Tag Archives: Mike SOS

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!

SOS Metal Reviews: The Black Dahlia Murder "Deflorate," Leaves' Eyes, Midnight Fistfight, and more…

Amazon BlackDahMurderTHE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER: DEFLORATE

The Black Dahlia Murder returns with a terse homage bountifully bursting with Swedish metal influence with their unique blackened thrash twists embedded within on their 10-track, 34-minute collection Deflorate. Showcasing swift jabs of focused aggression with a familiar brutality behind it all (“Eyes of Thousands”), this Michigan troupe’s delectable twin guitar tandem craft some niftily nefarious solos (“Throne of Lunacy,” “Necropolis”) while Trevor Strnad’s varied vocal approaches continues to spew venom although exhibiting a tad more restraint than usual, allowing the unit’s trademark maniacal melodic side to commandeer the bastardized blitz (“I Will Return,” “A Selection Unnatural”). Despite claims by some who lament about the band being a bit stagnant (“interchangeable” seems to be a buzz word flying around regarding this band’s output), TBDM continues to dole out a brutishly consistent strain of metal that does a stellar job of unleashing the beast in us all. www.metalblade.com -Mike SOS

DESPISED ICON: DAY OF MOURNING

Canadian cripplers Despised Icon continue to outshine the majority of peers from the deathcore pool as the troupe’s latest 10-track offering Day of Mourning aptly displays with both a vitriolic viciousness and a durable grip on both Hatebreed hardcore and Dying Fetus death metal firmly intact (“Day of Mourning”). Despite a solid yet somewhat surprisingly atmospheric one-two punch closing out the affair (“Entre Le Bien et Le Mal,” “Sleepless”) and a tremendous percussive performance courtesy of Alex Pelletier whose blazing speed, relentless battering, and dastardly doses of dexterity make a serious bid for this squad to be thrust into the upper echelon of extreme metal, this sextet’s undeniably blistering array of mosh-friendly riffs and ripping twin vocal attack at times come off stock and formulaic (going so far as ripping themselves off from previous works), ultimately falling prey to the maligned genre trappings similar acts often get lambasted for. Nonetheless, if you’re looking for a modern take on heavy music and can withstand the done to death breakdown-happy parts, Despised Icon’s latest does get the job done while demonstrating this act’s leadership position in deathcore’s day-glo trenches. www.centurymedia.com -Mike SOS

CIRCADIAN SKIZM: CIRCADIAN SKIZM

NYC metal trio Circadian Skizm unleashes a brutal barrage of progressively inclined extreme metal on the squad’s latest four-track excursion. Featuring two studio cuts and two lesser-quality live tracks that provide an adequate feel for the unit’s live show yet drag the collection’s vibe down considerably, this act incorporates an unorthodox concoction of early forward thinking death metal tones a la Death with a steady stream of off-kilter metallic mayhem to forge the type of menacing heaviness that keeps the listener engaged with headbanging delight while slightly uneasy as to what’s to come. If you like your metal bruising with an unsettling tint, this band delivers. www.circadianskizm.com -Mike SOS

EVERGREEN TERRACE: ALMOST HOME

Now in their 10th year as a band, Evergreen Terrace confidently dole out an unashamedly hybrid melodic hardcore onslaught on fifth album Almost Home. This audacious Florida-based outfit’s scathing screamo, Warped Tour punk rock, and tough guy metalcore collisions yield a myriad of hook-laden crushers whose infectious bite manages to comfortably combine the wares of Death By Stereo, Fall Out Boy, All That Remains, and Comeback Kid (4,8). But don’t discount this troupe’s thunder just because some of their songs contain parts that make your girlfriend swoon, because underneath lie plenty of chunky chuggers and moshpit movers that keep the floor occupied in a constant state of flow (9). While Evergreen Terrace’s stylistic balance may not appease all, this troupe’s latest album is sure to please the more open-minded sect of metal fans with modern sensibilities. www.metalblade.com -Mike SOS

Amazon Armed For ApocARMED FOR APOCALYPSE: DEFEAT

Armed for Apocalypse features former members of California metal units Will Haven, Ghostride, and The Abominable Iron Sloth, so those familiar with the sheer sonic sludgefest employed by those acts will have no problem embracing Defeat, as this disc demonstrates logical sound progressions emanating from those particular starting lines. This eight plus a bonus track (a rousing cover of “Tempatation’s Wings” by Down”) endeavor is a soulshaking affair equipped with a dark heaviness explosively fusing a set of menacing vocals, cavernously churning guitars, devastatingly deliberate doom-laden rhythms (“You Are Alive When They Start To Eat You”), and crushing basslines to comprise a merciless and malevolent melodic metal assault (“Torch Light Search For The Dead”). Constructing a viscous wall of sound that steamrolls your senses, Armed for Apocalypse stomps you to the ground without a shred of remorse, making this wallow in the mire a crucial purchase for those who enjoy their music lurching and downtrodden. www.metalblade.com -Mike SOS

ABACINATE: A KING’S THIRST FOR THE FROSTY BREW

New Jersey deathcore mob Abacinate’s album title projects the notion that this band might be a pirate metal troupe, but after one listen of this quintet’s dastardly mix of downtuned death metal crunch and slam-worthy staccato, that idea is dispelled right quick. Decked out with flurries of six-string acrobatics and potent percussive pounding aplenty (“Rife with the Stench and Squalor”), Abacinate exhibits an uncanny knack to gracefully blur lines between tough guy hardcore and death metal by throwing in an authentically ass-kicking cover of Sepultura’s “Nomad” as well as utilizing rounds of gang vocals in “Shake the Spot” as welcomed reprieves from beleaguered formulas. While this type of metal can get tiresome both physically and mentally, this squad’s innate ability to throw down burly breakdowns or simply blast away as needed assists this group’s righteous mission to destroy all in their way without losing an ounce of street credibility. www.abacinate.net -Mike SOS

SANCTIFICATION: BLACK REIGN

Swedish death metal squad Sanctification return with their latest nine-track excursion Black Reign. This unit, who boasts members of Dark Funeral, In Battle, and Demonoid in their ranks not to mention production by the team of the Tagtgren brothers and Dan Swano, adopts a decisively Americanized approach a la Deicide and Morbid Angel with leanings towards an old school influence by such luminaries as Entombed, Bloodbath, and Grave to diabolically fulfill nightmares across the globe (“Storm”). Complete with relentless deluges of low-pitched vocal growls a la latter day Cannibal Corpse (“Hear This”), a salvo of crushing blast beats, and rapid-fire rounds of muscular fretwork manning the helm (“Black Reign”), this disc juxtaposes two of the more scathing death metal styles together to form a juggernaut of a release that ardent supporters of early underground metal will gleefully bang their head to. www.pulverised.net -Mike SOS

MY OWN DEATH: NECROLOGY

Sweden rarely fails when it comes to churning out mass quantities of quality death metal, and the latest endeavor by raging quintet My Own Death once again proves the theory to be true. This seething squad’s sophomore effort Necrology nary shows a sign of slump, as these macabre metal merchant’s blend of gore-inspired subject matter, fast-paced rhythmic frenzy (“Age of Torment,” “Carnal Revelations”), punishing grooves, bellicose vocal bellows, and thrash-y twin guitar assault of menacing riffs and tasty solos yields a warmongering fury from the opening strains of the march-like “Awaiting Death” right until the last note of “Incineration” is played. Brutal and bludgeoning, this disc delivers the goods with all of the delectable devastation a solid death metal release should. www.pulverised.net -Mike SOS

amazon karnivoolKARNIVOOL: SET FIRE TO THE HIVE

Eclectic Australian rock troupe Karnivool returns with a mixed bag EP that previews the unit’s new sounds in addition to revisiting old ones on the four-track Set Fire To The Hive. This quintet’s forward-thinking approach immediately brings to mind a combination of System of a Down, Dredg, and Incubus, as Karnivool’s hard rock hooks, unorthodox melodies, and left of center arrangements (just check the horns on “Roquefort” as an indication of what to expect) switch from furious to fragile in the blink of an eye, all with a captivating vocalist skillfully tying the entire grandiose offering together. Exuding the capability to stretch rock music’s boundaries past normal limits, Karnivool’s stopgap presentation provides an ample overview of how this band works. www.karnivool.com.au -Mike SOS

GWYNBLEIDD: NOSTALGIA

Brooklyn, NY by way of Poland quartet Gwynbleidd establishes a name for itself on the prog death metal front with the release of Nostalgia. Despite an obvious Opeth inspiration infused either purposefully or merely by design, this unit champions a grandiose presence, wondrous compositional flow, and epic songwriting techniques that work in symbiosis to form a refined eight-track affair custom made for those who appreciate the sounds of sweeping and majestic metal with a sinister growl spearheading the movement (“Thawing Innocence”). Fleshing out intriguing dynamic twists without losing an unwavering density that keeps the album’s pace brisk notwithstanding lengthy arrangements and the mood ominous and foreboding, this album’s lush acoustic interludes woven into waves of somber and reflective melodic death metal deftly hammers home a solid sense of metallic melancholy.  While the sound-alike references this act is bound to face may be a dealbreaker, this squad’s elegant sense of musicality and masterful manipulation of the death/doom/folk metal triad reveals an enjoyable listening experience for those who like to adventure with ambient metal. www.blackcurrantmusic.com -Mike SOS

PESTILENTIAL SHADOWS: IN MEMORIAM III OMEN

Black metal isn’t just coming from normal channels anymore, as Australia’s Pestilential Shadows demonstrates with a mutual blast of the cold and bleak temperance shared amongst their northernmost peers This unit’s latest elegiac eight tracks of evil titled In Memoriam III Omen features a feral battering of twin guitarwork to guide the affair into black metal’s murky depths and pits of despair on cuts such as “Of Loss And Suffering Inherit” and the ethereal instrumental “Ecclesia Moriendi”. Everything else from authentic production values to the vitriolic vocals is not only solid, but a cut above genre specifications, stamping menacing mid-tempo numbers such as “Beautiful Demise” with the right measure of glacial isolationist tendencies and significantly somber musicianship for a hearty combo of melancholy and mayhem (“With Serpents I Lay “). www.pulverised.net -Mike SOS

ANNUNAKI/ ANTICOSM: SPLIT CD

New Jersey metal merchants Anticosm and Annunaki join forces for a six-song split of unadulterated power and malevolent metallic fury. Up first are Annunaki and their pristine blend of dark thrash-infused melodeath leaning slightly towards the Swedish side of the spectrum a la The Haunted and Dark Tranquility. This act’s controlled chaos rips skulls apart on cuts like the vehemently blackened “Blunt Scapel Extraction”, whose wailing whammy bar abusing guitar solo slays with barbaric stealth. Anticosm closes out this malicious melee with a lesser produced yet similarly spirited blend of metal, as this unit’s bold warrior look (complete with fur and spikes) is accompanied with a sinister stream of traditional power metal, black, and groove metal evoking the wares of bands ranging from Goatwhore to Three Inches of Blood on “Necrolepsy Slumbershock”. Sharing a common interest of interpreting modern nuances into old school extreme metal templates, this split disc steers listeners past crowds straight to a place in the underground where hellacious hybrids reign supreme. www.myspace.com/anticosm & www.myspace.com/annunakiband -Mike SOS

amazon leaves eyesLEAVES’ EYES: NJORD

Symphonic metal sextet Leaves’ Eyes return with Njord, a sweepingly orchestral offering perfectly crafted for a theatrical production. Led by the powerhouse vocals of Liv Kristine and adorned with an enormous wall of music encompassing everything from waves of singing choirs and world beat woodwinds (“Irish Rain”) to effective beauty and the beast vocal tradeoffs and killer melodic death metal underpinnings (“Emerald Island”), this disc dramatically delivers with an over the top grandiosity considerably less fluffy yet decisively more consistent than previous works. Fans of Lacuna Coil, Within Temptation, and Nightwish will have little problem diving headlong here, as this 12-track disc goes above and beyond the call of duty with providing a refined and robust symphonic/goth/folk metal platter. www.napalmrecords.com -Mike SOS

AMY LYNN AND THE GUN SHOW: AMY LYNN AND THE GUN SHOW

A staggering dose of genuine soulfulness spews from the latest eponymous four-track offering by Amy Lynn and The Gun Show, so much so that you could probably get away with conning friends into believing this disc is a remastered collection of gems from days gone by. This nine-piece band champions a bevy of stylistic tricks from Phil Spector’s patented Wall of Sound technique while lead singer Amy accompanied by a proficient duo of backup singers push the Supreme-esque approach to the moon and stars on cuts like the dynamically shapeshifting “My Only One.” Making the most from having the luxury of having nine musicians working in unison, Amy Lynn and The Gun Show produce an organically enriched musical experience that sizzles with snappy melodies and shimmying rhythms where modern pop sass, old school AM radio R&B and classic soul collide. www.amylynnandthegunshow.com -Mike SOS

FAUST: FROM GLORY TO INFINITY

Displaying a dastardly dichotomy of tumultuous technicality and savage bludgeoning, the latest nine-track offering from veteran unit Faust demonstrates the barrage of intense and involved guitar runs, unearthly vocal growls, blazing tempos and cascading melodies that helps to round out this seasoned crew’s multifaceted evil attack (“Carnal Beattitude”). Emitting a enriched and refined aura while blasphemously blasting the masses with the type of hellaciously hate-filled vitriol heard on cuts like “Golden Wine Countess”, this band pounds out aggression with a sense of progression at the forefront of their blistering assault, interchanging dynamic musical interplay with dramatic atmospheric swings that masterfully captures the wicked grace and grave glory of the pioneers of death metal in their heyday. www.paragonrecords.org -Mike SOS

POWER PELLUT: POWER PELLUT

Louisiana sludge trio Power Pellut mix Am Rep style vocal barks with a slew of fuzzed out Eyehategod-esque viscosity to comprise its eponymous six-song swampy sojourn. Solely released on 180g vinyl and limited to a 500 copy run, this uniquely presented offering specializes with an amps cranked to 11 ballistic rhythmic explosiveness seemingly derived from endless hours of jamming in the studio with the bloodshot intent to crush all in its path firmly at the forefront of the mission.  Not unlike fellow purveyors of dissonance such as Melvins, Unsane, and Black Sabbath, Power Pellut’s purge to plod provides a skull-rattling good time for those who choose to take their metal with a side of ugly. www.imbetterthaneveryonerecords.com -Mike SOS

amazon midnight fistfightMIDNIGHT FISTFIGHT: THE MAIN EVENT

NYC’s Midnight Fistfight recall a time when denim and leather was the uniform and the attitude was fast and loose on their Sunset Strip soaked five-track debut The Main Event. Equipped with a gritty guitar tandem whose nimble fretwork and on the money Guns ‘n Roses and Skid Row by way of AC/DC and Faster Pussycat riffs (“My Cocaine”) gel with lead vocalist Dan Pyro’s Dionysian lyrical double entendres and credible cock rock delivery (“Booze & Bitches”), earning this offering an all access pass back to the glory days of arena rock and hair metal’s excesses and successes. www.myspace.com/midnightfistfightrules -Mike SOS

KRUM BUMS: SAME OLD STORY

Austin, TX punk quintet Krum Bums return with its high-energy attack and sinister snarl fully intact on Same Old Story. This six-track affair authentically exudes punk’s rebellious nature without sacrificing melody on cuts like “Sons of Nothing” and the street punk sing-along “No Apologies” while cranking up the heat in true Krum Bum fashion on the rapid-fire “Coliseum,” satisfying all ends of the genre’s spectrum with an angst-ridden  punk-metal powderkeg ready to explode. www.tkorecords.com -Mike SOS

THRONEUM: DEATHCULT CONSPIRACY

Polish blackened death metal troupe Throneum exhibit a nefariously necromantic blend of Celtic Frost, Possessed, Sepultura, Entombed, and Obituary on their nine-track descent into the catacombs entitled Deathcult Conspiracy. Raw and relentless, this disc’s fitting murky production, maniacal and ferocious vocal performance (“Rituals of Fire and Sulphur”) evil arrangements (“His Shadow”) and sturdy guitar riffs and fills are far from groundbreaking yet hypnotize with a catastrophic cadence whose blasphemous brutality and unabashed underground approach is bound to earn points for those who choose to embrace the sunless universe (“Wizzard’s Testimony”). www.paganrecords.pl -Mike SOS

WHILE HEAVEN WEPT: VAST OCEANS LACHRYMOSE

A histrionic strand of sorrowful and forlorn progressive metal comes courtesy of seasoned sextet While Heaven Wept and their latest disc Vast Oceans Lachrymose. This veteran unit’s six year in the making melancholic collection features discernibly less epic doom than previous works while showcasing pervasive Dream Theater-esque melodic flair with Fates Warning-like lengthy instrumental passages. The band stunningly pulls off this graceful shift in styles without completely extinguishing their once dominant doom-laden flame (“Living Sepulchre”), surely a relieving thought for longtime followers. Boldly using the wide array elements in their vast arsenal to form a grandiose strain of majestic yet somber metal falling squarely between Katatonia and Solitude Aeternus, While Heaven Wept display elegant and forward-thinking metal at its best. www.cruzdelsurmusic.com -Mike SOS

amazon destroTHE DESTRO: HARMONY OF DISCHORD

Proud to proclaim a breakdown band they are not, Dallas, TX squad The Destro instead opt to unleash brutal barrages of thrashy and sludgy death metal on latest release Harmony of Dischord. Containing nine-tracks of non-stop teeth-gnashing groove-laden metallic goodness, this quartet strikes with Carcass-esque precision (“Angel Killer”), dastardly deathcore rage (“Thorns of Truth”) and a boatload of southern-fried by way of Sweden downtuned guitar licks that wouldn’t sound out of place in a jam between Exhorder, Meshuggah, Exodus and Down (“Mouth of the Heretic”). Yielding a one-dimensional yet utterly punishing entity, this troupe pushes levels to the brink of disaster (“Persistence of Ignorance”) truly revitalizing an extreme aura back into modern extreme metal. www.metalblade.com -Mike SOS

HELEN MONEY: IN TUNE

Alison Chesley uses her creativity, an effects board or two and a cello to make music on Helen Money’s sophomore effort In Tune. This captivating and unique offering dishes out nine unorthodox compositions whose brooding metallic base and overcast experimental flourishes rival those championed by the current crop of post metal acts (“Untitled”) and wouldn’t sound out of place as a score to a quirky indie flick (“Waterwalk”). Uneasy by design and deceptively chilling yet hauntingly memorable (“Too Heavy”), this disc exhibits the sonic might, foreboding darkness, and crushing heft a cello is capable of when put into the hands of a performer with an adventurous mind, a boundless spirit, and a rock ‘n roll soul. www.tableoftheelements.com -Mike SOS

DYSE: LIEDER SIND BRUDER DER REVOLUTION

The wildly eclectic two-man rock ‘n roll machine known as Dyse turns discordant punk upside down with the avant-garde 11-track Lieder Sind Bruder Der Revolution. This German duo’s fearless songwriting tactics, sensational use of loud/soft dynamics, tightly wound hardcore guitars (“Supermachineeyeon”), and raucous robot metal outbursts (“Shop Sui”) are likely to be ravished by those who can’t get enough Queens of the Stone Age or Refused. Cuts like “Dysenfischdyse” feature vocalizations salaciously switching between whimsical and brutal while the sinewy swagger of “Trick” and the majestic “Baubaubau” is doused with triumphant trumpets to spice this unit’s bottomless barrage of spastic schizophrenia. Possessing the kind of unbridled passion and boundless ambition that fosters repeated listens, Dyse’s latest release is a perfect choice for disaffected listeners who clamor for their heavy music to go beyond genre norms. www.mainstreamrecords.de -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: Arch Enemy "The Root Of All Evil," Behemoth, GWAR, & More…

Amazon Arch EnemyARCH ENEMY

THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL

Metal mavens Arch Enemy have excavated some of their favorite cuts from the first three non-Angela albums, rehearsed (and in some instances rehashed) the hell out of them and went to the studio and laid down new versions to comprise their latest 13-track endeavor The Root of All Evil. While re-recording previous works long finished seems like a copout to some and sometimes irks loyal fans as taking a cheap and easy route, such is not the case here thanks to Team Amott’s unbridled pristine interpretations of classics (“The Immortal,” “Dead Inside”) brimming over with a voracious vigor whose exhilarating electricity renders the closest thing to the energy of a live show you can get with headphones plugged in. www.centurymedia.com -Mike SOS

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THE CRIMSON ARMADA

GUARDIANS

Ohio metal troupe The Crimson Armada give it up to God while playing a fierce style of new school death metal on their 10-track endeavor Guardians. Following the structures and musical template of The Black Dahlia Murder a bit too closely (“Desecrated”), this band makes up for the blatant borrowing with barrages of tasty technical twin guitar shreddery (“A Filthy Addiction”) and healthy dollops of deathcore breakdowns interspersed (“The Final Words”). Nonetheless, this quintet’s furious yet familiar strain of modern extreme metal aims for a colossal collision of Hot Topic mall rats and Christian metal bible-thumpers. Let the games begin. www.metalblade.com -Mike SOS

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JOB FOR A COWBOY

RUINATION

Job for a Cowboy have raised the ire of purists and caught a lot of heat from stalwart death metal fans for being the media darling poster boys for the modern death metal movement, yet Ruination showcases the band making musical strides away from their maligned deathcore roots, sprouting towards a discernibly old school death metal approach. This 10-track excursion in extremity exhibits an unadulterated Vader/Suffocation/ Morbid Angel/ Cannibal Corpse vibe and you’d be hard pressed to find anything that resembles “core” on this offering. Instead, it sounds as if this fast-rising Arizona quintet shut off the hype machine long enough to pay close attention and take stringent notes while trekking the globe with some of the genre’s elite outfits, resulting in piecing together their own interpretations of the works of the aforementioned elite acts (amongst others), even going as far to implement apocalyptic slow-churned down tempo elements (“Ruination”) and Lamb of God-esque melody into their scalding stew (“Regurgitated Disinformation”). Changing key members also doesn’t hurt to freshen up the mix, and with a new drummer and guitarist in tow, this squad’s sound has morphed into a meaner and nastier entity, as tracks like “Lords of Chaos,” “Summon the Hounds,” and “Detonate and Exterminate” demonstrate this crew’s beefed-up brutal nuances in full assault mode. Haters will still pontificate and run the band down for their shortcomings, but the fact remains that Job for a Cowboy is breaking away from the trappings of their earlier endeavors by embracing a face-ripping death metal retread sound that, while far from groundbreaking, puts the band in a position to justify all of the attention they’ve received. www.metalblade.com -Mike SOS

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DOGS OF WINTER

FROM SOIL TO SHALE

A sinewy yet soothing dose of hypnotic Hesher rock comes courtesy of NYC outfit Dogs of Winter, whose debut full-length From Soil to Shale renders an exquisite nine-track rock excursion teeming with a loud and clear yet down and dirty elegance. This trio serves up a veritable stoner rock smorgasbord bursting with crafty nuggets of raucous rock ‘n roll audacity and well-placed off kilter alternative metal techniques (“Flesh to Stone,” “Ghost”). Bridging the oceansized gap between the grassroots metal of Baroness, the keep you guessing tendencies of Faith No More, and the hard hitting tunefulness of Foo Fighters, this unit’s fluid musical interplay and standout soulful vocal harmonies (“Beneath the Fold”) yield hybrids of muscular hard rock with brazen hooks, throbbing rhythms, and sly lyrical content that embody an earthy vibe as if whittled down from endless late night studio session jams. Showcasing lean and mean arrangements with an abundance of floating rhythms abound (“Anathema”), Dogs of Winter is poised to satisfy your sweet tooth with their batch of voluminous and voraciously addictive rock ‘n roll. www.lapdanceacademy.com -Mike SOS

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Amazon BehemothBEHEMOTH

EVANGELION

Polish death metal mavens Behemoth unleash another blasphemous barrage of blackened death metal on the unit’s latest affair Evangelion. Intense from end to end, this nine-track offering renders a blistering batch of unholy mantras over a noteworthy demonstration of relentless percussion (“The Seed Ov I”) while a menacing mix of guitar and bass explosions pummel your skull (“Defiling Morality Ov Black God”) and shakes you down to your soul (“OV Fire and The Void”). Crisper and more fluid thanks to the talents of Colin Richardson behind the boards, Behemoth’s massively malefic tones and ominous grooves sound bigger, badder, and burlier than before (“Shemhamforash”), thrusting this troupe from the roots of the underground to the surface of the extreme metal bubble with all the malcontent and dastardly elements intact necessary to destroy the hapless in their path. Strap yourself in and prepare for the oncoming onslaught courtesy of this evil outfit. www.metalblade.com -Mike SOS

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THE HATED

DRINKIN’ FOR A LIVING

The hard living Delaware punk quintet The Hated are a grizzled lot whose latest five-song sojourn clocks in at just shy under 10 minutes and demonstrates the right way to play hard nosed street punk. Drinkin’ for a Living is a pogo-friendly free for all armed with a fast and loose style (“Barfight”) reminiscent of acts such as the bouncier side of Black Flag and Cock Sparrer at their most anthemic (“Troubled Oi”). Adorned with a fiery selection of compact tunes that help build confidence necessary to mix it up at any time, The Hated do the punk scene proud by heartily embracing an authentic style that any fan of real punk rock can’t resist. www.myspace.com/forverhated93 -Mike SOS

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GNAW THEIR TONGUES

ALL THE DREAD MAGNIFICENCE OF PERVERSITY

One-man Dutch experimental black metal project Gnaw Their Tongues eerily creep into the subconscious with latest release All the Dread Magnificence of Perversity. Adorned with an odd array of swirling instrumentation pieced together as if scoring a horror movie, ominous synths, sci-fi spoken word samples, blackened atmosphere, and whizzes of bleak industrial noise dominates GTT’s ethereal soundscape. This nine-track affair makes a serious bid for most vile and desperate cinematic soundtrack since Fantomas thanks to a cavalcade of chilling shrieks and compellingly edge of your seat musical movements that guide the way through the murky and shadowy paths taken on tracks such as “The Stench of Dead Horses on My Breath and The Vile Existence in My Hands.” Depraved and devious (just check out the disturbing bloodsoaked artwork of female captives in different stages of mechanical bondage), this is a perfect album to throw on loop at the house during trick or treat time to set the mood, scare the hell out of the neighbors, and dismember bodies to. www.crucialblast.net -Mike SOS

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ECHOES OF ETERNITY

AS SHADOWS BURN

American female fronted metal quintet Echoes of Eternity return with their sophomore effort, the nine-track disc As Shadows Burn. Displaying a capable handle of both progressive-minded Euro metal nuances and the dreamy Goth metal sound, this troupe exhibits the capability to switch between menacing (“Descent of a Blackened Soul”) and galloping (“Letalis Deus”) at the drop of a dime while the twin guitar assault shreds with the melodic mind of a blend of Mercyful Fate, Arch Enemy, and Megadeth (“The Scarlet Embrace,” “Funeral in the Sky”). If you’re a sucker for sterile but sweet vocal harmonies over a durable and rousing yet retread metal backdrop a la Nightwish yet clamor for more hard nosed delivery, Echoes of Eternity has everything lined up ready for you to dive into. www.nuclearblastusa.com -Mike SOS

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Amazon AuguryAUGURY

FRAGMENTARY EVIDENCE

The progressive metal tag is often overused to describe bands, yet there’s really no other way to accurately depict the music of Canadian unit Augury. Returning after a five year absence and undergoing significant lineup changes, Fragmentary Evidence reveals an outfit weaned on ‘70s prog rock expansiveness, traditional classical music structure, and jazz improvisation as much as the forward-thinking death metal of Death and Suffocation and the black metal straight from Norway. This squad’s intense and unique intricacies blend virtuoso guitar playing with rhythmic gymnastics under the barbaric rants from a slew of guest vocals, making an exhilarating listening experience for even the most finicky of technical death metal heads. Featuring a standout bass guitar performance that sweepingly takes the lead over much of the album while equipped with an innate acumen that invites an oppressive atmosphere and blistering barrages of shredding to coexist in perfect harmony (“Jupiter to Ignite”), Augury’s blend of jaw-dropping musicianship and harrowing brutality renders a marvelously malevolent spectacle where adventurous metallic minds will readily get lost in (“Skyless”). www.nuclearblastusa.com -Mike SOS

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AS YOU DROWN

REFLECTION

Swedish squad As You Drown cross-pollinates an old school death metal spirit with seeds from the deathcore tree on their nine-track debut Reflection. This quartet’s concoction of severe savagery over a barrage of bludgeoning modern tones is seemingly redundant and yields a far from earth shattering result, even conjuring comparisons to Bury Your Dead and the like upon first listen. Yet don’t count this act out just yet, as dastardly discernible characteristics from the unsurpassed brutality of Suffocation to the technical tenacity of Meshuggah take flight after a few spins (“Swallow,” “Ashes”) to give As You Drown’s punishing presence a way more well rounded appeal than that of their peers. Focusing on demolishing everything in its path with an unstoppable sonic crush whose impressive exhibition of power is capable of widespread damage (“Driven by Hatred”), Reflection proves to be a extreme metal exercise in relentlessness which stands solid amongst the countless metal troupes who employ similar devices. www.metalblade.com -Mike SOS

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CRYPTIC TALES

VII DOGMATA OF MERCY

Polish quintet Cryptic Tales latest album is 13 years in the making, making this veteran outfit’s latest seven-track VII Gogmata of Mercy the extreme metal version of Chinese Democracy…minus the dramatics apparently. This troupe’s symphonic black metal styling contains punchy melodies (“Set the Unholy Icons Free”) and robust guitars (“Valley of the Dolls II”) that stays in step with Old Man’s Child and Cradle of Filth, yet with drums way high in the mix throughout the disc’s course, it’s hard to ascertain a continuous sense of atmosphere while constant pounding is abound. Nonetheless, Cryptic Tales follow blueprints while making artistic additions well enough to pull off a sturdy long awaited follow-up laden with a bevy of the necessary nefarious instrumental ingredients interspersed with an oddball sense of humor (just check out their cheeky promo pictures as an indication of this) that should garnish this band attention from the corpsepainted contingent. www.empire-records.pl -Mike SOS

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THE FEW AGAINST MANY

SOT

The Few Against Many is a progressive melodic death metal troupe that boasts former members of Satariel, Torchbearer, Angel Blake, and ex-Scar Symmetry frontman Christian Alvestam in its ranks. This Swedish quintet’s debut SOT demonstrates a hellacious hybrid of symphonic black metal, melodic death metal, and a tenacious technical prowess whose scope is way darker and oppressive than when we heard Alvestam last, as tracks like “Heresi” bleed through the speakers with Dark Tranquility-esque fury while “Skapelsens Sorti” explores a shadowy symphonic side with lyrics sung in Swedish (only two songs here are sung in English by the way, proving that as long as the voice sounds evil, it’s all good). Providing a discernibly darker departure with a slew of new and intriguing sounds creeping in unheard on previous works, The Few Against Many make their mark with a solid array of nefarious melodies (“Brand Mark”) via SOT. www.pulverisedrecords.com -Mike SOS

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Amazon Mun WateMUNICIPAL WASTE

MASSIVE AGGRESSIVE

Good time thrashers Municipal Waste bear down from the carefree kill the keg beer swigging ways to produce their fourth installment of speed and power in the form of Massive Aggressive. As cliché as it sounds, this Virginia quartet’s latest 13-track attack is the album where this troupe has “matured”, but fear not loyal fans, they haven’t gone soft in the least; in fact, the ‘Waste is as dangerous as ever, churning out the cavalcade of blistering breakneck riffs with all the vicious velocity your body can handle with the impetus of the bastard child of Suicidal Tendencies, DRI and Exodus (“Acid Sentence”, “Mech-Cannibal”). The departure comes mainly in the lyrical content, a place where the unit’s trademarked crack a beer and chug whimsy has all but disappeared (sans “Horny for Blood”), replaced by a barrage of horror movie retellings (“The Wrath of the Severed Head”), disaster scenarios (“Wolves of Chernobyl”), and fighting the powers that be (“Upside Down Church,” “Divine Blasphemer”), fitting in perfectly with the crew’s menacing riffing, high pitched vocal yowl, and ripping rapid-fire drumming. Meshing chaotic hardcore punk leanings (“Media Skeptic”) with hearty dollops of mid-paced chugging into their high-energy tumultuous thrash metal approach (“Massive Aggressive”), Municipal Waste’s latest album showcases a sinister sharpening of their skill set while the band implements some new tricks into their arsenal that when combined make a template for what a lean and mean crossover metal record for the 21st Century should sound like. www.earache.com -Mike SOS

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THE ACCUSED

THE CURSE OF MARTHA SPLATTERHEAD

Despite only one original member remaining in the fold (guitarist Tommy Niemeyer for those keeping score at home), incendiary Seattle splattercore pioneers The Accused manage to capture the extreme essence from their salad days on the group’s latest 14-track endeavor The Curse of Martha Splatterhead. Reinvigorating the masses with a fire at all cylinders slash and burn style that bequeaths them crossover hero status alongside the ranks of DRI and Suicidal Tendencies (“Scotty Came Back”), this release relentlessly slams your head against the wall from start to finish with a barrage of twisted vocal angst (“Splatter Rock II”), thunderous rapid fire thrash metal percussion (“Bodies are Rising”), raucous punk metal guitar melodies (“Hemline”), and gore-driven horror movie intensity throughout the entire affair, making this album a raw treat chock full of the unapologetic hack ‘em up and drag ‘em out metallic goodness this band helped spawn. www.southernlord.net -Mike SOS

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BLOOD OF THE PROPHETS

BLOOD OF THE PROPHETS

Toledo, OH sextet Blood of the Prophets blend the best elements of modern metal to comprise their three-song eponymous release. Led by a versatile menacing growl and a bountiful array of nifty fretwork with an obligatory dose keyboard overlay to add a harrowing chill (“Awaiting Death”), this act confidently straddles the line between the heavy handed approach of Chimaira and the histrionic path of melodic black metal to create a maelstrom of metallic fury whose familiar strains of aggression are bound to get the pit involved. www.myspace.com/bloodoftheprophets -Mike SOS

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YOUR DEMISE

IGNORANCE NEVER DIES

Your Demise is a bruising UK quintet whose angry bursts of melodic metal-tinged hardcore falls in line with the most recent works of Agnostic Front, Gallows, and Comeback Kid on the 14-track Ignorance Never Dies. Rendering a refreshing concoction of Hatebreed-esque pit stompers (“The Clocks Aren’t Ticking Backwards”, “Nothing Left But Regret”) featuring a scalding mix of vicious vocals, a standout bombastic bass guitar whose performance deserves an award (“Burnt Tongues”), chunky riffs galore, and rhythmic beatdowns (“TF”), the only misstep here are the electronic dub interludes dispersed in between the mauling mayhem of cuts like “All I Never Want to Be” and “Black Veins”, coming off a bit overindulgent and misplaced. But when taking on this album as a whole, Your Demise’s supple fury (“Blood Ran Cold”) maintains the immediacy of slamming grooves chock full of punk spirit and hardcore heft, so all can be forgiven for their branching out and throwing some chill out moments in, as you’ll definitely need them to catch your breath anyhow. www.earache.com -Mike SOS

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amazon-gwar-lustGWAR

LUST IN SPACE

Intergalactic metal warriors Gwar celebrate their 25th anniversary as a band in style (just check out the homage to Kiss from the album’s cover) with a discernibly thrashier approach on Lust in Space. Retaining the outrageous stage antics and witty lyrical subject matter (“Metal Metal Land”) that put them in the collective conscience of the metal scene, Gwar’s 11th studio offering (produced by Devin Townsend no less) is a meatier musical entry, providing the listener an impressive arsenal of durable guitarwork (“Let Us Slay”) and solid metal anthems (“Parting Shot”, “Damnation Under God”) to go along with the band’s undeniably unique presentation. Cohesively tying everything together to form a solid release where the chops are as sharp as the whimsical delivery, Gwar’s latest cosmic treat is a raucous and fun-filled metal excursion chock full of headbanging humor. www.metalblade.com -Mike SOS

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BURNT BY THE SUN

HEART OF DARKNESS

New Jersey metalcore titans Burnt By the Sun have sadly decided to call it a day, but at least they’ve graciously given us a mammoth farewell in the form of their explosive 10-track swan song Heart of Darkness. This menacing menagerie of metalcore mayhem impressively recreates the cult unit’s seething delivery after a six-year hiatus with trademarked edgy songwriting twists cemented into a brash barrage of tumultuous technical metal colliding into chaotic and confrontational hardcore perspectives masterfully captured via Mike Olender’s vitriolic and venomous bark. This is not your run of the mill Hot Topic metalcore, kids; this is the real deal from seasoned veterans that get the job done with a proficient combination of brutality, integrity and expedience, providing the necessary nastiness that lunges from the speakers with an insatiable wrath to destroy. www.relapse.com -Mike SOS

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HARDCORE SUPERSTAR

BEG FOR IT

Cock rock for the 21st Century, Sweden’s Hardcore Superstar return with the group’s latest offering Beg For It. A hodgepodge homage to heavier end of hair metal a la Love/Hate and Kix, this 12-track affair’s jarring juxtaposition of contemporary tones with pop metal priss (“Hope for a Normal Life”) is tailor-made to rock soccer stadiums (“Nervous Breakdown”) thanks to the mind-numbing enormity of the choruses, not to mention the presence of both a gritty and grizzled rock singer and nifty fits of glistening guitar (“Beg for It”). If you’re pining for a modern slant on glam metal’s glory days or really miss 1988 that much, Hardcore Superstar sufficiently scratches the itch but don’t expect much more. www.nuclearblastusa.com -Mike SOS

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OVERMARS

BORN AGAIN

Make sure your attention span is fully intact when popping in the latest one-track, 40-minute endeavor from ambitious French metal septet Overmars, as Born Again tries patience and slows momentum with its methodically torturous pace and unsettlingly haunting passages of dastardly drone and doom-laden dramatics that unmistakably shares common ground with avant-garde metal’s usual suspects such as Isis and Neurosis. Almost as if providing a soundtrack for an inescapable nightmare, this unit’s bleak industrial interludes and trance-inducing elements are bolstered by a three-prong vocal attack (two guys and one girl), each with distinct characteristics stamping unique eeriness to the redundant lyrical textures. Not only do the nuances of sludgy post-metal, dirge-like ambience, and black metal atmosphere join forces here, they work together in a sinister symbiosis to crush your feeble soul while exerting an excruciating display of darkness and despair custom made for those who call the catacombs home. www.crucialblast.net -Mike SOS

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Amazon Along DeathTHE BLACK

ALONGSIDE DEATH

Harkening back to an era where black metal was at its most unfettered, Swedish trio The Black take a nefarious no-nonsense approach on their scathing eight-track offering Alongside Death. Serving a malicious hunk of meat and potatoes black metal with a cavalcade of eerie riffs, chaotic blasts, and feral vocal utterances leading the charge, The Black murkily impart direct derivations from the Mayhem and Satyricon playbooks (“Dead Seed”).  Despite the complaints about the unit’s simplicity, it’s that same dialed-back delivery which allows for the squad’s diabolical aura to permeate from “A Contract Written in Ashes,” making an enjoyably authentic slab of demonic darkness for those who have stayed troo. www.pulverised.net -Mike SOS

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SUBARACHNOID SPACE

EIGHT BELLS

Returning after a four-year layoff with a completely revamped lineup, revered Portland, OR troupe Subarachnoid Space dole out five mainly instrumental tracks of space-laden psychedelic guitar freakouts from the bleak end of the black hole on this galactic group’s latest offering Eight Bells. This veteran troupe keeps the riffs cosmic and the atmosphere dark (“Akathesia”) while providing an acidic blend of trippy effects, Hawkwind-esque heft, and fluctuating moodswings with a hard rock soul, yielding a stellar set of shadowy explosions (“Hunter Seeker”) which should find no problem fitting snugly between your Fucking Champs and Explosions in the Sky discs. www.crucialblast.net -Mike SOS

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LITURGY

RENIHILATION

Brooklyn NY’s Liturgy sparks an interesting debate for the ardent black metal fan to lament over; can a band who openly and wholeheartedly disregards black metal’s trademarked norms yet punishes ears with a similar array of blistering elements passed down from the genre’s elite really be considered black metal? Surely this discussion is bound to go the distance, but rest assured this fresh-faced as opposed to corpse-painted troupe will be too occupied transcending their abominable aural assault through opaque intervals of twin guitar tremolo runs to care about looking the part. Adorned with an unintelligible bestial shriek that fits the music perfectly and solidified with an octopus-esque percussive performance that whirls at breakneck velocity and never misses a beat, this collection of volatile metallic shredding gives props to Burzum, Darkthrone, and Ulver while implementing smidgens of hipster influence within its classically cacophonic crackles and bastardized buzzing to keep the haters hating and the vibe raw, yet maintain a global scope (“Track 7”) which permits an escape from their frosty forest to peruse the vast metal landscape for inspiration before making their solemn sojourn back to the wild. www.20buckspin.com -Mike SOS

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FUNKFACE

YOUR POLITICS SUCK

Seasoned NYC juggernaut Funkface hits hard with a soulful hard rock stance on their eight-track endeavor Your Politics Suck. Taking the listener back with the immediacy of Bad Brains while mixing in a flurry of Living Color-esque hard rock with flourishes of harder-edged ska and punk, this quintet displays a unique energy where both old school values and new school tones collide yet coexist in heavy harmony. www.funkfacenyc.com -Mike SOS

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Amazon HarvestmanHARVESTMAN

IN A DARK TONGUE

Harvestman is the third musical offering from prolific post-metal artist Steve Von Till (Neurosis) that essentially captures one man’s journey through sound. Waves of synths and guitars crash along drone rhythms while a rash of unorthodox instrumentation yields a cosmic cacophony jarringly juxtaposing hallucinogenic rock and abstract noise. Despite the music’s trance-like build-ups peaking to reach grand crescendos, Harvestman retains a disciplined tranquility that emphatically echoes the earthy sentiments of the music’s natural surroundings yet still manages to break away and take rocket ship rides to outer space (“The Hawk of Achill”). www.neurotrecordings.com -Mike SOS

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LITMUS

AURORA

UK psychedelic metal merchant Aurora returns from a trip in the time machine to present their third offering, the euphoric eight-track journey entitled Aurora. A galactic odyssey containing all the space rock swagger, prog-rock peel-outs, and crazy keyboard whizzes and swirls your brain on drugs can potentially handle, Litmus’ bromantic worship of Hawkwind is appalling but totally forgivable because of their authentic interpretation of both the energy and the experimental spirit. Further channeling Yes, Monster Magnet, and Pink Floyd into the mix also doesn’t hurt, as this band’s ability to effortlessly blast off into the universe’s farthest reaches is a boundless entity that renders a elated listening experience for all who crave an escape. www.riseaboverecords.com -Mike SOS

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TENET

SOVEREIGN

How’s this for a resume? Tenet is a supergroup started by Jed Simon comprised by members of Exodus, Strapping Young Lad, Forbidden, and Dark Angel. While imposing and impressive on paper, this troupe’s ferocious batch of oppressive thrash metal beatings is for real and delivers with a dastardly snarl that damn near guarantees this all-star quintet an automatic ascension to the genre’s upper-echelon. Sovereign is a nine-track thrash metal tour-de-force whose startlingly seething approach (thanks most notably via an insanity-laden over the top vocal performance from Steve Souza), endless rounds of resonant crushing riffs, and permeating vibes of genuine destruction all work together to form brutal barrages of Grade A thrash metal. Churning out the kind of vibrant volatility that the permutation of some of the genre’s elite should be, Tenet present a triumphant neck-snapping affair thrash fans new and old will adore. www.centurymedia.com -Mike SOS

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DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA

SING-ALONG SONGS FOR THE DAMNED AND DELIRIOUS

Schizophrenic Swedish sextet Diablo Swing Orchestra intertwine crushing metal a la System of a Down with oodles of oddball flare that combines heavy-handed metal menacing with a jump-jiving dose of 1940’s-era ragtime and swing with a span the globe sound. Throw in a bothersome barrage of over the top male/female operatic twin vocals and cap it off with a smorgasbord of surreal stylistic switches accompanied by a cavalcade of old time instrumentation destined to induce listener dizziness to round out this twisted yet enchanting offering. If you can stand your metallic attack with a lot of left of center influences, you won’t find a more ambitiously avant-garde release than Sing-Along Songs for the Damned and Delirious, making it a must-have for the adventurous sect who wouldn’t feel out of place busting out The Lindy in the pit. www.lasersedgegroup.com -Mike SOS

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Amazon ValkVALKYRJA

INVOCATION OF DEMISE

A cold and bleak strain of black metal emanates from Sweden’s Valkyrja in the form of the nine-track endeavor Invocation of Demise. Originally released in 2007, this sinister offering showcases intense layers of hellacious havoc this band wields with thunderous drums, tremolo guitar runs, and diabolic vocal projections sounding startlingly full and clear for a black metal recording. Paying homage to the pioneers of the genre without sacrificing their own unique twists and turns on cuts such as the sprawling “The Vigil”, the menacing “Plague Death” and the mammoth “Purification and Demise”, Valkyrja’s grim trajectory demonstrates the capability to switch up tempos from blast to crawl without losing an ounce of evil while channeling the gauntlet of black metal atmospheres with an effigy of demonic elegance standing tall throughout. www.metalblade.com -Mike SOS

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VADER

NECROPOLIS

The firm death metal grip of Vader returns to terrorize the world once again, as this stalwart Polish unit returns with the 11-track Necropolis. This disc yields a few surprises (such as an overall emphasis on brevity that gives the entire affair a brutal boost as well as a dramatic and dynamic closer with “When the Sun Drowns in Dark”), yet Vader has achieved status as one amongst a handful of bands who consistently deliver the goods while developing a brand of neck snapping pulverizing metal that they can truly call their own (“Blast”, “Anger”). Armed with the blistering speed, vitriolic vocals, and knockout punch arrangements that have made them a mainstay in the extreme metal scene (“We Are the Horde”), despite all but one original member remaining, Vader manages to not only retain its signature sound but stand out in the vast sea of other metal acts, a testament to both the band’s devastating approach and relentless passion to its craft. www.nuclearblastusa.com -Mike SOS

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WHITE WIZZARD

HIGH SPEED GTO

Focusing on the more pleasant end of the NWOBHM spectrum, Los Angeles revisionist metal mob White Wizzard harkens back to a more hard-rock based form of metal in the vein of Thin Lizzy, early Def Leppard and UFO on their seven-track excursion High Speed GTO. Songs about cars and girls with balls and bite are so pre-1985, yet this quartet pull off the authenticity of the era with a suitcase full of beer and some snappy rhythms (“Celestina”), flashy guitar licks, popping bottom-end (“March of the Skeleltons”) and creamy vocal melodies that stick in your head whether you like it or not. While their pop sensibilities may prove to be a bit too polished for the average metal fan, this act combines hard-edged hooks with arena metal enormity for an undeniably innocuous listening experience perfect for cruising the boulevard with the top down to. www.earache.com -Mike SOS

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MUGS

2009 NYHC

Raw and unapologetic, Mugs tear rooms apart with an unadulterated hardcore punk stance with strains of thrash metal looming underneath. Direct and confrontational, this quartet’s motto of ”Blunts, Broads, Beers and Boards” is played to the hilt on songs like “Work”, the snotty and snarling “I Get What I Want”, the Metallica farce of “Jaws” and the skater anthem “Board 2 Death”. If you’re looking for a soundtrack to demolish things to, seek this one out, as they champion the drunken debauchery of the likes of Murphy’s Law and No Redeeming Social Value rather well. www.myspace.com/pestcontrol -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: Voivod "Infini," Sonata Arctica, Danko Jones, Goatwhore, and more…

Amazon VoivodVOIVOD
INFINI
Finishing up where Katorz left off, the final round of posthumous musical output from deceased guitarist Denis “Piggy” D’Amour has arrived in the form of Infini, a 13-track collection dutifully piecing together the remainder of the compositional odds and sods D’Amour left behind on his laptop before succumbing to cancer in 2005. The rest of Voivod had the tough task of not only grieving over a lost comrade, but rifling through material to draw up a tangible release as well, an undertaking the remaining members administer admirably. Spearheaded by Jason Newsted’s punchy production and roaring bass guitar rumblings (“Treasure Chase”, “From the Cave”), songs like “Volcano” rip out with a Motorhead punk-thrash vibe, while “Krap Radio” demonstrates the bands disdain via the troupe’s trademark slanted slash and burn style. Paying homage to a fallen friend, Infini is an inspired affair that fondly closes a chapter in this band’s legacy. www.voivod.com -Mike SOS
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TOURNAMENT
YEARS OLD
Jagged NYC quartet Tournament showcase a boisterous indie rock clamor with an acute metallic swagger on their 10-track offering Years Old. Unreservedly borrowing from the playbooks of Jesus Lizard and Melvins with traces of scathing punk strewn in for good measure (“Intake Controller”), tracks like “Smokelore” display melodies buried under walls of jaded guitars while the volatile man on fire vocal delivery guides scrawling guitars and rumbling rhythms through “Washcloth” and assists the brutal Helmet-esque low end tidal wave crashes on “Walking Negative Man” and “Snuff News”. Propelled by well-measured doses of heaviness and a disjointed sense anxiety cranked to the max, Tournament properly portrays what a dirty by design brand of balls out rock ‘n roll outfit should sound like. www.forcefieldrecords.org -Mike SOS
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PITFIGHT
PITFIGHT
Queens, NY quintet Pitfight keeps the unbridled NYHC spirit close at hand on their eponymous seven-track sojourn, hammering out menacing chunks of aggression laden with burly breakdowns and hostile gang vocals. Songs like the Madball-esque “The World” and “All Hell Breaks Loose” (not the Misfits song) include the ingredients necessary to elicit a sea of flailing arms and windmill fisticuffs while the SOD meets Entombed feel on “Night of the Living Death” injects a dollop of punk metal attitude into the mix. Most in-tune with the urban metallic end of the hardcore spectrum chock full of chugging guitars and vocal abrasiveness, Pitfight delivers a solid hardcore-styled kick to the skull. www.myspace.com/pitfightnyc -Mike SOS
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AMBASSADOR GUN
WHEN IN HELL
16 tracks of multi-faceted grindcore chaos come courtesy of Minnesota trio Ambassador Gun and their latest release When in Hell. Hyper and hostile, this troupe keeps up a relentless rapid-fire pace while furnishing their blistering Napalm Death meets Nasum assault (“So Pristine”, “Population Control”) with a plethora of contagious riffs exploding from the speakers and a stirringly vitriolic twin vocal onslaught whose apocalyptic imminence pounds through your cranium and sticks in your head long after the disc’s 28 minutes have run out (“When in Hell”, “Delorean”). Startlingly melodic with a punk rock precipice without sacrificing a lick of savagery (“Taylor Reign”, “Ignorance is This”), When in Hell is a triumphant affair specially crafted for well-rounded speed freaks and genre mashers to adore. www.myspace.com/ambassadorgun -Mike SOS
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Amazon GDGOD DETHRONED
PASSIONDALE
Veteran Dutch death metal mongers God Dethroned return with Passiondale, a harrowing 10-track frontline account of the little known horrors from one of the most deadly battles of World War I done over a scintillating modern death metal backdrop. Intertwining storytelling devices from other genres such as Viking metal to properly give reverence to the subject matter at hand, this quartet’s direct and durable warmongering delivery and blackened Swedish metal assault is equipped with a few surprises such as touches of clean singing (“No Survivors”), interludes adorned with keyboard-enhanced doom laden reflection (the triumphant “Poison Fog”) and a cohesively binding instrumental outro (“Artifacts of the Great War”), yet still packs the pulverizing punch expected from this seasoned unit (“Under a Darkening Sky”). Falling a bit on the short side yet not before succinctly fleshing out detailed accounts of the massive massacre, God Dethroned has whipped up a stunning portrait from one of the most notorious atrocities in modern history. www.metalblade.com -Mike SOS
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EXILIA
MY OWN ARMY
Italian female fronted nu metal comes courtesy of circuit vets Exilia, whose latest offering My Own Army slaps pieces Otep’s metallic rage, Lacuna Coil’s stealthy songwriting and My Ruin’s audacity together to form a solid but formulaic strand of rock. Teeming with a bevy of textbook modern rock twists that commercial radio craves with a punchy songwriting acumen that skillfully skirts the line between mainstream rock and action movie metal (“I’m Perfect”), this 12-track release falls prey to nu metal cliché quite a bit (“Far From the Dark”, “Magnolia”) yet redeems itself thanks to a brazen vocal performance whose tough and throaty delivery keeps attention spans alert under the generic brooding atmosphere. www.exiliaweb.com -Mike SOS
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RAVAGE
THE END OF TOMORROW
Instead of following the usual metal sound from the bands of their home state a la Killswitch Engage and Isis, Massachusetts crew Ravage masterfully capture an early 1980’s metallic vibe, channeling everyone from Mercyful Fate and Grim Reaper to Judas Priest (whose “Nightcrawler “ they cover) on the retro quintet’s debut disc The End of Tomorrow. This 12-track ode to traditional metal comes fortified with over the top rousing choruses (“Damn Nation”) and the sort of rollicking freight train musicianship you’d expect from the likes of Armored Saint, Metal Church, and fellow retread act 3 Inches of Blood (“The Shredder”). Tracks such as the meaty “Freedom Fighter” and the histrionic power metal-esque title track burst at the seams with an abundance of galloping rhythms, whammy bar solo trickery, evil riffage, and an unrestrained vocal attack whose wailing pipes are bound to expunge posers quicker than a hiccup. Steeped in classic wares, Ravage goes back to the formative days of NWOBHM, Bay Area thrash, and European power metal to create their inspired and cohesive assault on your ears. www.metalblade.com -Mike SOS
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THE DEFIBULATORS
CORN MONEY
NYC outfit The Defibulators import the down home sounds of truck stop country, bluegrass and honky tonk to the Big Apple on their provocative 17-track affair Corn Money. Any band that has its own coloring book has to be a guaranteed hoot, and this raucous septet is just that, embodying southern fried swing with just the right touches of tear in your beer country (“Your Hearty Laugh”), ragtime frolic (“Honey, You Had Me Fooled”), and whacked out mountain music (“X-mas Ornament”). Armed with hyperactive fiddle, stacked male-female vocal duels, jug and washboard accoutrement, knee-slapping melodies, and guitars whose twang cry out for a two-step (“Dum-Dum”, “Go-Go Truck”), this unit’s punkified take on old-time music turns Americana on its head with a bawdy and bodacious delight. www.thedefibulators.com -Mike SOS
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LAUDANUM
THE CORONATION
A bleak and desperate seven-track doom fest arrives thanks to Oakland’s Laudanum. The Coronation is a dreadful and discordant offering lumbering with an uncomfortable aura, as this quartet drum up an ominous affair draped in piercing horror movie ambiance (“Apotheosis”), noise metal clatter (“Wooden Horse”) and mechanized industrial nuances (“In Obscura”) while a devastatingly destructive sludge metal attack akin to molten lava oozing from a volcanic explosion rears its head and clears room for nefarious vocal growls and howls, binding the entire excruciating 50-minute excursion together. This disc’s foreboding atmosphere and woebegone wares are custom made for an impending full-on global collapse. www.20buckspin.com -Mike SOS
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Amazon SASONATA ARCTICA
THE DAYS OF GRAY
Finnish power metal quintet Sonata Arctica returns with a punchy pomp-filled endeavor titled The Days of Gray. Blending cascading commercial metal hooks with soaring progressive metal prowess into their lush yet visceral keyboard-heavy Euro metal approach (“Juliet”), this squad’s sixth release demonstrates a band well-versed in sweeping dramatics (“The Dead Skin”) and poignant balladry (“As If the World Wasn’t Ending”) as well as cranking out darkened over the top orchestral metal (“Zeroes”) while sneaking in a bit of homeland folk metal (“Flag in the Ground”) for good measure. Melodic and full of zest, The Days of Gray bridges the gap between Dream Theater-esque flash and Blind Guardian-like durability, providing an abundance of rousing metal moments for those who prefer a more elegant design in their metal. www.nuclearblastusa.com -Mike SOS
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FIREBIRD
GRAND UNION
Laying down a concrete 70’s retro rock feel that you can’t help but groove to, Firebird’s fifth installment of classic hard rock Grand Union serves up a winning amalgamation of tooth-bearing hard rock and muscular blues in its journey across the hard rock timeline. Spearheaded by unlikely extreme metal luminary Bill Steer, the whiskey soaked guitars, thunderous bass and drum rhythmic interlocking, and sinewy compositions echo bell bottom heaviness from bands like Cream and Free (“Lonely Road”) while “Release Me” pairs up AC/DC and Deep Purple for a bloozy hard rock tour de force and “Fool For You” displays this power trio’s cleverness by turning a James Taylor song into a sizzling bongo-filled blues rock free for all. Dirty riffs collide with dashes of organ and harmonica (“Worried Mind”) accompaniments with a pulsating vibe straight from the arena rock glory days throughout, assisting Firebird ‘s triumphant throwback aura to fully encumber your rock ‘n roll soul. www.riseaboverecords.com -Mike SOS
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SHAKRA
EVEREST
Swiss troupe Shakra deliver a hard-hitting hard rock offering on Everest, the unit’s seventh full-length album. This quintet exhibits a modern slant on a discernibly 80’s metal foundation, as the influence of bands like Dokken (especially guitar wise) can be heard throughout the 12-track duration. Hooks on cuts like “Love & Pain” and “Dirty Money” mix the wares of Kix and Udo while “Insanity” displays a righteous Euro metal flare with a hearty dollop of Sunset Strip biker grit, kind of what a merger of Love/Hate and In Flames would sound like. Taking the everyman no frills rock from Tesla and slapping a set of BLS-sized balls on the frame, Shakra’s throbbing bottom end and steadfast dedication to hard rock melody make this album a solid album to throw on while cruising down the highway with the top down. www.afmrecords.com -Mike SOS
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CHURCH OF MISERY
HOUSES OF THE UNHOLY
Japanese stoner rock band with a liking for the tales of serial killers a la death metal band Macabre (all of their song titles are named after one) Church of Misery pour on a plethora of teeming lava riffage (“Blood Sucking Freak”), gravel-throated yowls and Black Sabbath bass and drum worship on the seven track Houses of the Unholy. Stocked with a sludge metal swagger and a stoner rock heft that swings as hard as it strikes, songs like “Shotgun Boogie” kick up the jams before the oppressive pentatonic pummeling and creepy bullhorn vocal intro of “The Gray Man” stomps your head against the curb. Channeling everything from COC to Cathedral to Sleep and Weedeater while carving out its own niche into the heavy metal tree of woe, Church of Misery showcase a catchy yet perilous collection of maddening metallic maneuvers slow cooked to savor every last drop of diabolical umbrage. www.riseaboverecords.com -Mike SOS
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LIGHT THIS CITY
THE HERO CYCLE
A posthumous re-release of comes from recently disbanded Bay Area death metal unit Light This City, whose debut The Hero Cycle gets the reissue treatment. Recorded while the band was still in high school, this 10-track endeavor sounds a bit undercooked overall yet burns with the fires of an upstart band fueled by a youthful reckless abandon following a paint by numbers Swedish death metal blueprint. Hardly essential but interesting for completists and rabid fans, this disc showcases a fine display of nubile aggression from a band’s humble beginnings. www.prostheticrecords.com -Mike SOS
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Amazon Danko JonesDANKO JONES
NEVER TOO LOUD
Veritable Canadian hard rock trio Danko Jones strays a few degrees away from the raucous all guns blazing design that gave them their reputation to make way for a much more streamlined and less dangerous change of pace on latest effort Never Too Loud. Opting to draw from the squad’s favorite classic rock nuances to comprise this 11-track affair, tunes like the more than ever Thin Lizzy-inspired “Ravenous” and “City Streets” maintain the trademark grit this European circuit favorite is known for and sophomoric romps “Let’s Get Undressed” and “Still in High School” quench perpetual teenage fantasies as only rock ‘n roll can fulfill, yet the slick Kid Rock-esque ballad “Take Me Home” misses the mark, sounding a bit too polished and contrived from a band that thrives on energy and rock ‘n roll rebellion to churn out. The album’s best moment however is the deliciously deliberate stoner rock direction the six-minute plus track “Forest for the Trees” takes, which boasts not only an undeniable hypnotic groove but boasts a pair of blockbuster guest vocalists in the form of John Garcia and Pete Stahl, who alongside Jones form a monsterous vocal stoner rock triad that is worth the price of the disc alone. Following the lead set by heroes AC/DC and Motorhead in providing consistence while digging deeper to display their roots, Never Too Loud is an album that will perplex some fans as it will take a few listens to fully absorb the changes, yet it is still armed with all the necessary elements to absolutely satisfy everyone who is about to rock. www.badtasterecords.se -Mike SOS
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DARKNESS DYNAMITE
THE ASTONISHING FURY OF MANKIND
French metalcore unit Darkness Dynamite pulls influence from a bevy of reliable high profile sources to compile the by-numbers blend of metallic ferocity heard on this quintet’s 11-track endeavor The Astonishing Fury of Mankind. While this squad won’t be praised for reinventing the metal wheel any time in the near future, they do craftily salvage scraps from cutting room floors of their peers, piecing feral chugga-chugga blasts from the deathcore sect, off-kilter song structures a la fellow countrymen Gojira (“Immersion Inner-Nation”), raging knuckle-breaking hardcore, and creamy melodic choruses from Soilwork (“15$”) and In Flames (“Hell Eve Hate”) together to form a bruising yet uneven batch of disjointed juxtapositions that emit a much-needed fresh scent yet seem a bit malnourished to make a perfect fit. www.metalblade.com -Mike SOS
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CHORD
FLORA
Four ambitious Chicago guitarists (most notably one of the dudes from Pelican) team up to present Chord, a drone project whose dedicated scope aims to “exploit and explore the depth of a single chord.” This four-track affair radiates with doom-like ambience, discovering sumptuous soundscapes within the unit’s self-imposed limitations that resonate with hypnotic beauty and sweeping splendor. While this disc would render a tedious experience for the laymen, aficionados of bands such as Earth and Sunn 0))) will have no problem fully embracing this far-out release bursting with tone and texture. www.neurotrecordings.com -Mike SOS
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MALFEITOR
INCUBUS
Harkening back to traditional black metal’s blistering and bastardized roots, Italian trio Malfeitor presents their sophomore effort in the form of the blistering 10-track Incubus. Vigilantly following the wares of  Dark Funeral and Gogoroth, tracks like “Typhonian Gods” features a crisp black metal crush and “Void of Voids” maintains a menacing black metal tempo while “Down With Me” provides the album with a proper kickoff of tremolo picked guitar blasts and demonic vocal rasps manning the hellacious helm. Supplying a significant amount of catchy riffs and tasty hooks into their cauldron of despair, this act’s carefully constructed black metal bashings do not boast originality yet showcase an unabashed admiration for the movement’s Norwegian and Scandinavian progenitors, making this release a dependable and solid foray into the abyss. www.agoniarecords.com -Mike SOS
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MOLOTOV SOLUTION
THE HARBINGER
Is deathcore still a dirty word amongst the metal sect? If so, no one has told Las Vegas quintet Molotov Solution, whose scalding 11-track endeavor portrays the nuances from the much-maligned genre with brash sociopolitical bite and a penchant for clever composition that falls prey to redundancy at times yet manages to hover a cut-above of the rest of the gang. The Harbinger is an album laden with malicious guitars runs (“Only the Dead”), threatening rhythmic bashings (“Corpus Imperium”), and a gamut-running vocal presence reminiscent of Despised Icon and Misery Signals yet at times remains on the treadmill a bit too long, taking easy chugga-chugga shortcuts to reach familiar bass-dropped moments of volatile nirvana a la every other damn band in the deathcore bunch (“Rule By Secrecy”). Nonetheless, this act seems to have a firmer handle on bludgeoning listeners into submission and throw enough intriguing treats into its mix to warrant massive moshpit activity as well as repeated listens. www.metalblade.com -Mike SOS
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MOSS
TOMBS OF THE BLIND DRUGGED
Slow churned sludge-ridden droning doom comes courtesy of veteran British monolithic metal troupe Moss, whose subtle and simplistic yet excruciatingly lethargic 40-minute excursion Tombs of the Blind Drugged reveals a viscous display of tortured vocals over a plodding and punishing musical backdrop despite containing only four tracks. Consisting of three new tracks and a curious doom adaptation of Discharge’s “Maimed and Slaughtered”, casual metal fans are sure to find this unit’s minimalist approach and significantly sluggish pace difficult to deal with, but for those cursed with firsthand knowledge of pain and suffering, this is the soundtrack of your life. www.metalblade.com -Mike SOS
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Amazon GoatwhoreGOATWHORE
CARVING OUT THE EYES OF GOD
NOLA’s nefarious blackened metal squad Goatwhore returns with another smattering of evil in the form of a hellacious hybrid of metallic fury entitled Carving Out the Eyes of God. This diabolical 10-track display of demonic aggression is armed with a discernible degree of thrash metal mannerisms (“Shadow of a Rising Knife”) but maintains the trademark menacing black metal gallop (“In Legions, I Am Wars of Wrath”) this quartet is best known for. Once again produced by extreme metal guru Erik Rutan, this disc teems with a rabid rapid-fire six-string ruthlessness (“Apocalyptic Havoc”) and benefits by another chalice raised to the netherworld performance by vocalist Ben Falgoust, whose crisp yet malevolent raspy roar leads the impious charge from the bowels of Hell to the Earth’s surface. www.metalblade.com -Mike SOS
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SUFFOCATION
BLOOD OATH
New York death metal masters Suffocation triumphantly return to the forefront of the game they basically created with the unit’s sixth full length offering Blood Oath. Retaining the veteran squad’s trademarked (and much plagiarized) combination of hulking atmosphere, jarring tempo shifts, raw barbarism, and awe-inspiring chops, this 10-track presentation crushes your cranium with a lethal display of intricate death metal insanity. Throwing out fierce fireballs of jolting staccato grooves (“Images of Purgatory”), tumultuous and technical percussion, complex twin guitar chaos (“Cataclysmic Purification”), seething growls telling depraved tales, and in a rarity for death metal, a rumbling bass whose pulverizing low-end and vicious plucking is not only audible but virtually leads the charge (“Pray for Forgiveness”), Blood Oath is yet another powerful presentation which admirably adds to Suffocation’s glorious extreme metal legacy. www.nuclearblastusa.com -Mike SOS
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ERYN NON DAE
HYDRA LERNAIA
French troupe Eryn Non Dae brazenly throws conventional boundaries out the window on their debut affair Hydra Lernaia, opting to steer its brand of crushing metal through the same filters as fellow countrymen Gojira. Heavy on the atmosphere and off-kilter time signatures with a terse low-end snap dominant throughout, if you could imagine a somewhat awkward amalgamation of Neurosis, Meshuggah, and Mnemic, this quintet’s blend of sheer sonic bludgeoning with their bleak outlook on humanity seeping into the music as a sixth member constantly gnawing at your brain fits the bill most accurately. Despite a lack of memorable hooks to latch onto, Eryn Non Dae’s weighty offering provides the right quantity of jarring experimental lapses and provocative metallic moments to draw in those who enjoy their heaviness with angularity. www.metalblade.com -Mike SOS
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MERAUDER
GOD IS I
One of the first true bands that merged modern urban blight with metal, NYC metalcore pioneers Merauder sticks to its guns in their comeback bid, returning with a sinister slugfest on the 11-track GOD IS I. Stocked with a smorgasbord of the unit’s trademarked battering riffs intertwined with all of the nasty nuances acquired from inhabiting in the bowels of the Big Apple for over two decades  (“Never Surrender,” “Built on Blood”) Merauder’s cautious yet chaotic approach appeases the diehards, churning out a myriad of malicious metal riffs over jackhammer rhythms adorned with the raucous roar of longstanding member Jorge Rosado bellowing as belligerently as if it were 1996 all over again (“God Is I”). Ferocious and ready to reclaim their spot at the top of the metalcore mountain, Merauder deliver a passionate old school tutorial chock full of the blend of harbingering hostility they helped put on the map.  www.regainrecords.com -Mike SOS
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SUCCESS WILL WRITE APOCALYPSE ACROSS THE SKY
THE GRAND PARTITION AND THE ABROGATION OF IDOLATRY
Undaunted in their approach to bring the truth to light, Tampa, FL unit SWWAATS burst out the gate with brutish volatility, a nihilistic outlook, and a rabid death metal meets grindcore method whose rapid-fire technicality goes for the jugular (“Of Worms, Jesus Christ and Jackson County Missouri, “Cattle”). This sextet’s 13-track debut endeavor (produced by the renowned James Murphy) devastates with an intriguing presentation of baleful barrages of blast beats accompanied by arrays of chugging guitar goodness (“Despot”) resonating the utter chaos of a world in disrepair (“Automated Oration And the Abolition of Silence”). This act also pays close attention to society’s ills, highlighting global decay via their confrontational and suggestive lyrics, making serious pitch for exposing conspiracies and sounding off as a wake up call for all humanity to heed (“A Path”). SWWAATS provide a solid and thought-provoking hybrid of pummeling death metal and piledriving grindcore armed with burly breakdowns for the tough guys and mindblowing dynamics for those who demand more than the norm from their extreme music. www.nuclearblastusa.com -Mike SOS
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GRAVES OF VALOR
SALARIAN GATE
Featuring former members of Through the Eyes of the Dead, Graves of Valor play a standard form of death metal on their 11-track debut Salarian Gate. Despite a majority of redundant compositions that rarely climb above the median, this squad exhibits a seething selection of steamrolling chops (especially drum-wise) that lunge out the speakers to grab you by the throat (“The Clever Ape”). Durable but predictable, Graves of Valor possesses a wicked death metal gallop (“To Breath Blood”, “Suffocation of the Last King”) and can undeniably blow doors down when running at full capacity (“Pestilence”), yet display a think too much in the box mentality on this disc that renders only a few memorable moments. www.relapse.com -Mike SOS
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Amazon AntigamaANTIGAMA
WARNING
Polish powerhouse quartet Antigama return with a vengeance on their aptly titled 16-track excursion Warning. This exercise in extremity is teeming with the unit’s crushing amalgamation of grindcore blasts, blistering guitars, and anguished vocals (“Empty Room”, “Preacher’s Pray”), as this prolific squad pour on the punishment without a shred of remorse (“War”). Also included is another round of the band’s boundless experimentation, as Antigama’s now-patented unorthodox jazz atmosphere musings allow for short breaths in between the onslaught (“Paganini Meets Barbapapex”) while the adventurous percussive demonstration (“Lost Skull”) assists the overall release to resonate with an oddball brutality that distances this troupe further from the grind ‘em up and spit it back pack. Unrelenting and stark, Antigama stir up a callous and calculated blend of off kilter aural carnage that fans of grindcore will find hard to resist. www.relapse.com -Mike SOS
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DEJHA COLANTUONO
TEA AND VODKA
Breaking away from band life (Rotten Apples most recently) to get her solo groove on, Northwest by way of NYC songstress Dejha Colantuono secures her game by providing a rash of refined tunes intact with a firm grasp of rock dynamics on Tea and Vodka. This 11-track offering boasts the punchy production skills of Matt Bayles, fully capturing Colantuono’s versatile vocal delivery audible on the quirky jangle of “Poolside”, the Bjork meets PJ Harvey electro creep of “Something With You” and the smoky “Miss Fortune” while properly doing justice to bouncy guitar rock on cuts like “Anxiety” and “Color Blue”. Showcasing pop sensibilities built into a wider musical framework, this disc showcases a seasoned vocalist whose eclectic mix of rock-based music elicits a dash of soul straight from the heart. www.madmeowmusic.com -Mike SOS
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MUMAKIL
BEHOLD THE FAILURE
A frenetic exhibition of gruesome grindcore comes courtesy of Switzerland’s Mumakil, whose keep it real 27-track, 36-minute exercise in brutal brevity boldly pick up where grindcore masters Nasum untimely left off. From the opening strains of “Brothers in Slavery”, this foursome kick down the door and go ballistic, injecting a hearty dose of death metal into their lightning-fast tempos for an extra kick guaranteed to peel the paint off the wall and cause your immediate neighbors to phone the authorities (“Useless Fucks”, “Barbecue in Bhopal”). Strangled vocals projecting bile everywhere, dizzying riffs whose succinct savagery calls to mind Napalm Death (“Daily Punishment”), and incessant drum explosions combine forces to create a devastating batch of quick blows to the skull that will make you feel as if you’ve just stepped in the ring with a champion prizefighter. www.relapse.com -Mike SOS
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BIRDS OF PREY
THE HELLPREACHER
A Southern metal supergroup gone Swedish death ‘n roll, the quintet known as Birds of Prey churn out another raucous swampy sludge-ridden offering in the form of their third release The Hellpreacher. Ensconced in filth both lyrically (whose depraved storyline would make one hell of a movie) and sonically with a barrage of ripping blackened riffs (“Taking on Our Winters Blood”), blistering rhythms, and a bellicose lead bellow narrating the gruesome tale, Birds of Prey do a fine job of streamlining the wares of Goatwhore, Entombed, and Eyehategod into a wickedly bludgeoning bundle of southern fried death metal (“False Prophet”). Featuring Erik Larson, Ben Hogg, Dave Witte, Summer Welch, and Bo Leslie, this amalgamation of metalheads from below the Mason-Dixon have developed quite the macabre concept album. www.relapse.com -Mike SOS
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ASTRA
THE WEIRDING
Strap yourself in and dial back the time machine to the early 1970’s in order to fully embrace Astra’s eight-track, 78- minute journey The Weirding. This San Diego quintet does a marvelous job excavating classic sounds and vivid instrumentation from the psychedelic sunshine acid days when Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath were the latest craze, nailing down the majestic bass and guitar tones with a muscular but not overpowering presence perfectly (“The River Under”). Armed with a bountiful serving of Mellotron sprinkled with woodwinds enhancing the heady riffs and grandiose arrangements, Astra takes their time to build exhilarating monuments of sound straight from archival prog rock blueprints left behind by Hawkwind and Yes (“Ouroborous”). Chock full of lush melodies and tantalizing musicianship stimulating the type of shimmering jams that yield an authentically cosmic listening experience, if you remember a time when music was allowed to be pure and unfettered by industry nonsense and commercial pressures, this disc is essential. www.myspace.com/astrasound -Mike SOS
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HAIL OF BULLETS
WARSAW RISING
Another old school death metal assault arrives via Hail of Bullets, the Dutch side project from members of Asphyx, Houwitser, Gorefest, and Thanatos in the form of a six-song EP showcasing this unit in both the studio and live setting. While the studio tracks are solid, dripping with the vintage death metal decay that draws comparisons to greats such as Death and Bolt Thrower (especially on the surprising reworking of Twisted Sister’s “Destroyer”), it’s the live cuts on this short and sweet sojourn where this quintet shines brightest, as the gravel-throated delivery of Martin van Drunen commandeers the voracious crowd through death metal’s murky underbelly with the passion and power necessary to summon the masses to revolt. Despite being a stopgap offering, Hail of Bullets bestows a nice mix of odds and ends before unleashing a fresh batch of menacing metal. www.metalblade.com -Mike SOS
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Amazon BGBONE GNAWER
FEAST OF FLESH
As if the band name and album title haven’t hinted enough, Bone Gnawer is a death metal unit that features the blood-curdling know-how of Kam Lee in its ranks. This splatter flick obsessed affair contains 10 tracks of chophouse death metal in tune with the glorious vibes from both the seminal Tampa scene and its Swedish counterpart as cuts like “Hammer to the Skull” and “The Lucky Ones Die First” strike with the subtlety of a jackhammer. Armed with a simplistically sick template of blood soaked grunts over galloping death metal with an air of catchiness, Bone Gnawer’s straight ahead blood and guts approach conjures up countless comparisons to Cannibal Corpse, both in attitude and sound, making this disc hardly an essential purchase, but a vile amount of fun for those who like a little horror in their metal. www.pulverised.com -Mike SOS
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RED EYED DEVIL
DEMO
Featuring three-quarters of bruising NYC hardcore veterans Everybody Gets Hurt, Red Eyed Devil crashes through the gates with a menacing four-track debut. Retaining the seething hostility of their former outfit with a rash of beatdown breakdowns while implementing some nifty fretwork fireworks into the mix (“LOV”), this troupe’s modern take on brutality screams nasty from start to finish and renders a surefire way to successfully jumpstart a circle pit anywhere its played. www.myspace.com/redeyeddevil -Mike SOS
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EYES OF NOCTUM
INCEPTUM
American black metal unit Eyes of Noctum stick to the Hot Topic black metal paradigm closely both in look and in sound on their 11-track offering Inceptum. Led by Weston Cage (who goes under the name Arcane here), son of Hollywood megastar Nicolas Cage, this sextet’s debut was recorded in Sweden (!) by metal guru Fredrik Nordstrom and features “appearances” by seasoned metal players Snowy Shaw and Hellhammer, both of whom apparently handled percussion duties when the band’s sticksman couldn’t cut it. Expect a garden-variety glossed-over keyboard-heavy Cradle of Filth meets Dimmu Borgir meets (enter Norwegian black metal band name) attack here, adorned with the symphonic accoutrements (“Eyes of Noctum”) and haunting melodic interplay (“Thy Fire Within”) ripped straight from the charred playbooks of their close at hand influences. www.eyesofnoctumofficial.com -Mike SOS
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KIM ROSE
YEAR OF SEVERED TIES
Angst-ridden and teeming with grit, Year of Severed Ties showcases a multitude of rock ‘n roll wares from NYC singer/guitarist Kim Rose. This 12-track offering supplies a significant array of hard rocking hooks (“Escaping Me”, “Reason Behind You”) that fall smack dab between the cathartic vibes of Evanescence and the refined edge of Incubus, complete with a slew of monstrous skin bashing (“Unjust”) and a vitriolic vocal delivery by a lady whose not gonna take it anymore. Laying down steadfast streams of punchy guitars over a rock solid rhythm section (“Broken Frames”), this disc exhibits Rose’s adoration for the harder side of ‘90s alternative rock with enough modern rock sensibilities that make for a well-rounded listening experience (“Made”). www.kimroseonline.com -Mike SOS
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KK NULL
OXYGEN FLASH
KK Null is one of the many projects emanating from the experimental mind of prolific Japanese noise monger Kazuyuki Kishino. His latest foray into the genre is a nine-track, nearly 50 minute offering entitled Oxygen Flash. Chock full with earsplitting skree, industrial strength electronic clanging, hypnotic delay, massive reverb invocations, and the type of white noise feedback that will drive your neighbors and pets insane, each track only goes by a number, further distancing this endeavor from resembling anything remotely accessible. This disc is most definitely for the most ardent of adventurous ears. www.neurotrecordings.com -Mike SOS
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Amazon LADLAZARUS AD
THE ONSLAUGHT
The neo-thrash movement still shows it has some gas left in the tank thanks in part to contributions from bands such as Wisconsin’s Lazarus AD, whose Metal Blade re-release of the unit’s 2007 offering The Onslaught nails the classic formula down pretty impressively. Sounding at times like the perfect blend of Death Angel and the newer incarnation of Exodus, especially vocally (“Damnation for the Weak”), this quintet embodies the bullet belt attitude, flashes the meaty yet slick chops (“Last Breath”), and sounds as ornery as a veteran band such as Kreator (“Revolution”) while integrating modern metal tactics into their airtight locked in a capsule from 1988 overview to make for a righteously retro yet intriguingly fresh sounding thrashing good time. www.metlablade.com -Mike SOS
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INFERNAL STRONGHOLD
GODLESS NOISE
Infernal Stronghold essentially are a black metal band by design, yet they trade typical genre uniforms in for a nasty punk rock disposition, giving their 10-track release Godless Noise the intriguing twist necessary to stand out. Fortified with a feral black metal bark (“Crippling Blasphemous Persistence”) and grindcore-esque bursts of rhythmic nihilism (“Buried by Grime and Crust”), this troupe’s combination of blistering speed, unorthodox angularity, and chaotic compositions tap into metal’s subterranean universe but arrive under a much different precipice, helping this Pennsylvania quartet spit out jagged shards of hate that have as much in common with Propagandhi as Satyricon (“ A Dog You Call God”, “Curb the Trend”) Infernal Stronghold has created a solid hybrid whose unique take on black metal excels with a bastardized but brutal integrity. www.forcefieldrecords.org -Mike SOS
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NECROPHOBIC
SATANIC BLASPHEMIES
Excavated from the nefarious catacombs of Hell (also known as their old studio tapes), Satanic Blasphemies is a collection of three early demos from Swedish death metal squad Necrophobic. Containing nine tracks of uncompromising buzzing, this disc provides a glimpse of the formation stages of demonic death metal with a nice remastering job and in depth liner notes illuminating key aspects of this diabolical crew’s malevolent start to their mission. Resonant with a feral ferocity and bursting with an exuberant sense of evil, this disc will appeal to both genre completists and dark thrill seekers alike. www.regainrecords.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: Tim Ripper Owens "Play My Game," Blood Red Throne, We Insist!, Charetta, and more…

Amazon Tim Ripper OwensTIM RIPPER OWENS

PLAY MY GAME

After providing vocals for the most notable metal bands in the world for well over the past decade, Tim “Ripper” Owens finally steps out as a solo artist on his 12-track debut PLAY MY GAME. Bringing a mind-blowing cross-section of the metal friends he’s made along the way to the party (an impressive list that reads like a who’s who in the metal realm), Owens and associates dole out a lesson in traditional metal excellence with a modern edge (“No Good Goodbyes”). Channeling his former band Judas Priest and Dio as main sources of inspiration for his powerful vocals, the harbingering aura of “The Shadows Are Alive” and the wild caterwauls accompanying the extra-terrestrial pounder “The Cover Up” help Owens decisively cement his own identity while a surprisingly cohesive considering the vast array of hands in the mix multidimensional metal attack utilizes British metal swagger and American hard rock grit to get the job done (“Play My Game”). Despite the over the top six-string bravado of the likes of Craig Goldie, Doug Aldrich, and Carlos Cavazo leading the rhythm section towards a studio session feel, Owens’ powerful pipes and old world compositions ground this all-star affair long enough to strike a balance between sound like a musician’s clinic and a metal album with mass appeal. www.spv.de -Mike SOS

THE BOY WILL DROWN

FETISH

Ambitious UK upstarts The Boy Will Drown dazzle with a tenacious technical prowess on their debut 10-track offering FETISH. This group maintains a disjointed heaviness without relying on breakdowns, opting instead to steer their compositions with sharp dips in dynamics (“Akura Class”) and blistering speed-freak tempos (“Epilpleptic”). Elastic bass lines and coarse guitar riffs do battle while staccato percussion patterns flail away underneath a barrage of gruff and guttural death metal grunts, creating a stirring yet bit redundant metallic undertaking whose constant cacophonic clobbering becomes grating and repetitive, yet when interspersed with brief flashes of unorthodox musicality (“Dead Girls”) takes on as an admirable offshoot of Dillinger Escape Plan meets Psyopus by way of Poison the Well. www.earache.com -Mike SOS


DARK CASTLE

SPIRITED MIGRATION

So another two-piece guy-girl band comes to the forefront but before temptation to cry out in protest wins out (even if judging solely on aesthetics) don’t be fooled; Florida duo Dark Castle is the total antithesis to White Stripes in every way conceivable. From swapped-out band roles (whose female vocals are pretty spot-on foreboding, by the way) to the multi-faceted less is more rhythmic attack chock full of echo swirls, caustic distortion, and synth accoutrements, Dark Castle invites listeners to engage in vast levels of morass without a bass to be heard, sprouting an unanchored uneasiness prevalent throughout the eight-track, nearly 40-minute journey. Best taken in its entirety in repeated doses, SPIRITED MIGRATION is the end result of post-hardcore embellishments and doom metal devices gone awry by way of modern metallic psychedelica beaten into the brain. Almost as if Isis and Crowbar decided to jam out for fun, the combination of this act’s galactic scope and gigantic heft renders a sludge-ridden good time for those who enjoy a hearty helping of abrasiveness layered with ambient passages to help the lava go down smooth. www.atalossrecordings.com -Mike SOS


Amazon SphericSPHERIC UNIVERSE EXPERIENCE

UNREAL

French progressive metal quintet Spheric Universe Experiment put their love of Dream Theater to the test on the unit’s latest nine-track endeavor UNREAL. Despite the band following a tried and true prog metal template and their obvious influences falling a bit on the cautious side, this squad delivers an enjoyable nine track excursion that exhibits an array of top notch musicians whose massive musical acumen, technical aptitude (special shout out to drummer Christophe Briand’s durable chops) and jam-ready know-how (“O.B.E.”) gets the job done with a slew of memorable moments that carry melody yet don’t skimp on the metal to boot (“Lakeside Park”). Solid yet not very groundbreaking, it’s unlikely that Spheric Universe Experience has the tools necessary to break into the mainstream, but UNREAL demonstrates that they can decisively hold their own amongst their prog metal peers. www.lasersedgegroup.com -Mike SOS


FATHER OF SIN

GREATEST SINS

Pennsylvania sextet Father of Sin follows fashion and provides the creepiness as if they hailed from Transylvania, as this spooky squad references everything from the thrashing throb of Marilyn Manson to the malevolent pomp of Cradle of Filth on their latest endeavor GREATEST SINS. With one foot planted in a freshly excavated gothic industrial plot and the other in an avant-garde extreme metal niche, this troupe does an admirable job of pulling off a strand of heavy music without the services of a drummer, opting to use a drum machine to provide the thunder. Relying heavily on doomy metallic atmosphere cultivated from the Celtic Frost and Sabbath handbooks while making it palatable so the kids in the mall can join the black parade, subject yourself to the modern dread Father of Sins drums up. www.myspace.com/fatherofsin69 -Mike SOS


CONSPIRACY

CONCORDAT

PULVERISED

Former Melechesh bassist Al Carpathian Wolf’s one-man project Conspiracy rolls out its sophomore effort, an intriguing batch of death-thrash metal entitled CONCORDAT. Inducing melancholic malevolence while seamlessly meshing metal sub-genres, tracks like the Pagan-influenced “Faith” display the range of influence Conpiracy draws from while “Mentally Ill God” and “Last Veteran” dish out the barrage of dastardly riffs and venomous rasps that keep the head banging. Exhibiting a wide range of diversity yet raw as hell, Conspiracy also implements a slew of spicy guitar solos a la Kreator and Megadeth (“Limited to 666”) to prevent the overcast tremolo-picked blackened atmosphere from becoming redundant. This eight-track excursion renders a refined yet relentless listening experience containing metallic melody executed with a handsome dash of diabolic style. www.pulverised.net -Mike SOS


WE INSIST!

THE BABEL INSIDE WAS TERRIBLE

The French avant-garde rockers We Insist return with another ceiling-shattering collection on the 11-track THE BABEL INSIDE WAS TERRIBLE. Inhabiting the edge shared by like-minded boundary breakers like Tool, System of a Down and Queens of the Stone Age, this eclectic unit consistently pushes its music into strange and wondrous territories without sounding crammed in or forced. Thanks to a vast musical acumen and distinct overall sound highlighted by a raucous rock ‘n roll delivery spearheaded by a saxophone played through a guitar amp, this veteran squad embraces the luxury of total musical freedom without losing its backbone. Implementing a barrage of left of center rock hovering around the headier sphere of influence a la King Crimson and Mr. Bungle, We Insist will keep those who crave convention defiant music pleasantly occupied. www.mainstreamrecords.de -Mike SOS

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Amazon Blood Red ThroneBLOOD RED THRONE

SOULS OF DAMNATION

On their latest nine-track endeavor SOULS OF DAMNATION, Norwegian death metal mongers Blood Red Throne pay homage to the US death metal sound, channeling everyone from Morbid Angel to Cannibal Corpse. Solidly delivered with a proper portion of groove and technicality in place (“Demand”), there may not be a wide array of groundbreaking material present, but the band’s vitriolic onslaught is undeniable (“Prove Yourself Dead”). This veteran unit reaps the benefits of staying on a course without much variation, resulting in shaping its murderous musical machine to a well-oiled machine manufacturing enough face-breaking riffs, sinister growls and neck snapping double bass battering to satisfy the most rabid bloodthirsty cravings for death metal glory. www.earache.com -Mike SOS


SKUM CITY

SKUM CITY

NYC quartet Skum City keep the Big Apple’s punk rock fires burning bright with an authentic blast of contagious chaos straight from the LES gutter on the unit’s latest six-track 7”. Keeping the guitars crunchy, the tempos fast and dirty, and the singing sneering, tracks like “Don’t Worry About Nothin’” and “Hungry and Dirty” display a love of the hardcore punk spectrum a la DRI and Black Flag while the band’s self-titled anthem “Skum City” provides a visceral kick to the cranium as a divine group vocal chorus leads the charge. Raucous and in your face, Skum City’s colorful and confrontational punk rock stomp is certifiably scraped up from NYC’s grimy underbelly and delivered with the confident cadence of a band with the chops and aggression to pull it off. www.skumcity.com -Mike SOS


Amazon CharettaCHARETTA

DEFYING THE INEVITABLE

Charetta is a NYC-based female fronted hard rock outfit whose latest nine-track effort DEFYING THE INEVITABLE is adorned with a barrage of heavy-handed and well-composed melodies whose tendencies to work within the confines of atmospheric metal falls somewhere between In This Moment and Lacuna Coil (“On The Line”). Featuring a skull-rattling bottom end crunch that combines Staind and Chevelle (“Stop the Cycle”) alongside a powerful female voice that proudly wavers in between breathy and bad-ass (“Too Far In”), this quartet’s ready for the radio modern hard rock is balanced with nasty riffs (“Love Your Lies”) and angelic vocal anguish (“So Convincing”, “Never”), passionately meshing driving grooves with overwhelming outpourings of emotion to create a refined album ready for mass consumption. www.charetta.com -Mike SOS

SOS Interview: Tim Williams of VOD & Bloodsimple

By Mike SOS

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When catching up with VOD and Bloodsimple vocalist Tim Williams in early 2009, we talked about the return and immediate future of seminal unit VOD, where that leaves Bloodsimple in the mix,  lamented over the NYC scene and relived some of the rich NYHC history Williams played a big part in.

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SOS: What prompted the reunion and the DVD?

TIM WILLIAMS: Well what prompted the reunion was kind of strange, you know, because Bloodsimple is very, very fucking busy. And there was no time, for at least me and Mike to do any VOD. And I can’t really exactly recall what prompted it. But I know the guys, we always still wanted to do it but we just didn’t really know how. And Matt was really involved with his shit and Brendon and Fleish were doing their shit and me and Mike were doing ours. Bloodsimple tacked on like a  headliner show on Long Island. And you know, we wanted to make it something special. Bloodsimple is alright on Long Island, but we really weren’t super big, we were like bigger in places like Texas and shit like that. So we were in Atlantic City one weekend just hanging out and talked about wanting to get started with that and how we could just make it a really, really fun night. And we both were like, “Ah, it’ll probably never happen.” But I was like, “Fuck it, I’m gonna ask those guys.” You know? And it wound up working out and we hadn’t played in like fucking seven or eight years, you know. Word got out that there was a special guest and word got out that it was, you know, big. It didn’t take an idiot to put it together that every VOD member was gonna be in the club that night. And we hadn’t played or rehearsed in years. And we did three songs– or I think we only did two. I think we just did “Choke” and “DTO” and part of something else. And the crowd reaction was just so fucking ridiculous that that kind of planted the seed. And then the DVD came to light and we did a couple of shows for that and those were really successful. And next thing you know we just finally got off our asses and made it all happen. That’s pretty much how it went down.

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SOS: There’s a new VOD album in the works, is that correct?

TIM WILLIAMS: Yeah, that is officially correct and I honesty couldn’t be happier. I was at rehearsal last night out on Long Island and you know, we got three songs in the bag and we finally record just a quick little rough recording in the studio so I can write my lyrics to and we can kind of listen back to see what we have. And those three songs are fucking monsters man. They’re really fucking sick. So I’m really happy with them so far.

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SOS: Any idea who you guys are gonna be working with or what’s the deal, like I guess is it still too early to tell or–

TIM WILLIAMS: It’s a little too early tell. There’s definitely like one major producer we’re working out. But I don’t want to say anything until I get some paperwork in front of me, but he’s a really big name and if he gets his hands on it it’s gonna be fucking great. And as for the labels and business, I know we just want to keep it very small and in house. I don’t need any big label. We all know what VOD’s capable of and we really just want to make our record for our fans that have come to the last couple of shows, people who I’ve met worldwide during  Bloodsimple. If we reach a couple of new ones in the process. I want to make a record for my fans and for my peers. Like VOD has always been a favorite of like the bands. I get people coming up to me, you know, Bloodsimple did some amazing fucking touring with some huge– we rode with some  huge people and so many people in bands are into VOD. I’m really just– want to make it for the fans and I want to make it for the bands who have given me props over the years and that’s about it. You know, no egos or– I’m just making music on my own terms now and I feel I’ve earned that and I feel really proud that I can actually have people still interested. And like I’m in the position where I can make music on my own terms. So that’s pretty much where we’re at.

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SOS: It’s nice to see you guys get that kind of respect

TIM WILLIAMS: Yeah, you know, I’m a big fan—you know, I don’t need fame. You know, I’ve had my fair share of it honesty. And money-wise I’ve always been alright with money ‘cause I’m a hard worker. And I’d much rather have the gratitude from people come up to me, you know, from various bands and be like, “Yo, you’ve influenced me this way and you did that for me and this song did that for me.” And now they’re saying that, you know, various people within the business—I think it’s hilarious that VOD is, like, spawned this fucking metal core shit which is pretty hilarious to me. And to me that’s the biggest reward right there, to be looked at as a pioneer, which I never fucking thought would ever happen in a million years. And to have prominent people in the music business come up to me and say that kind of shit to me, that’s the biggest reward ever. And you know, I really show gratitude for that.

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SOS: How do you feel about being put at like the top of the metalcore totem pole?

TIM WILLIAMS: Well it’s very hard to say if you’re at the top. Like I said I’m really humbled and I think it’s amazing. I don’t feel any pressure at all. I feel I’m gonna do what I always do and take it, you know, the only pressure I feel is the last Bloodsimple record vocally I think I really, really did a really good job and I have to somehow top that and the musicians within Bloodsimple were phenomenal and I really don’t want to take a step back, I need to expand on that. And that’s where the challenge lies for me. But I don’t know if I’m at the top of any totem pole at all. I just feel I’m doing my own thing. And that’s what I’ve always done and I’ve been lucky to stay in the game for as long as I have.

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SOS: Who would you cite as like a metal core band that either you really like or you see a lot of VOD in?

TIM WILLIAMS: I see a lot of fucking—well as for liking I’m really, really picky with the music I like. So there’s, you know, it’s just cause I’ve been in it for so long it’s got to be really fucking good to catch my attention. And then for me to like it on top of it, and that’s not arrogance and that’s not me being a dick, I’m just so submersed in it. I live my life through it. It’s a huge part of my life and it really takes a lot. I don’t even know what the fuck metal core is anymore honestly. Like you said it’s so diverse and there’s so much. But you know, like Killswitch Engage is a really good band. And I’ve heard I’ve had a pretty heavy influence on them and that’s an honor ‘cause they’re really big and they’ve really stuck to their roots and done very well. Lamb of God, I don’t know if you can consider them metal core, but I think they’re phenomenal and it took me a while to catch on to them, but I really fucking like them now. And Converge, they’re not metalcore at all. I really respect them for a band that has really stuck to their roots and it’s come full circle for them and they have shared a certain amount of respect and they command their niche and I really respect that. Even bands like Dillinger Escape Plan, I really respect what they have done with their career. You know, that kind of keep going and going and have done well. You know? Bands like that, I’m sure if you hang up the phone I’ll think of a couple more. But off the top of my head those are the bands that come on my iPod. I have everybody on my iPod but some of ‘em I skip. But when bands like that come up on my iPod I tend to listen and you know, I don’t hit the skip button. That to me signals that I actually like them. You know?

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SOS: Obviously coming from Long Island and hitting the New York hardcore scene has definitely been probably a pivotal part of your upbringing and basically shaped your sound, you know what I mean? How much of it do you still follow? How do you feel that the scene– I don’t know, I mean I know you guys are always on the road and basically you’re more of a national act now, but like, do you still keep your finger on the pulse of what’s going on locally?

TIM WILLIAMS: Funny you use the term finger on the pulse, ‘cause that’s pretty much what I do. You know, it’s not as easy as it used to be ‘cause I’m really busy and it isn’t as big a scene as it once was, that’s for shit sure. Long Island has taken significant hits, they’ve lost a lot of clubs and New York City needless to say has nothing left, you know, to play at small club wise unless you want to play at the Knitting Factory, which personally to me sucks dick for heavy music. You know? But like I said, it’s really hard. But you know, I’m pretty much a grassroots guy and the bands I came up with I keep an eye on, like Madball, Crown of Thorns. I heard Murphy’s Law just played the Trash Bar and packed it out and I was happy to hear that. You know, just like bands that when New York to me are the bands that I’m always interested in such as Subzero, Sick of It All, even Biohazard, those are the guys that changed my life and influenced me. You know, I remember sending an e-mail out to Freddy Madball not too long ago when I was on the Disturbed tour and being on a big tour like that it’s ridiculous. And one day I flipped on– I was all bummed out and I flipped on DMS and I worked out to it and then fucking made me feel so fucking good to know that I came from that and what I do now, you know, I bring my music to the big stages. But I came from them and Freddy Madball and Madball changed my life. And they had a big influence on our music within VOD and if it wasn’t for bands like that I don’t know if I’d be where I was today. You know? And that was, you know, that’s how I keep my finger on the pulse. I look out for them and I try and hook up bands when I can, when I’m in a position to hook them up. And I just go with it, you know, bands like Candiria, shit like that, you know, I always go check them out and check to look up on them on myspace and shit like that to see where they’re at. You know, I try my best. But like I said, I’m not a kid anymore. I’ve got a lot of fucking responsibility. And it’s really hard to that unless it’s something I really got to go out and see.

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SOS: What else are you doing besides music these days?

TIM WILLIAMS: Well you know, I’m a daddy now so that’s a big thing and that doesn’t make anything fucking easy, you know? It’s really hard and that’s taking up a lot of my time, but it’s all good ‘cause if you’re gonna put your time into anything it might as well be a kid. And I’m a proud father of a 18 month old little girl. You know? And she is the best. And she keeps me grounded and she gives me a reason to get out there and do my thing. As of now I’ve put touring on hold because it’s not where I am right now. I’m a proud member of local 608 union, carpenters union in New York City. And that keeps me very busy and I also do my own work on the side. And on top of it fucking somehow write a record. So I take my vacations within music. I’ve got a couple of things…I gotta go record in California, so I’ll take time off for that. And I think were going to Europe in the summer to do some shit, and take time off for that. But otherwise, you know, I got a lot of things going on and I’m proud of what I’ve become, you know, career-wise and musician-wise. I really couldn’t be happier.

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SOS: Growing up in Long Island, how did that shape your music, how did that shape your style, how did that shape your viewpoint on the way music should be played?

TIM WILLIAMS: Long Island was a very– I don’t live there anymore, you know, but my mother’s still out there so I’m out there all the time. And it’s– Long Island for us VOD would be absolutely not without Long Island hardcore. You know, VOD, we came out of high school just playing metal and then we met the guys from Loyal To None were the first hardcore band to show VOD any sort of attention. Not to go too far off the question here, but VOD, I don’t know, it was just the universe was aligned, there was just such a fucking scene. I don’t know what it’s like out there now. I don’t think it’s anything like it was. But it was such a vibrant, enormous scene, like, when VOD and you know, Silent Majority, Neglect, Disciplinary Action, Mind Over Matter and it was just every weekend, the Seattle of hardcore for us. It was bands coming in from out of town, Overcast, Bloodlet. Bands from the city, you know.  And it was kind of hard to break into the city and you know, VOD just kicked that city door open and we fucking came in and we came in fucking guns blazing. Sure we were a little nervous, but I had some guy– I had, you know, Rabies from Warzone sneaking me in the back door of a club saying I’m part of the fucking family now, “You can get in wherever the fuck you want.”  And hearing that, you know, it’s just like, you know, that’s like he’s like a fucking prominent figure. Having Vinny Stigma come up and shake your hand and Freddy Madball and all these guys and you know, it was just such a fucking scene. It was ferocious. It was exciting. And you know, VOD played when “Still” was about to come out…2200 fucking people showing up to see an unsigned fucking band. That doesn’t fucking happen twice dude, never. We didn’t know that was gonna happen. We played with Korn at the Roxy one night. A month, two months later we recorded “Still” and showed up at the PWAC and there was a line five people deep wide wrapped around the fucking building. I had never seen it like that ever in my life and I’ll never see it like that ever again. And I was 20 years old. I wasn’t even 21 yet.  And growing up on Long Island was instrumental in my lyrical content at the time. Shaped my lyrics, shaped me as a musician and shaped me, you know, to prepare myself for the journey ahead as into the main stage and the national acts. And I flew NY hardcore flag every  fucking where we  went, throughout the VOD years, the Bloodsimple years, I brought that shit to the top and I’ve had James  Hetfield fucking, you know, Jerry Cantrell, Phil Anselmo listening to fucking hardcore and listening to VOD and Bloodsimple. And I wouldn’t have any of that without VOD. Period.

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SOS: What the toughest part about growing up in the New York City metro area and being a musician?

TIM WILLIAMS: There’s fucking nothing. It’s a really bad time right now. There is no fucking scene if you ask me. There’s no young scene anymore. It’s a lot of indie shit, it’s a lot of hipster shit, it’s not a metal town, it is not a hardcore town. It’s not even a punk town anymore. It’s not. And I’m– dude I never took a break from heavy music. I went right from VOD straight into fucking Bloodsimple. This is my first break in over ten years. And I got, you know, I’m deep in that. I know what the fuck is going on. There ain’t nothing and that’s the hardest part. And it’s sad. There’s no more dirty clubs where you can roll up and pack 70-80 people in, start small and make look like it’s packed. There’s no more CBGB. Just today I thought if we mint, if this record kicked off and we did, we had a good response, if we  have that then I could release it and have it packed out. I never saw CBGB so packed out than when I opened up to Superjoint Ritual. Fucking CBGB. And I never saw Phil Anselmo so excited to fucking play a show. And I had ringside seats to watch him rip that fucking band. And I know that guy personally, he an underground person. He’s not– he’s a fucking punk rock hardcore [INAUD] rock fucking guy who likes to play dirty fucking clubs with bands like Superjoint Ritual. And I never saw that guy so alive. And he ripped it up. And I thought, with VOD, if that place was still open and VOD hits right with this record, we can have a moment like that. But then I’m like there ain’t no fucking place like that anymore. There won’t be and it’s fucking sad. You know? You go to the trash bar now in Brooklyn and that place has a decent sound, but it’s not like CB’s, you know, and it’s not like Coney Island High. And it sure as shit ain’t like the Wetlands. And all those places are gone and that’s the saddest, most frustrating thing. There ain’t no New York scene anymore and it sucks.

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SOS: Bloodsimple’s taking a break I’m assuming?

TIM WILLIAMS: Yeah, you know, personally I really, you know, I don’t want to get too much into the details. But it was just personally I mainly needed to take a break from it, you know. I’m not gonna speak for any of the other members in the band. But Bloodsimple went hard. Bloodsimple did more touring in six years– I guess four years– I guess six years, than VOD did in ten, Bloodsimple was balls to the walls a touring act. And we toured hard. You know, in an RV. We weren’t all glammed out in a fucking bus. And when we did Europe we did it in a van. We were getting murdered. And needless to say my personal life got, you know, I’m just gonna– I don’t want to say everything, but it’s just Bloodsimple’s on a hiatus right now and it became the right moment, you know, in our lives to be lucky enough to do VOD where I can still create and I’m gonna roll with that for now. I would like nothing more if the time arrived and Bloodsimple can get in the studio and see if, you know, Bloodsimple isn’t as fortunate as VOD, you know, we weren’t as, you know, I don’t know what you want to say. But I don’t know if Bloodsimple can just get up and record a record again a couple of years from now. But if that opportunity presented itself I will gladly do it. And I’ll just leave it at that.

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SOS: Is there more a brotherly bond in VOD or Bloodsimple?

TIM WILLIAMS: No, there’s a huge brotherly bond, but there’s a brotherly bond within both bands, there’s a deep, deep bond within Bloodsimple just as there’s a deep bond within VOD. You know, those are my bros and they’re some of my favorite people on this earth. Love ‘em, I hate ‘em, they are. And I had lifetime experiences with them that I’ll never forget. And it’s just, you know, Bloodsimple is just, right now, on hiatus. And you never know what’s gonna happen. You know, at one point I never thought I’d be doing another VOD record. So you never know.

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SOS: What’s the time frame for this to get done? Is it kind of take as it comes?

TIM WILLIAMS: VOD, I want to be in the studio early summer, you know, but that’s gonna be very, very hard to achieve. But I would like to have the record done so that maybe we can go to Japan and do that Loudfest a year from now in like October. We might do some festivals in this summer. But without having a record out it’s gonna be kind of hard. But we’ll see what happens with that. And you know, personally I just want to put it out there that I’m actually working on putting out a book of my personal journals and poetry that I’ve written throughout the years of being on the road with VOD and Bloodsimple. And I’m also working on getting a web, my personal solo music, a website up where I do a lot more of my mellow stuff. But you’ve always heard mellow songs on a lot of my records. But this is going to be strictly mellow material. And I’m very excited about that and I’ve already got one song that I’m working on in the studio. And I hope for that page to be up in early ’09. And I hope people come to it, check it out and that there’ll be lyrics and journal entries and poetry and one track to start it all off with.

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SOS: Who were some of your main influences? Are there any that we would be surprised by?

TIM WILLIAMS: What, for this VOD or…

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SOS: In general. I mean, right now, where you’re at right now, standing where you’re at, who do you see, “Hey, you know what, I like what that guy’s doing. Maybe I could fine-tune that this way.” Or, “I admire the path that guy chose, I want to try to walk like that or try to maybe do it my way.”

TIM WILLIAMS: I’m doing– well I’ve always done it my way. That’s the only way I think I’ve survived that long. You know, I’ve been lucky enough to be inventive and be considered an original singer. You know? And that’s very hard to achieve. But influences-wise I’m really looking at bringing it back to, you know, on the VOD stuff, a much rawer, vicious approach to the vocal style as opposed to Bloodsimple that was still raw, but it was a little more glossy and refined. But VOD I’m bringing it back to a lot of punk rock, early hardcore, you know, my style of hardcore and some really, but also with the really sick twist of what I’ve developed over the years. And you know, influences and music-wise I’m listening to a lot of different stuff. Like I’m listening to a lot of indie bands that are– I don’t know how much of that’s gonna come out, but those are the types of bands, like Band Of Horses, Kings of Leon, that have really been catching my ear lately and I’ve really been listening to them a lot. And heavy music wise I just take it as it comes. You know, I’ve listened to so much of it over the years it comes up and I’m in the mood, like Metallica was on today and I was digging that. And you know, I just hit my shit on shuffle every day and I walk out the door. And you know, that’s where I’m at. But there’s a lot of music in my head these days and it’s hard to put my finger on it. Every given day it’s a different fucking day.

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SOS: Any final comments for the readers?

TIM WILLIAMS: The goals are to achieve a five star VOD record for the fans that that’s the utmost priority, that VOD is back. And we’re not looking to change the fucking world ‘cause I couldn’t care less. We’re not looking to rewrite the face of heavy music at all. We’re just looking to record five star critically acclaimed VOD record that should have came a long time ago. And get out there, get out to the UK, do the northeast, maybe do California, maybe do a little southeast, get to Japan, maybe reach some fans out in South America and just check the shit out of people like we always do. Period. VOD. And there’s no doubt from the songs that I’ve heard that they’re ridiculous and over the top and we’ve got our hands on a sick all star known producer that has pretty much already said he’s going to commit. And this record is going to be, with the power of IMPRINT and the catchiness of the first album, but it’s probably gonna be the first VOD record that actually sounds really fucking good. And that’s no insult to anybody who’s worked with us in the past, it’s just VOD’s always seemed to miss its mark on our fault, not on any of the producers we worked with, on our fault. And I think this record’s really gonna fucking sound the way it should sound. And personally my goals are to get this poetry book out and get my acoustic stuff off the ground and hopefully in late ’09 record an acoustic and to have the release coincidence with the release of my book. That’s a lot of work, but I’m thinking I can achieve it. So we’ll see.

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SOS: You’ve got a full plate my friend.

TIM WILLIAMS: Yeah, but it’s the only way to do it. You know?

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Be sure to check out Mike SOS’s music with SOS and Seizure Crypt in the New York City area.