from all walks of heavy music from Warped Tour punk to cock rock to freewheeling rawk to sludge metal, and a penchant for penning unorthodox compositions (“I Wanna Die”), Exemption provide a bountiful cornucopia of aggression garnished with lush dynamics you’d expect from Muse (“Bleeding Blue”), an impressive sense of hard rock history, suspenseful songwriting, and triumphant genre juxtapositions. Exemption’s black-lit world of wonder renders a solid collection of multi-influenced off-kilter metal that routinely takes roundtrip galactic voyages into the void. www.mtheadrecords.com -Mike SOS

HYPOCRISY: VIRUS

Hypocrisy touched down from their recent forays into space long enough to compose a batch of volatile tracks reacquainting the masses with their early traditional death metal feel and the end result is VIRUS, arguably the band’s most punishing album to date. This veteran Swedish unit features a revamped lineup under the guide of acclaimed metal producer and performer Peter Tagtgren that adroitly balances melodic mega-chorus gloss, menacing modern death metal roars, an abundance of nifty guitar leads and a decisively more raw vocal delivery cramming evil yet technical metal into “Warpath” and “Compulsive Psycho” with an impious immediacy. Seemingly more varied than prior offerings, Hypocrisy’s disparate tempo-shifts go from raging black metal to moody Pink Floyd without losing an ounce of brutality, as the double kick drum remains busy and the guitars ring out sinister throughout. This 11-track installment’s amalgamation of alternating aggressive atmospheres showcases a surprisingly broad range of death metal derivations for Hypocrisy more akin with the music Tagtgren produces from behind the board with a heaping helping of the stellar solos and contagious heaviness ardent followers have grown to love, making this release essential for diehards and something interesting to check out for the casual metal spirit.   www.nuclearblastusa.com -Mike SOS

TONIGHT WE RIDE: OF THE WEST

Raucous Montana trio Tonight We Ride play unapologetically over the top bar punk that recalls straightforward and snappy yet loose cowpunk at its best and sappy punk rock at its worst, falling somewhere between impassioned and clichéd on their 11-track Of The West. Setting tales of drinking and carousing to a countrified rock ‘n roll beat that channels everyone from Blink-182 and Offspring to Supersuckers and Dropkick Murphys, Tonight We Ride’s inebriated rowdiness assures an abundance of frat boy bonding sessions and hell-bent for bender kicked up heels by the dozens, as their simple yet effective melodies, cool interludes (“Prelude to Hell on Earth”) real life drama inspired lyrics (some of which beg for audience call and response), and scratchy vocal projections give this disc an edgy Against Me quality that trumps the serious case of modern rock redundancy that manages to seep through . While there are a few cuts that emit a blatantly unoriginal quality (“For Richie Rowe”), this squad’s passionate pursuit of storytelling via their modern prairie punk approach contains an outlaw rawness and backbeat swagger to keep the party hopping, the dance floor busy, and the drinks flowing. amazon.comwww.myspace.com/twrmt -Mike SOS

WIZARDRY: WIZARDRY

Buzzworthy Brooklyn metal troupe Wizardry proudly recreates the barbaric pomp and circumstance of the pre-hair metal ‘80s era on their crunchy yet ominous eponymous seven-track affair. Steeped heavily in doom and classic metal genres, this troupe’s chalice-raising ruckus is influenced by the likes of Mercyful Fate, Celtic Frost, early solo Ozzy, and Candlemass in both musical style and dramatic feel. Wizardry’s well-versed sinister stew packs an authentic punch whose throwback fur and makeup exterior add a fitting texture to their music, yet easily could be mistaken as some sort of hipster irony by the uninformed. Those in the know however will totally appreciate this unit’s stark attention to metallic musical detail and comprehensive understanding on how to create a properly foreboding atmosphere necessary to pull this specific strand heavy music off correctly, a task that Wizardry nails straight away with lengthy murky instrumental interludes and oodles of histrionic effects on the guitars and vocals. Adorned with flurries of formidable guitarwork with murderous virtuoso solos and a versatile rhythm section whose boisterous presence and granite-solid chops keep the doom oozing and the thrash galloping, some may cry foul from the spectacle of it all, but Wizardry’s level of camp never surpasses their sensational musical acumen, making their quest for the metal grail one every self-respecting metal fan can respect. www.myspace.com/wizardrylives -Mike SOS

DIABLO ROYALE: GREEDY DOGS

NYC quintet Diablo Royale’s latest hard-hitting effort entitled Greedy Dogs cuts to the chase and delivers a potent and polished hard rock affair. This Big Apple squad’s seven-track offering brandishes an barrage of brash guitarwork (“Beholder”), rough and ready driving rhythms and whiskey-drenched vocal soul (“Promised Land”) to comprise this circuit fave’s visceral strain of meaty melodic hard rock that keeps girl’s hips shaking and guy’s fists in the air (“Remedy”). Containing a striking balance of timeless commercial appeal and balls to the wall attitude, Diablo Royale’s blazing twin guitar assault, uncompromising crunch and down and dirty hard rock swagger captures the grittiness of their hometown with a bevy of hooks ready to rock the masses. www.diabloroyale.net -Mike SOS

GORGOROTH: QUANTOS POSSUNT AD SATANITATEM TRAHUNT

Known of late as much for endless legal battles and inner turmoil as their stark musical catalog, Norwegian black metal veterans Gorgoroth’s latest affair Quantos Possunt Ad Satanitatem Trahunt puts this ever-changing revolving door lineup back at the forefront to claim the flag for despondent metal supremacy. Only guitarist Infernus remains for those with the corpsepainted lineup card at home, reforming the band with both old (notably returning ex-vocalist Pest) and new soldiers for Satan to continue the quest to spread evil across the globe. Implementing an increase in dynamics, most notably trading in the incessant hyperspeed of the Gaahl/ King Ov Hell version for a varied volatile tempo assault, this excursion executes its nefarious and nihilistic nuances with technical prowess and the classical feel of the band’s early works. Equally adept at building bonechilling atmospheres (“Rebirth”) as well as composing raging yet surprisingly melodic tunes a la Enslaved (“New Breed”), Gorgoroth’s latest collection of chilly clamor launches a message of triumph from the newly-empowered Infernus while providing longtime fans a return to form of sorts whose consistent sinister disposition carries this 35-minute experience through Hell and back. amazon.comwww.regainrecords.com -Mike SOS

BELPHEGOR WALPURGIS RITES: HEXENWAHN

Sacrilegious Austrian black/death metal mavens Belphegor have rapidly returned to the frontline with their latest nine tracks of nihilistic aggression titled WALPURGIS RITES: HEXENWAHN merely one year after their last offering BONDAGE GOAT ZOMBIE. This contemptuous unit wastes little time in doling out another batch of woebegone wickedness, as this particular batch of bastardized anthems is cut from the same cursed cloth in many areas and stays the course in so many ways, it may as well be labeled as part 2.  There are some alterations though, as Helmuth and company do lend their collective rasps and cackles to Satan with a greater sense of melody, showcasing the group’s demonic diatribes and fleeting rhythmic batterings spewed forth with a tumultuous tunefulness not heard on previous records. A barrage of dastardly death metal solos, churning slow riffs a la Morbid Angel and a bevy of shockingly explicit lyrics remain the core components of what makes this squad tick though, displaying an immediate evil soaked up from “Destroyer Hekate” and the utterly outrageous “Hail the New Flesh”.  Belphegor is still a band in transition, as lineup shakeups have plagued the last few excursions, yet this godless group trudges on with a trademark intensity and the bona-fide brash and scornful overtones guiding their ascent from the pits of the netherworld to concert halls worldwide.  www.nuclearblastusa.com -Mike SOS

TIN HUEY: BEFORE OBSCURITY: THE BUSHFLOW TAPES SMOG

The fertile rock ‘n roll soil of Ohio has brought the music world many eclectic bands through the years (no wonder it’s the home of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), and Tin Huey is no exception, as this post-punk meets new wave by way of artsy rock outfit’s collection of live and studio recordings entitled BEFORE OBSCURITY: THE BUSHFLOW TAPES demonstrates. Cutting their teeth in the same scene as bands as Pere Ubu and Devo, Tin Huey took full advantage of the vast resources at their dispose from the funky use of rock horns and clever female/ male tradeoffs to an underlying pop sensibility and quirky sense of humor propelling fearless streams of musical explorations. Tin Huey never caught a big break besides wooing critics, ultimately falling flat in the commercial market and fading out of national favor back into the regional circuit. Thankfully Smog Veil picked up on this Steely Dan by way of Zappa 14-track release of odds and sods chock full of the type of forward-thinking compositions, college level creativity and off-balance atmospheric shifts that display a band way ahead of its time worth checking out for those who enjoy rock music complex with a shot of strange. www.smogveilrecords.com -Mike SOS

GAMA BOMB: TALES FROM THE GRAVE

While the third release by Irish thrash metal troupe Gama Bomb album contains a solid array of well-done retro thrash, the bigger story regarding Tales From The Grave is that the entire available is available to anyone (providing they provide their email address) on the web absolutely free. No red tape, no kidding. Label Earache Records (check out their official site for info) takes a risk here that can be viewed as either revolutionary or completely asinine, but regardless of the business arrangement between band and company, this breakneck 12-track offering fires out endless streams of whiplash riffs, lightning fast rhythms and histrionic screams that efficiently emulate the thrash metal onslaught of yesteryear. Liberally applying methods and practices from the likes of Overkill, Exodus, Gwar, and Nuclear Assault to compile their chaotic mix of heaviness and speed, this unit’s fantasy land meets sci-fi by way of B-movie kitsch lyrical subject matter delivered with an over the top vocal performance gives Gama Bomb a whimsical edge that helps keep the fun flowing, even when things get a bit redundant or too close to their influence’s comfort. If you dig Municipal Waste and have worn out your Violence cassettes (yes, some people still have them), then get into the 21st century and download this album and be ready for this release’s frantic frolic to thrash you until your neck is sore and you can’t thrash no more. amazon.comwww.earache.com -Mike SOS

FIGHT AMP: MANNERS AND PRAISE

New Jersey punk metal trio Fight Amp increase their intensity threshold tenfold on sophomore effort Manners And Praise. Anchored by a pronounced bass assault whose bombastic offerings propel a cathartic hardcore riff-fest falling in between Unsane, The Hope Conspiracy, and a kaleidoscopic blend of the dissonant end of the Am Rep repertoire, this unsettling unit’s viscous viciousness intertwines Hessian hardcore heft with syrupy sludge metal, developing a garishly loud, noisy and ugly 13-track din whose foundation-shaking sonic attack defiles virtually any structure that unwisely tries to contain it. Armed with a chugging metallic undercurrent while wound with an explosive anxiety-stricken aggression thanks to a dominant drum and bass rhythmic drive, Fight Amp’s complete caustic coarseness bridges the gap between metal, hardcore, and punk with an abrasive abundance of seething anger, making this disc a perfect accompaniment while traipsing along the path of destruction. www.translationlossrecords.com -Mike SOS

GODS GREEN EARTH: THREE SONG SAMPLER

NYC quartet Gods Green Earth dishes out a dastardly dollop of debauchery courtesy of the squad’s three-song sampler. Not for the easily offended, this unit’s bawdy blend of stoner metal shuffle, heavy metal guitar hero-dom, and cringe-worthy and racy lyrical content fleshes out the best of the worst in rock ‘n roll excesses, pulling no punches while comprising an outlandish Clutch meets Pantera by way of 2 Live Crew vibe perfect for a wild night out on the town.  Crude and crass yet totally kick ass thanks to a workmanlike rhythm section, whiskey soaked vocals, and blazing fretwork with a live show as decadent as their songs suggest, Gods Green Earth brings out a Bacchanalian spirit whose rough around the edges stature embodies rock ‘n roll at its most primal. www.myspace.com/godsgreenearth -Mike SOS

WALKEN: WALKEN

On their 11-track eponymous effort, Bay Area quartet Walken offers a tumultuous ride through an array of metallic genres, comprising a forward-thinking yet hellacious hybrid sound. Combining an ingrained Death Angel meets Testament thrash metal know-how with gallant swigs of epic metal, nimble classic metal interludes, soaring instrumental passages, a smoldering death ‘n roll churn, and jagged shards of punk metal sludgery, this crew’s versatile crossover metal fricassee employs a multitude of atmospheres from doom-laden to d-beat, ultimately doling out an adventurous listen chock full of top-notch twin guitarwork, a powerhouse percussive presence, and massive waves of brazen bottom-end bass striking a middle ground somewhere in between Intronaut, Between the Buried and Me, and Baroness. Soulful, heavy and raw, this foursome skillfully delivers a well-versed form of savagery with a tenacious technical edge while retaining an aggressive undercurrent of seething metal and hardcore, keeping everything just askew enough to warrant multiple listens in order to catch all of the dynamic sweetness Walken brazenly injected into their sophomore release. www.walkenroll.com -Mike SOS

DEVIN TOWNSEND: ADDICTED

Eschewing the lifestyle demands of the album, tour, and repeat cycle of metal warrior-dom by disbanding his musical projects, enigmatic guru of heaviness Devin Townsend took his time away from the grind to recharge, reconnect, and enjoy his family. Now achieving a balance which included getting fully clean and sober, an inevitable comeback was realized, and latest collection Addicted is the second installment of the four-part series of albums by this prolific metal artist, showcasing his newfound musical paradigm’s direction. Discernibly throbbing and upbeat throughout yet fortified with the trademark Townsend soul-stomping wall of sound (think more Sevendust and Static X structures with parts of Swedish melodic metal strewn in), this 10-track disc’s affable approach flexes its melodic muscle with an electric energy that radiates an buoyancy illuminated by vocals from the stellar Anneke van Giersbergen of The Gathering, who lends her unmistakable charm and grace to a surprising majority of this affair, most notably on the pop-metal sensation “Bend It Like Bender!” and the rousing closer “Awake!”. While ending song titles with exclamation points seems a bit pretentious, it further accelerates an overall feeling of celebration, acting as an extra ingredient that assists the shared exhilaration of the heavy guitar, massive keyboard presence, and tremendous production value smorgasbord. Never predictable, Townsend’s flowing creativity coupled with a focused sense of clarity warrants the excitement that resonates from this album, giving adventurous metal fans everywhere something to sink their teeth into. amazon.comwww.hevydevy.com -Mike SOS

RUBY BULLET: SPLITTING HEIRS

Avant-garde NYC metal duo Ruby Bullet return with a complex and compelling five-track EP entitled Splitting Heirs.  This unit refutes traditional song structures in favor of an unorthodox fusion of artsy left of center heaviness that maintains an oppressive metallic density and a deep seeded sense of darkness while blasting off into advanced musical explorations (“One”). Thanks to a flawlessly fluid bass and drum connection known for its quirky time signatures, the band’s rollicking rumblings and sinewy shape-shiftings drive cuts like “Machine” with the pronounced rhythmic presence on full wallop, combining a startling blend of blunt force and skilled musical interplay. The pair’s odd cluster of funk, jazz, Goth, and prog metal fronted by an edgy female melodic vocal once again delivers an adventurous selection that simultaneously summons the cathartic powers of Tool, Led Zeppelin, Rush and Tori Amos, effectively fusing dynamics and dramatics.  www.rubybullet.com -Mike SOS

DALI’S LLAMA: RAW IS REAL

Independent desert rock quartet Dali’s Llama make good in their quest for a heavier sound on their latest stoner rock smattering Raw Is Real. This unit’s eighth self-released offering features ex-Kyuss bassist and desert rock guru Scott Reeder behind the board once again, resulting in a sharper yet discernibly more snarling presentation of this brazen squad’s amalgamation of unadulterated attitude, swampy smoothness, galactic guitar missions, and robust rhythm section phrasings. Thanks to a gruffer vocal showing and a deliberately array of darker riffs and melodies coming to the surface (“Grump”, “Raw is Real”, “Eve’s Navel”), this 10-track endeavor’s accentuated air of aggression champions a rash of noticeably heftier tones yet Dali’s Llama’s staple set of hypnotic groove goodness, free-form jam sensibilities and syrupy sweetness (“Always”, “Fluids”) remain intact, fortifying this band’s viscous and visceral foundation while rounding out arguably the most well-crafted album this genuinely passionate act has released thus far. www.dalisllamarecords.com -Mike SOS

ICHABOD: 2012

Daunting Massachusetts metal squad Ichabod celebrate its 10th year as a despondent doom-laden musical force with an appropriately labeled eight-track ode to the year the world is supposed to end entitled 2012. This crafty quartet creates waves of cosmically mighty riffs and meaty melancholic meanderings that dole out a smorgasbord of stoner-metal fury not unlike an amalgamation of the superlative sludge of Eyehategod and the freewheeling ferocity of Today is the Day ripe with heavy 70’s jam-rock jamboree sensibilities (just check out the flute in “Gentlemen of the Choir”), a teeming Clutch-like confidence and oodles of psychedelic tricks and treats, going as far to include a sprawling yet electric 10-minute sonic touch-up of Pink Floyd’s “Nile Song” to give an indication of this collective’s intent to explore into the outer limits. Bolstered by swirls of black hole melodies that fall somewhere between Crowbar and Acid Bath carefully stacked to form an unorthodox yet durable left of center metal foundation able to hold attention spans through song lengths that creep past the five-minute mark, this haunting offering provides a foreboding stoner metal soundtrack to the apocalypse, laying down the blueprint to humanity’s last hurrah with a chilling tone gravely burying the planet in a cloud of smoke through a viscous wall of sound. www.myspace.com/ichabod -Mike SOS

DOA: KINGS OF PUNK, HOCKEY AND BEER

Canadian punk rock veterans DOA cut to the chase on their latest release Kings of Punk, Hockey And Beer. This 13-track affair, featuring many previously released tracks by this staple act, ties together their loves via some clever liner notes into a cohesive raucous sing a long collection perfect to get incoherent by. If you can’t tell a slap shot from a slap chop or prefer bubbly to brew, you’re best off skipping this one, but if you’re a diehard blue-seater or enjoy a pint or 10, there’s little here you can deny stomping your feet and getting your drink on to.  www.suddendeath.com -Mike SOS

THE RED CHORD: FED THROUGH THE TEETH MACHINE

The Red Chord leans toward a back to basics approach chock full of unabashed savagery on the group’s latest 12-track offering Fed Through The Teeth Machine. Interchanging a bulk of the experimental elements from prior record Prey For Eyes for an amplified amount of gutwrenching grindcore goodness and destructive death metal (“Embarrassment Legacy”), this adventurous unit has significantly increased its level of intensity beyond the usual catastrophic noise-laden rawness taken from a multitude of extreme metal genres stance. Thanks to furious fits of spastic guitars equally in tune with Napalm Death and Cannibal Corpse (“Demoralizer”) and schizophrenic drums doctored with arrays of insane intermittent time signature switches (“Face Area Solution”), this Massachusetts metal machine celebrates 10-years of metal service (and first release as a quartet) with its spiraled out of control dissonance bolstered with melodic progressive metal passages (“Hour of Rats”, “Sleepless Nights in the Compound”) and an advanced sense of muscular musical technicality leading their off-kilter charge. www.metalblade.net -Mike SOS

SLAYER: WORLD PAINTED BLOOD

The latest release by Slayer finds the thrash metal titans as ferocious as ever, pulling off a convincing return to fleet-footed glory on the 11-track World Painted Blood. Armed with chaotic spurts of aggression (“Psychopathy Red”, “Unit 731”), violent hardcore punk tendencies (“Public Display of Dismemberment”) and haunting mid-tempo menacings (“Playing With Dolls”), this disc recaptures the classic feel of Seasons in the Abyss and Reign in Blood in clever yet familiar inflections, fully supporting the evil aura concocted by the dual shredding of Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman ripping through Tom Araya’s raging vocal flurries and punishing bass poundings and Dave Lombardo’s blasts of masterful percussive madness. Fueled by a seething anger audible in Araya’s impressive impassioned grab you by the jugular vocal performance and the overall rapid-fire musical output, Slayer proves to still be a measuring stick for the extreme music world by laying down a triumphant album after two decades plus of sticking to their guns and remaining a dark and diabolical underground metal monster that consistently churn out slabs of dependably depraved heaviness. www.slayer.net -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!

SOS Metal Reviews: Austrian Death Machine "Double Brutal," Whiplash, Evile, and more…

AUSTRIAN DEATH MACHINE: DOUBLE BRUTAL

When will it end? Tim Lambesis returns with his brand of Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonation metal with Austrian Death Machine’s double album aptly titled Double Brutal. The first disc contains 13 new metal jams served with a wink and a nod thanks to the subject matter and the rapidly getting stale Ahhnold vocalizations while the second disc tackles a slew of material from bands such as Megadeth, Metallica, and The Misfits. Supercharged with a slew of guest guitarists whose spicy solos downright save this beaten to death formula of dreadful skits in between songs with paint yourself in a corner topics, the time is ticking on the relevance and overall funniness of this project, yet it does manage to illicit a couple of chuckles in between flashes of crossover metal durability (“Who Told You You Could Eat My Cookies?”). Despite exhibiting twice the muscle and might as the last disc, Austrian Death Machine’s tired act is growing staler by the minute and losing steam just as fast. amazon.comwww.metalblade.com -Mike SOS

DIE HARD: NIHILSITIC VISION

From the opening “Hail Satan” invocation heard on “Into the Desolate Halls of Death,” Swedish trio Die Hard showcases that they don’t mess around while maintaining a solid old school death metal vibe which effortlessly revisits mantras and tones from the left hand path’s most incendiary offerings. Channeling the likes of Celtic Frost to Entombed on the 10-track Nihilistic Vision, this disc strikes with straightforward battering ram percussion (“Fed to the Lions”), crushing guitar riffs and a gruff vocal evilness, shaping this excursion’s descent into the abyss to be palatable for those who choose darkness. Yielding a raucous array of metallic fury that gets the blood pumping and the axes swinging (“Bloody War,” “Death Chasing the Flock of Mortals”), Die Hard follows the glory days of death metal template to perfection to create an unholy direct line from old to new. www.agoniarecords.com -Mike SOS

IMPOSTER SYNDROME: ROSE COLORED SABOTAGE

Resilient NYC rockers Imposter Syndrome continue the daunting mission of churning out edgy tunes brimming with grace on Rose Colored Sabotage. This five-track presentation illuminates this quirky quartet’s superb command of the signature jagged melody over sinewy groove concoction while Kristen Persinos’ silky smooth vocal style alluringly delivers intricate interpersonal lyrical content with arresting conviction (“Rose Colored Sabotage”). Possessing the comfort zone to crank guitars up and dig into a grunge groove (“Plastic Wrap”) as easily as slip back into an alt-rock meets Pink Floyd smorgasbord (“Black, One Sugar”), Imposter Syndrome’s shadowy aura and impressive musical dexterity fosters the lost art of organic composition that sets them apart from the pack, as this release aptly displays the tools necessary to build sturdy songs that progress to satisfying ends. www.impostorsyndrome.net -Mike SOS

KIRBY KRACKLE: KIRBY KRACKLE

Kirby Krackle is a niche band of the highest order, sitting on the tip-top of the pop culture bubble with their knack for developing songs custom made for geeks of the globe to break hearts and save damsels in distress to. This self-professed delicious nerd rock duo joins forces to rid the world of evil with a top-secret blend of acoustically driven adult alternative rock for the sci-fi sect. Fueled by an unbridled passion for the worlds of both comic books (“Marvelous Girls”, “One of the Guys”) and video games (“Naked Wii”, “Up, Up, Down, Down”), this Pacific Northwestern tandem’s whimsical delivery and comical tones assists the good time feel to sustain through this entire 10-track affair. While this eponymous offering is sure to go over the heads of those not in the know (the lyrics are teeming with insider references galore), Kirby Krackle have put together a smart and fun album meshing the wares of Barenaked Ladies, Bowling for Soup, Weezer, and Sugar Ray for fanboys and industry folk alike to sink their teeth into. www.kirbykracklemusic.com -Mike SOS

WHIPLASH: UNBORN AGAIN

The best thrash didn’t always come from the Bay Area, as cities both home and abroad also had a stake in the white high top and bullet belt game as well. Count New Jersey metal trio Whiplash in as one of the acts that walked amongst regional heavyweights like Overkill and Anthrax back in the day who have returned after a long hiatus armed with a 10-track release that makes references but doesn’t relive their salad days. While Unborn Again doesn’t aim to replicate the golden era, it does contain a solid array of catchy tracks that fall in line with the output of similar bands from the old school who’ve returned after a considerable length of time. Trading in trademarked white-knuckle velocity for newfound groove-laden crunch on cuts like “Swallow the Slaughter” and “Firewater,” Whiplash takes it down a notch with a simplistic and direct approach packed with an organic feel and a genuine snarl that many modern bands have a tough time establishing. Coming back to the scene with some alterations to their sound yet still able to summon the chops to throw a breakneck tempo down when necessary (“Pitbulls in the Playground,” “Feeding Frenzy”), the latest release by Whiplash may not be your older brother’s thrash metal, but it will do the trick for diehards who remember the band from their early days.  www.pulverised.net -Mike SOS

TEMPLE OF BAAL: LIGHTSLAYING RITUALS

Nine blasphemous blasts of charred metal arrive via French veteran troupe Temple of Baal on the unit’s latest offering Lightslaying Rituals. Exhibiting a primitive and punishing aggressiveness necessary to be considered lethal (“Vectors to the Void”) and a dastardly demonic wrath that effortlessly emits an authentically heartfelt sense of hatred (“Death Cult”), this disc dexterously melds black metal atmosphere and death metal brutality with flashes of thrash metal tumult to create a contemptuous sonic whirlwind glacially steeped in ‘90s extreme metal notoriety (“Black Sun of the Damned”). While those who’ve been around the block have heard the likes of this before from everyone from At the Gates and Entombed to Absu and Celtic Frost, the expert production, contagious songwriting (“Hate is My Name”) and overall disdain carried across the album captures a modern misanthropist vibe for the new age of underground to feast upon. www.agoniarecords.com -Mike SOS

LYE BY MISTAKE: FEA JUR

Ironic how an album that virtually transcends metal’s hardline traditional nuances in nearly every capacity winds up on one of the globe’s premier metal labels, yet such is the case with the latest offering by St. Louis outfit Lye By Mistake, the unit’s first without a singer. By opting to go the instrumental route, this technically proficient trio’s sophomore effort channels expected progressive metal with shards of Dream Theater, Rush, King Crimson, and Death amongst others fingered and deciphered from chaotic cacophonies like “Stag”. Yet this band is not in the least bit content with merely replicating glories of their peers, as the jaw dropping prowess, surprising sense of malleability and blistering playing ability showcased throughout the course of its eight-track duration veers into uncharted areas on numerous occasions without trepidation, pulling hunks of heavy higher minded goodness out along their free form fusion discovery mission (“Vanguard to Nowhere”). While the unconditioned may receive an instant migraine upon impact, Fea Jur is an album custom built for the listener prepared to explore and be taken aback with the virtuosity of three musicians at the top of their creative and performance peaks. www.metalblade.com -Mike SOS

FURIA: GRUDZIEN ZA GRUDNIEM

Polish black metal troupe Furia unleash a sinister seven-track affair whose blistering black metal assault is peppered with elements of forward-thinking metal to create a subversive musical entity whose merit lies far beyond their demonic inclinations. Equipped with rounds of angst-stricken vocals (with lyrics strictly in Polish) reminiscent of fellow purveyors of expansion Shining over atmospheric interludes, glacial guitars directly stripped from the works of the masters of the genre, foreboding militaristic marching rhythms, and an overpowering sense of bleakness oppressing the entire collection, Furia’s genuine disdain for mankind ascends from the catacombs long enough to obtain the required amounts of fresh blood to carry out evil’s bastardized biddings. www.lettheworldburn.org -Mike SOS

EVILE: INFECTED NATION

UK thrash metal upstarts Evile’s sophomore effort Infected Nations is an undeniable nine-track homage to the Golden Age of thrash that digs deep to excavate inspiration from some lesser known acts besides the Rushmore-esque Big Four. There’s a hearty smattering of Annihilator, Kreator, and Bay Area bashing that you can almost swore you heard from the likes of Vio-lence or Forbidden before pervading through the brazen Megadeth-like twin guitar explorations (“Now Demolition”, “Devoid of Thought”) as well as a discernibly thicker sound and slower pace than previously employed by the band (“Metamorphosis”) that manages to keep the head banging and the attitude intense while the band forges into a different subset of thrash metal waters. Rendering a mixed bag of B-list influences and lengthy tracks whose running times lend to spells of atmospheric meandering, this disc is a far cry from their debut yet definitely puts the band into a whole new light, fortifying their latest metallic mission with ambition that helps to fuse the elements together as well as help their thrash under the microscope approach escape full collapse. amazon.comwww.earache.com -Mike SOS

THE GATES OF SLUMBER: HYMNS OF BLOOD AND THUNDER

The Gates of Slumber’s spot on presentation of the NWOBHM and doom style shines on their fourth release Hymns of Blood and Thunder. This Indiana trio skillfully channels the creeping vibes of Candlemass, early Trouble, and St. Vitus to create a viscous wall of sound complete with brooding guitar solos (“The Doom of Aceldama”), thunderous drums (“Beneath the Eyes of Mars”), and a vocal warble that trembles with an authentic dollop of old school grit. Showcasing a dastardly sense of dynamics, this unit convincingly pours out hypnotically thick riffs and calculated rhythms a la Cathedral (“Descent into Madness”) yet can still break into a balls out heavy dirge a la anything Wino (“The Bringer of War”) a Dio-era Sabbathian double time chugger (“Chaos Calling”) and veer into ‘70s classic heavy metal territory without losing an ounce of gloom (“Age of Sorrow”). If you have a hankering for a solid slab of despair, this monolithic 10-track cornucopia of calamity may sound at times like a repeat but ultimately is a hard album to beat.  www.metalblade.com -Mike SOS

A STORM OF LIGHT: FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES

Bombastic and brainy, A Storm of Light’s sophomore effort Forgive Us Our Trespasses yields an intriguing potpourri of dynamic post metal nuances for those who enjoy latter day Isis or the galactic side of Mastodon. This Brooklyn unit’s sci-fi heavy headphone friendly 10-track offering supplies a wealth of epic and ethereal vibes thanks to a masterful balance of bold instrumentation and spoken word interludes a la Today is the Day, adding rich keyboard overlays and female vocals into their stoned and sprawling monolithic compositions, allowing them to unravel in the name of righteous exploration, not self-centered exploitation. Painting a picturesque model of an apocalyptic future while a host of special guests from the avant-garde metal sect make their impact via cameos (Jarboe, Lydia Lunch), ASOL’s unorthodox sense of ambiance could benefit from some self-editing down the road, but it does develop an advanced approach to gloom and doom metal that is downtrodden enough to fit in yet distinct enough to branch past the norm. www.neurotrecordings.com -Mike SOS

SHRINEBUILDER: SHRINEBUILDER

The term supergroup is tossed around these days like a football during a tailgate party but if there’s one band that deserves the moniker, it has to be the fearsome foursome known as Shrinebuilder. This top-secret quartet comes into the light and features the talents of Wino, Scott Kelly, Dale Crover, and Al Cisneros. If you are unfamiliar with any of these guys and their pedigree, please stop reading this now and bone up on your history. For those who vigilantly follow metal’s underground scene, this is your go-to mini-album of the year, an eponymous five-track offering reportedly recorded in three days whose imminent strike and psychedelic overtones take on a life of its own without abandoning the roots from which it came, sounding as if four admirals have taken equal charge on one massive battleship’s course through the seas of an alternative world. Chock full of doom metal lethargy, swirls of stoner rock goodness, and oodles of avant-garde metal ambiance, this unit has made an album that transcends the usual bullet points and can be summed up in one word: awesome. Get this now and become enchanted with your new favorite band. www.neurotrecordings.com -Mike SOS

HELLBASTARD: THE NEED TO KILL

Unapologetic crust punk attitude colliding with raging old school thrash metal is what rejuvenated UK troupe Hellbastard bring to the table on their latest release The Need To Kill. Throw an unorthodox sense of whimsy and a steadfast metallic assault into the picture and watch the cacophony of crossover chaos commence, complete with the occasional oddball banjo interlude trapped inside a tumultuous Exodus-esque groove dripping with plundered punk charm just for the hell of it. Keeping the listener on their toes with flurries of rapid-fire riffs and blasting rhythms channeling the vibes of Entombed, Suicidal Tendencies, Sacred Reich, Discharge and The Haunted, this disc provides a shining example of unsanitized underground metal at its most boisterous and visceral. amazon.comwww.selfmadegod.com -Mike SOS

JOHN WILLIAM GORDON: TECHNOT

Calling his modern blend of music “mutant jazz”, acclaimed San Francisco guitarist John William Gordon contrives a fiery fusion that deftly combines jazz and rock auras on latest release Technot. This 10-track eclectic exhibition throws down a dazzling and dizzying instrumental smorgasbord showcasing both Gordon’s smoking six-string benedictions with the rest of his trio’s solid chops propelling a smoldering experimental take on traditional standards and practices. Imparting a world music exercise for outer space, Gordon and crew consistently display a vigilant virtuosity that commands attention while their free-form jams like “GVOL” and “Back Room Flow” convey the proper atmosphere needed which increases the headspace in order to wander.  www.johnwilliamgordon.com -Mike SOS

EASTER MONKEYS: SPLENDOR OF SORROW

A reissue of Cleveland cult post punk unit Easter Monkeys and their seminal album Splendor of Sorrow comes courtesy of Smog Veil, whose 15-track release digs deep to unearth as much of this revered squad’s recorded history as possible. Featuring a host of bonus tracks and a DVD of a performance taken from a 1982 show at the Agora, this band’s unique darkened no frills punk rock approach and pomp-less and meandering yet hard hitting psychedelic fits featured a pre-Pere Ubu Jim Jones (who really stands out here) and truly showcased a band whose imbued underground status and trailblazing scope definitely deserves a spin or two for the subversive rock lover in us all. www.smogveil.com -Mike SOS

MOJO RISING: FEEL WHAT YOU FEEL

Aussie dance-rock team Mojo Rising meld the best elements from both the excessive ‘80s commercial front a la INXS and Duran Duran and the manufactured funk-driven thump of bands like Maroon 5 and the cheeky balladeering of acts like Hootie and the Blowfish together to form this duo’s five-track offering Feel What You Feel. Decorated with a dash of blue-eyed soul worthy of more than a good night out on the town that helps an overall sense of authenticity to peak out from the Pro Tools sanitizer, this slickly produced effort makes up for its near deal-breaking lack of lyrical depth with a slew of dynamically charged grooves inside of well-arranged compositions bound to make a dance floor hopping. Mojo Rising’s blend of middle of the road rock and pop goes down smooth and keep spirits high for certain, but for those who keep a keen interest in the mainstream music machine, this disc is bound to sound all too familiar to make it worthy of spins beyond a random good night out on the town. www.myspace.com/mojorisingband.com -Mike SOS

ELDER: REFLECT

Post-hardcore trio Elder makes a passionate return with their latest six-track endeavor Reflect. This Philadelphia-based troupe once again provide the proper balance of lush loud-soft dynamic shifts and old school DIY hardcore awareness on songs like “Friendly Fire” yet demonstrate an abrasive edge in 1:27 with the scalding tune “Vultures”. Throw a pinch of posi-core posturing, a dash of cosmic math-rock riffage and a hearty hunk of purposeful yet slightly grating screamo vocals into the mix and this squad’s boisterous bevy of fluid fluctuations are bound to score big with both the disaffected youth of today who happily lap up third-hand experience along side disillusioned adults who never let go of the underlying principles. amazon.comwww.forgeagainrecords.com -Mike SOS

MONGREL: REVENGE

Mongrel reveals a no nonsense raucous punk/metal dimension on their five-track excursion Revenge. Brimming with street punk savvy and dripping with inner city contempt, this Massachusetts quartet’s aggressive attitude is reminiscent of a hybrid of Circus of Power, Scatterbrain, and Black Flag, as they maintain a melodic side while spewing venom with reverence to the early days of the punk and hardcore scene on cuts like “Butterknife Suicide” and  “Catharsis.” Direct and to the point, Mongrel’s frantic pace with attention to hooks projects a rowdy and rebellious aura perfect when elevating the level of madness is at the top of the to-do list. www.mongrelband.com -Mike SOS

GAZA: HE IS NEVER COMING BACK

Utah noise metal mavens Gaza return with a crushing 14-track sophomore effort entitled He Is Never Coming Back. Scouring the bottom of the metal barrel, this sludge-infused squad lay down a relentless barrage of disfigured rhythms, heaving vocals, and viscous dissonant riffs that protrude from the speakers like molten lava from a volcanic eruption. Unsettling and downright ugly at times, this disc melds the abrasiveness of Unsane with the technical prowess of Today is the Day to comprise a caustic metal cacophony armed with an authentic sense of anger and dread that will leave even the most hardened metal listener a bit shaken up. www.blackmarketactivities.com -Mike SOS

THREAT SIGNAL: VIGILANCE

Even though Canadian modern metal crew Threat Signal have undergone a significant amount of lineup changes within their relatively short life span, it has served as merely a minor deterrent from releasing their self-produced sophomore effort Vigilance. This 13-track juggernaut endorses the piledriving and ultra-pasturized processed sound of bands like Fear Factory (whose Christain Wolbe Olders produced their first album) and Soilwork with loads of Swedish death metal elements a la In Flames and American metalcore structures from the likes of Shadows Fall (“Another Source of Light”) and Killswitch Engage (”Through My Eyes”) strewn in the mix with a smidgen of melodic nu-metal providing the arena-filling sing-along choruses that assists this band’s crossover appeal (it doesn’t hurt that lead singer Jon Howard bares an uncanny vocal similarity to Chester from Linkin Park either, depending on who you ask). There’s no question that Threat Signal is a talented band with a penchant for writing a catchy song that packs a damaging heft behind it (“In Repair”), but attentive metal fans have repeatedly heard much of the excellently executed brazen attack heard on Vigilance before from numerous other acts in not so different forms, rendering this disc as a solid yet non-essential album.www.nuclearblastusa.com -Mike SOS

LACUNA COIL: SHALLOW LIFE

Italian Goth-metal troupe Lacuna Coil scoops the remaining portion of their original sound out of their repertoire and inserts a streamlined pop-metal sheen a la Evanescence in its place on the squad’s latest album Shallow Life. Produced and co-wrote by song doctor extraordinaire Don Gilmore (Linkin Park, Good Charlotte), this collaboration results in decisively less metal with an upgraded electronica-like façade firmly in place where vocals (mainly Cristina’s) are the order of the day. As for the rest of the music, it may as well be damned, as the overall sanitized presentation sans an incessant use of keyboard and space filling synth elements used for Hollywood movie soundtrack atmosphere barely allows guitars enough room to flesh out colossal choruses heard on cuts like “Not Enough.” Championing a subdued and simplified form of songwriting to appeal to a broader audience, Lacuna Coil’s latest endeavor is far from a departure for the band and actually can be argued as a logical step in the band’s sound, but buyer beware; it abandons the band’s intrinsic sense of darkness in favor for a glossy and overpowering beam of bright light, leaving the unit to merely mingle in the shadows when they formerly ruled the roost. amazon.comwww.centurymedia.com -Mike SOS

BLACK SKIES: HEXAGON

North Carolina’s Black Skies summon the might of Southern sludge metal on the trio’s aptly titled six-track sojourn Hexagon. This squad’s undeniable admiration for Black Sabbath also weighs heavy on their multi-influenced yet easily pegged mix of steamroller swing, as gloomy guitar crunch a la Trouble, filling-rattling bass explosions, tasty yet durable percussion, and a grizzled vocal delivery not unlike High on Fire round out this outfit’s stoner rock on steroids aura. Supplying a cavalcade of gigantic grooves and lumbering rhythms oozing with the kind of hypnotic riffs that sound so familiar yet still warrant multiple hits of the repeat button, Hexagon is a perfect addition to your collection of molasses-infused metal, best propped alongside the likes of Alabama Thunderpussy, labelmates Eyehategod and Weedeater for logistical reasons. www.imbetterthaneveryonerecords.com -Mike SOS

PERE UBU: LONG LIVE PERE UBU

Cleveland, OH avant-garde garage punk pioneers Pere Ubu made the type of music that bucked trends, shunned spotlights, and kept the mainstream as far away as possible throughout their career of cult status and latest offering Long Live Pere Ebu is no different. This unit, formed back in 1975, is an acquired taste for certain, as the music of Pere Ubu is an ever evolving medium that consistently presents a challenge to the ears, exploring art punk’s outer most reaches with innovative arrangements, quirky vocals, oddball instrumentation and an absurdist’s viewpoint at the forefront, This time around, the band comes full circle, interpreting the much-maligned Alfred Jarry surrealist play they take their name from into a working musical form, a task which renders an off-kilter old time serial radio version of the production (which Pere Ubu brought to life in a UK theater) chock full of David Thomas and company’s trademark protean fractured musical detachments and provocative audio juxtapositions. Best experienced uninterrupted in its entirety and definitely not for the easily offended, Pere Ubu’s tackles this ambitious and somewhat nostalgic endeavor with an ambient panache as only a band of their caliber can muster. www.smogveilrecords.com -Mike SOS

3: REVISIONS

Cleaning out closets and revamping older works, the Woodstock-based prog rock troupe 3 trudge their poppier side through modern sensibilities and the outcome is Revisions. While this band is usually known to champion a hybrid style that works from a progressive rock foundation and branches beyond usual limits, this release relies on a laid back borderline coffee house aura throughout its duration, definitively applying a contemporary stamp on these 11 tracks, some of which date as far back as 1998. Acting more to tie loose ends together to help early works sound more relevant, while 3’s musicianship (especially Joey Eppard’s breathtaking fretwork) is unquestionably masterful, this offering of alterations seems as more of a contractual obligation than a proper disc, making this incongruous step for the band a treat to appease longtime fans as well as a chance to reel in those who prefer the unit’s softer side. www.metalblade.com -Mike SOS

THE NETWORK: BISHOP KENT MANNING

Produced by Kurt Ballou, the sophomore effort by New Hampshire’s The Network meld noise metal and mathcore mayhem on the 10-track Bishop Kent Manning. This coarse and caustic collection of tracks string together a tale of a televangelist on his death knell, yet the suffocated and strained screams and strangled vocals barely reveal anything but utter chaos, further backed by a dastardly attack of thunderous percussion, granite smashing bass, and abrasively angular guitar work. Channeling unbridled rage like many of the bands who have graced the God City complex before them, The Network’s furious and ferocious assault does let up in spots to issue a quick breather (“Corpse Paint”), but overall bestows an oppressive sonic crush where barrages of brutal and belligerent modern hardcore converge. amazon.comwww.blackmarketactivities.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!