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Zero Mentality – Black Rock

With every new release, this German outfit starts to sound catchier and more rocking than before. On “Black Rock” this becomes even more obvious as they incorporate even more singalong parts and slick leads than ever before. It’s still metallic hardcore at heart but ya know… kinda like how 18 Visions evolved. Some love it, others hate it. They did manage to record a diverse album with a semi-acoustic ballad, male and female vocals that tackle both English and German lyrics and there’s even a choir on here somewhere. Seems like they’ve got everything needed to make a compelling album, right?

Well, not quite… I just can’t seem to wrap my ears around vocalist Bend Fink’s accent which is downright terrible. I’m sorry… call me small-minded or hung up on details but it takes away a lot of the fun for me.
Score: 6 out of 10

No Friends – No Friends

No Friends is a new project by Tony of Municipal Waste along with ‘three hot dudes from New Mexican Disaster Squad, Gatorface and Virgins. The result is one hell of an album that could’ve very well been recorded two decades ago by Black Flag if they had the melodic sensibilities of say, Dag Nasty.

Amazing how a band that plays the kind of hardcore that was cool years ago can sound fresher than anything new that’s coming out. Guess that’s saying a lot about the quality of music these days, right?

Not that these guys simply ape what those guys did back in the day. They simply took the energy that those bands had and cut it up into twelve lines that go up the nostril and then proceed by blowing your mind. If these guys had been around in 1932 when Jerry Siegel started drawing comics, the world would’ve never even heard of kryptonite. No Friends is the stuff that would kill Superman.
Score: 8 out of 10

The Mag Seven – Cotton Needle Sessions

The Magnificent Seven was an amazing western released back in 1960, directed by John Sturges and based on a screenplay by William Roberts. It featured big names such as Yul Brynner, Robert Vaughn, Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson and was even nominated for an Oscar. The story dealt with a bunch of cowboys trying to protect a village against Mexican bandits.

This of course has absolutely nothing to do with The Mag Seven who are in fact a trio consisting of Brandon Landelius, Donivan Blair and the mighty Bill Stevenson. They play 100% pure instrumental jazz, surf and rock according to the sticker on the album and manage to bore me at great length with most of the songs on “Cotton Needle Sessions”. It’s not that they’re no good… they’re all amazing players and they recorded the whole thing in just three days. But they don’t play the kind of abundant surf pop that Dick Dale is known for. Instead they rely a little too hard on jazz, which happens to be one of the few musical genres I have never gotten into.

Some of the songs on here would fit perfectly on a soundtrack for a spy movie (“Trim”), others would sound amazing in a film noir (“Does This Rag Smell Like Chloroform?”) but when they start noodling away like in “Rise Of The Levis”, they lose me completely. And that happens just a tad bit too often for me to get a kick out of “Cotton Needle Sessions”.
Score: 5 out of 10

Death By Stereo – Death Is My Only Friend

I honestly haven’t heard much from Death By Stereo ever since they left Epitaph. I know they released a live album a while back but other than that it’s been awfully quiet around these dudes… until now. “Death Is My Only Friend” is the name of their new album, their first for I Scream Records and as far as I know their first in quite some years.

I was hoping that this album was a return to form for these guys because let’s face it, their last album wasn’t that amazing. It pains me to say because I always liked these guys… they knew how to shred and were able to couple it to a great sense of melody. And with Efrem Schulz they have a vocalist who can switch seamlessly between screaming and singing. Unfortunately “Death Is My Only Friend” sees them losing their way even more and ends up being a very weak carbon copy of what once made them such a great band. Death is my only friend indeed…
Score: 4 out of 10

Lullaby The Storm – 3 Lanes Painted Red

Scott Gross was one of the founding members of From Autumn To Ashes. When he left the band in 2004, he decided to do something else. Something with acoustic music perhaps. What he didn’t have in mind was to get clipped by a car while standing next to a broken down rental car. Yet that is exactly what happened and as a result, the man has spent the last years revalidating. Lullaby The Storm came to life as a way of dealing with the pain and the debut album “3 Lanes Painted Red” pretty much describes everything Gross has been going through for the past two years.

With help from Mari-Elaina (sister of Taking Back Sunday’s Antonio Longo), Jeff Gillson, Greg Odette and with Antonio helping out with a lot of the vocal harmonies and arrangements, the songs on “3 Lanes Painted Red” quickly started taking shape and ended up ranging from indie pop cuts to acoustic meandering intertwined with tasteful piano sounds. The least you can say is that it’s certainly very different from the noise Gross produced in From Autumn To Ashes. Well, it did remind me of that one song they did with One True Thing’s Melanie Willis, “Autumn’s Monologue”. That’s probably as good a reference as I can give you.

With songs like “Kristen With An E” or the title track, it sure shows potential. Yet I’d hardly call “3 Lanes Painted Red” a flawless album. The drums in “Never Take Exit 7” strangely seem to lag and Mari-Elaina’s voice does not lend itself well to more rocking songs like “That Song Seals The Deal”. I think the do-it-yourself- at-home production job has a lot to with that. Anyhoo, they’re already working on a follow-up and I’m gonna wait for that one to make up my mind about Lullaby The Storm.
Score: 6 out of 10

Freddy Madball – Catholic Guilt

Freddy Cricien and his hoarse bark made a name for themselves in the powerhouse that is Madball. While he’s still tearing it up with those guys, the time has come for another chapter in the man’s life. It’s not exactly a secret that Madball - along with many others in the NYHC scene – have a thing with hip hop. So I guess it’s not that far-fetched of an idea for the man to release a complete hip hop album.

Apparently long overdue, “Catholic Guilt” is ready to be released. It features a side of Freddy Cricien you have never heard before. Hell, if the album didn’t carry his name I probably even wouldn’t have made the connection. Because unlike other hardcore dudes who come out swinging with hip hop side-project (to very mixed results), Cricien ditches the fast drums and metallic riffs altogether. Hell, the loudest track on here is “London Calling”, which thrives on the Clash’s classic sounds and features guest vocals by Rancid. There is nothing even remotely hardcore on this album except for the lyrics. With Stress The White Boy and LD providing the beats, Cricien tells you all about his scrapes with death, getting in trouble with the cops, life on the streets and his stint in prison. And he even does this in Spanish in the song “Y Que”.

A hip hop album without guest vocals is not a real hip hop album. Other than Rancid, guest vocals are also provided by Jedi Mind Tricks’ Vinnie Paz (“Dark Of The Night”) and Gym Class Heroes’ Travis (“The New Black”). Whether he’s being helped out or going at it solo though, doesn’t matter that much. He nails it on every single track here making “Catholic Guilt” a very solid and slick offering.

Honestly, I didn’t know what I was getting into but damn, this is one fine hip hop album. Nas has this one song called “NY State Of Mind”. Well, Cricien made a whole album that just screams New York! Big ups!
Score: 8 out of 10
Familia Entertainment


The Swellers – Up And Downsizing

After The Swellers released “My Everest” back in 2007 and throughout their tour with A Wilhelm Scream, you could see punkrockers all over the place nodding their heads both in approval and to the rocking sounds this outfit had to offer. Then came the news they had signed with Fueled By Ramen and all of a sudden punkrockers found themselves bawling their eyes out right alongside the emo kids that adore all Fueled By Ramen releases.

But all that was unnecessary because these guys haven’t changed a bit on “Up And Downsizing”. They still sound like all the cool bands Fat Wreck and Epitaph used to release back in the day with a fair amount of that particular poppunk sound that made Drive-Thru Records a cool label once upon a time. And I’ll be damned if all those bands weren’t what drew me into punkrock in the first place all those years ago.

So guess what? I’m loving every second of “Up And Downsizing”. It has everything that made “My Everest” a great album. Only this time around everything sounds even better. In two years time the dudes that make up The Swellers have become more technical yet have retained their knack for writing big hooks and catchy choruses. Songs like “Fire Away” and “Feet First” are among the best they have written to date while “The Iron” displays their most aggressive side. The only downside is the token acoustic song (“The Stars”) that I could’ve done without. But other than that this album is nothing less than stellar!
Score: 8.5 out of 10

The Story Changes / Let Go – Analogies (split)

Everybody knows Let Go, right? Or at the very least the bands they were in before… Pollen and The Stereo? Well, apparently these guys know the guys in a band called The Story Changes well and so they decided to record a split together with Let Go vocalist/guitarist Jamie Woolford (Punchline, The Gin Blossoms) producing the whole thing and contributing vocals to The Story Changes’ songs. And to make things even more of a mash-up, both bands alternate songs throughout the album. Is that still even considered a split or just more of a collaborative effort?

Ah, who cares as long as it results in catchy rock songs like “Move Forward” or “Feel Alive”! Both of which are by the hands of The Story Changes. But it’s not as if Let Go’s contributions are any less. “The Great Mistake” starts off as a catchy song before some weird synth sounds kick in and push the song into new and welcome territory. And I have to say that their cover of Tom Petty’s “You Got Lucky” was the cherry on top of an already extremely fun release.
Score: 8 out of 10

Regular John – The Peaceful Atom Is A Bomb

Regular John is an Australian outfit that named itself after a Queens Of The Stone Age song and on “The Peaceful Atom Is A Bomb” they show you exactly why that is. They whip you over the head with loud and sludgy guitars right from the start as opener “Transmitter” kicks into gear. “Abattoir Noir” on the other hand is slightly more melodic yet equally intense.

Throughout this album you can hear the band channeling Australia’s rock history in there while throwing a dirtier sound as well with some nasty and sludgy riffs. These guys manage to keep up the pace throughout most of the songs, only to slow down some in the middle. All of a sudden vocalist Caleb Goman sounds a little like that dude from Vaux which is definitely not a bad thing. It takes away from the momentum though. Luckily they pick up more speed again towards the end with songs like the short punk-blast that is “Hivey”.

All in all I’d say this is a very welcome introduction to Regular John, one that makes me hope that I’ll get to see these guys tear it up live someday. Should be sweet!
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Miseration – The Mirroring Shadow

Unholy shit! These dudes don’t waste any time getting to the point and burst straight into blastmode in opener “Dreamdecipher”! Caught me kinda unprepared there…

So yes, album number two by Miseration is pretty friggin brutal. The only thing that has changed compared to “Your Demons, Their Angels” is that they sound more technical and intense this time around. They said goodbye to whatever melody they had lingering in their songs and at the same time got rid of the clean vocals as well. Vocalist Christian Älvestam has a pretty convincing grunt going on and coupled to the shredding riffage and destroying rhythm section, they’re nearly unstoppable. It makes “The Mirroring Shadow” a very aggressive album that should please all the fans of acts like Hate Eternal and Immolation.
Score: 8 out of 10

Public Radio – Sweetchild EP

After a long slumber that seemed to last forever, Deep Elm is back with a whole slew of new releases and Public Radio gets the honor of kicking off the festivities with their 5-song EP “Sweetchild”.

This Charlotte outfit plays something that is described as emotronic in the band bio. That sounds pretty disgusting, I know. But the songs on “Sweetchild” are actually pretty decent. Trust on Deep Elm to get some decent emo out there and the ‘tronic’ part is a lot more than the occasional keyboard chirping its way through a song that could’ve done perfectly without.

The cuts on here rock and come with a couple of great hooks. Drop the electronics and these songs wouldn’t look out of place on a Tom Petty album or whatever. But then in come the keyboards which make “17 Is Too Young” sound like one of the best songs never released back in the 80s.

If you’re into acts like The Postal Service, you might want to check out Public Radio… pretty sure you won’t regret it.
Score: 7 out of 10

Goonies Never Say Die – In A Forest Without Trees

How bad can a band be when they name themselves after one of the best movies ever made in the 80s? Not that bad apparently. On their debut album “In A Forest Without Trees” these Blackpool dudes aren’t looking for any lost treasures or pirate ships, but they might very well have written the soundtrack to the movie.

While their instrumental post-rock would’ve been original if bands like Mogwai or Explosions In The Sky hadn’t been around, they are great at playing with dynamics as can be best heard on “Don’t Fight The Fire, Fuck The Arsonist” or “Get All Your Ducks In A Row”. Things tend to sound a little alike towards the end of the album but as far as debut albums go, these guys have done a solid job on “In A Forest Without Trees”.
Score: 7 out of 10

Fu Manchu – Signs Of Infinite Power

After twenty years and ten albums, Fu Manchu still sounds pretty much exactly like when they started out. That this isn’t necessarily a bad thing is proven once again on “Signs Of Infinite Power”, the band’s latest album.

As soon as opener “Bionic Astronautics” bursts out of the speakers, you are immediately sucked into their groove. This is nothing new as every Fu Manchuist out there will tell you. But whereas things something fizzled out towards the end of the album on past releases, this time around they don’t let you go until “One Step Too Far”. Hell, it’s even one of the best songs on here. And that’s saying a lot after having already sat through “Steel Beast Defeated” and “El Busta”!

While the artwork on here pretty much blows, the riffage will simply blow you away. Solid album that mixes fuzzy guitars with the spirit of Black Flag perfectly!
Score: 8 out of 10

Banner Pilot – Collapser

Banner Pilot is made up of a bunch of Minneapolis dudes who have already been tearing it up for a couple of years. Until recently they were a bit of a diamond in the rough, mostly because of the poor production on their past releases. But now there’s their Fat Wreck debut “Collapser” which will no doubt set the record straight about Banner Pilot. It has better sound, better artwork and well, even better songs. And that barely a year after the release of their previous full-length, “Resignation Day”.

If you’re into bands like The Lawrence Arms, Jawbreaker and Dillinger Four… you know that nice Midwest punk sound with thumping bass lines, loud guitars and gritty yet melodic vocals, then you’re gonna welcome these guys to the club with open arms. They like to mix in some early Blink 182 as well at times and end up with a batch of kickass punkrock tunes.
Score: 8 out of 10

Thieves & Liars – American Rock N Roll

On their latest album this San Diego-based outfit plays classic bluesy hardrock with a modern sound. Nothing too fancy, just balls out rock n roll... hence the album title. With songs that are perfect for yelling along while chugging down another beer and moving the air directly in front of your fist upward with a pumping motion, Thieves & Liars have become the ideal bar band.

While they aren’t exploring any even remotely new avenues, the band has progressed considerably since last year’s “When Dreams Become Reality”. They ditched most of the epic grandeur that plagued the album and are ready to rock with a more straightforward that suits them just fine.
Score: 6.5 out of 10


Dying Fetus – Descend Into Depravity

Dying Fetus is once again back with a new album and a new drummer. “Descend Into Depravity” sounds amazing which is something that was lacking on some of their previous albums and which probably explains why these guys aren’t as big as they should be. On album number six Jon Gallagher and his cronies come at you no holds barred from the opening notes of “Your Treachery Will Die With You” until closer “Ethos Of Coercion” ends it all after a little over half an hour.

The riffage is still razor-sharp, the grunts are still malicious and the drums still slam every opening that’s left shut so that you are left with one enormous wall of sound that is coming at you like a tsunami. Oh, and those typical guitar arpeggios are still intact as well. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they have become an integral part of Dying Fetus over the years.

Some may have thought that the fetus had finally died but chief Gallagher proves that there’s still some life left in the womb with what might very well be their deadliest release so far.
Score: 8 out of 10

Paramore – Brand New Eyes

Paramore basically is Hayley Williams surrounded by a couple of dudes who could be easily replaced. For one reason or another, Paramore became a big band after releasing “Riot!” back in 2007. Maybe because she dyed her hair orange and people were tired of pink?

Who knows how the fickle minds of teenage girls work. Apparently this band does because that’s the demographic Paramore is targeting and girls everywhere are dropping like flies. More power to them I guess.

Unfortunately I’m still not convinced by either the terrible single “Ignorance” or the cheesy ballad “The Only Exception”. Let’s face it, Paramore is the new Avril Lavigne and in two years time someone else will probably have taken their place.
Score: 5.5 out of 10

CoCoComa – Things Are Not All Right

Playing in a band where the other members form a couple can’t always be easy I imagine. But Mike Fitzpatrick (bass / Farfisa organ) seems to be keeping up well the husband and wife team of Bill and Lisa Roe, drums and guitar respectively. On their latest release “Things Are Not All Right”, this Chicago outfit rips through all ten songs with the urgency of a punk band but instead they play this kind of psyched-out garege-y powerpop that totally works for them.

With buzzing guitars that remind me of both the Buzzcocks and the Ramones and a bit of Elvis Costello, they have no problem selling their seemingly simple songs to me. But just like with an act such as The Marked Men, the songs here are not as simple as they seem to be. With every single listen, you stumble across something else to like making it ever harder to believe that “Things Are Not All Right”.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Ruiner – Hell Is Empty

I liked Ruiner from the moment I first heard their debut “Prepare To Be Let Down” and that feeling was only enhanced with the release of “I Heard These Guys Are Assholes”, a compilation of older material. Now they’re finally here with a new album, “Hell Is Empty”.

Vocalist Rob Sullivan has a cool kind of hoarse shout and is not afraid to show that he wears his heart on his sleeve. At times the music even takes the backseat to let Sullivan spit out his smart and thought-provoking lyrical content. “Part One” is a good example of that. Most of the time however these Baltimore hardcore kids prove that you don’t need breakneck speeds to drive your point home. You can just as well destroy everything at a slower pace as Ruiner more than proves on cuts like “Dead Weight” and “Convenient Gods”. Like a more rocking version of Modern Life Is War they will quite your ass without thinking twice about it. To show that they haven’t forgotten where they come from, they churn out a couple of fast-paced hardcore tracks and nail them just the same (“Part Two” or “I’m Out”).

All this makes for a pretty varied hardcore album that I simply can’t seem to get enough of.
Score: 9 out of 10

Mondo Generator - Cocaine Rodeo

Kyuss/Queens Of The Stone Age’s Nick Oliveri started this band in 1997 but it took him until 2000 to finally release “Cocaine Rodeo” due to his fulltime commitments to QOTSA. He recorded it with all of his friends and the track “Simple Exploding Man” even features all of the original Kyuss members playing together again. This was possible only because of Oliveri inviting his friends to the studio one by one without telling them who else was playing on the album.

For some reason (lack of a new album?), the debut album is now being re-released with a bonus live CD. It’s a nice treat for everyone who’s into stoner meets metal meets punk. Especially the abovementioned track which goes on for eleven and a half minutes is kickass with Oliveri exorcizing some demons surrounded by wildly pounding drums and relentless riffage. Most of the other cuts are kept short but will definitely get you pumped up… just like cocaine is supposed to do.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

LoveHateHero – America Underwater

As far as bands with members that spend an hour a day perfecting their combovers go, LoveHateHero is one of the better ones around. At the very least they don’t have a singer with an annoying high-pitched voice. But that’s still not saying much I guess because the songs on “America Underwater” – while being poppy and energetic - are extremely predictable and bland.

You can tell right from the very first listen when the screams are gonna come in, where the chorus, bridge or next solo is gonna kick in and even which track will be the obligatory sensitive ballad (it’s track number six). Guess I don’t fit in with their demographic.
Score: 4 out of 10

The Spits – S/T vol. IV

The Spits are back with another self-titled album full of their lo-fi punkrock which works pretty good for these Seattle punks. Think of The Ramones pounding Devo into submission while singing about chasing girls, getting chased by the police and alien abductions and you’re there. No, seriously… that’s it. You’ll have a perfectly good idea of what to expect from these dudes. With fuzzed up guitars and a bag of melodic hooks, these guys manage to make my day a little better every time I put this on. Sure, it’s simplistic as hell but it’s a lotta fun.
Score: 7 out of 10

Eddy Current Suppression Ring - S/T

Aussie garage rockers Eddy Current Suppression Ring (catchy name fellas) released this self-titled album where they crank up the amps for eleven songs that rock from start to finish. Well, actually they already released it in 2006 but it’s only now gotten a US release.

This Australian bunch got together at a drunken Christmas party at the record pressing plant where they worked and haven’t looked back since. Singing about the mundane like ice cream might sound dumb to some but when it’s done with an abundance of energy as displayed by Eddy Current Suppression Ring, it shows you something else. It really doesn’t matter what kinda genre you slap on it, or how many different kind of post-somethings you can come up with. Kids just wanna rock the fuck out and Eddy Current Suppression Ring are here to serve them. Chocolate, vanilla, whatever.
Score: 7 out of 10

Bad Lieutenant – Never Cry Another Tear

What do you expect to hear on a new album by a band featuring Bernard Sumner? New Order. What do you get to hear on “Never Cry Another Tear”? New Order. Well, late era New Order to be more exact. But hey, you don’t hear me complaining. Okay, so the guy still writes pretty bad lyrics but songs like “Sink Or Swim” and Monaco-remininiscent “This Is Home” are proof that he still knows how to write a catchy song. Overall, this is fun indiepop without any pretention and it won’t hurt anyone on the ears.
Score: 7.5 out of 10
Bad Lieutenant Music LLC

The Cribs – Ignore The Ignorant

The Cribs have already been making the world a better place for three albums and now they’re back with “Ignore The Ignorant”. It’s somewhat the mark of a new beginning because other than opener “We Were Aborted”, the new album doesn’t quite sound like what we’re used to from the Jarman brothers.

That could of course also be attributed to the addition of one Johnny Marr on guitar. He definitely brings a little of The Smiths to a song like “Last Year’s Snow”, does nice things with his guitar in “Cheat On Me” and overall he makes the songs sound a little more melodic and fuller. While this does take away from the energy that they were known for, I’m left wondering if that really is a bad thing in this case? After all, you do get songs like “Victims Of Mass Production” and “City Of Bugs” in return.

It may not become a rock classic but you’d be an idiot to completely ignore these guys. They rock a little too hard to go unnoticed.
Score: 7 out of 10

Fightstar – Be Human

Damn, I guess this is their ‘let us show everyone we’re all grown up now’-album. Many bands try this at some point in their career when they are no longer content with writing catchy songs. Unfortunately most of them fail due to a lack of real talent. All too often they then try to mask that by including lots of bombastic string sections and choral parts. All of this you’ll find in abundance on “Be Human”, Fightstar’s latest album.

On songs like “Calling All Stations” it quickly becomes obvious that vocalist Charlie Simpson’s voice just falls terribly short for what he has in mind with this album. Next up is “The English Way” which starts off with pretty much the exact same vocal melody as the song preceding it before becoming a complete joke by throwing in a choir that makes no sense in the song at all. And it just keeps on going even further downhill from there with songs like “War Machine” and “Whisperer”.

As much as I liked their debut album on Deep Elm back in the day, I’m afraid “Be Human” is a case of way too much effort and simply not enough talent. Terrible, terrible album.
Score: 3 out of 10

The Disciplines – Smoking Kills

Smoking is a nasty habit you can’t get rid of and even though “Smoking Kills” is only this band’s debut, I can very well see The Disciplines becoming a nasty habit as well. Thought up between three members of Norway’s Briskeby and The Posies’ Ken Stringfellow, these guys already manage to sound like a well-oiled machine on their first album even though I think there was more alcohol than oil involved with the recording of this album.

If you can imagine a hybrid of chunky Scandinavian rock and The Posies’ knack for writing floating rock tunes, you should have an idea of what these cuts sound like. They already had a big hit in Norway with “Oslo” and it’s only time before the rest of Europe will fall for these guys as well. Especially if they unleash cuts like “Yours For The Taking”, “Get It Right” or “There’s A Law” on the unsuspecting masses. These songs rock just hard enough to get your energy level way up while still being able to soothe you with nice melodies.

They fumble the ball a little on songs like “I Got Tired” and “Like So Many Times Before” but then pick up speed again and score a touchdown with the more garage-y last two songs “No Vacancy” and “Cause Or FX”.

Great album despite the couple of lesser songs in the middle!
Score: 8 out of 10

Juliette Lewis – Terra Incognita

Juliette Lewis is back but without her Licks who backed her up on her first two albums. This time around she’s assisted by The New Romantiques and producer Omar Rodriguez Lopez. That last part scared the shit out of me at first because let’s face it, the guy has already put out more crap than albums actually worth listening to. But apart from a couple of failures (“Female Persecution” anyone?) “Terra Incognita” is worth your time and money even though it does show Miss Lewis heading for new territory. Hence the album title I guess.

There’s not a whole lot of musical cohesion to be found here. Basically it’s only Lewis’ voice that keeps everything somewhat together. Whether she’s screaming her lungs out in opener “Noche Sin Fin” or taking a more bluesy approach in “Hard Lovin’ Woman” or showing her fragile side in “Suicide Dive Bombers”, it all swells and pulses solely thanks to Lewis’ vocals.

I honestly liked her a helluva lot better when she was still playing with the Licks. But hey, Lopez probably convinced her that things would be more exciting in the studio with him and his Ouija board. I’ll give her this one album to exorcise her demons and stuff but next time, I want her to leave the proggy noodling to Lopez and focus on rawking some more.
Score: 6.5 out of 10

Nervecell – Preaching Venom

From Dubai of all places comes Nervecell, a brutal death metal outfit who managed to keep me interested throughout all ten songs on “Preaching Venom” thanks to groovy riffage coupled to badass grunts and plenty of guitar squeals. Plus the whole thing comes with drumming from the hand (and feet) of Psycroptic’s Dave Haley so you know it’s going to be fast as fuck.

With Nile-like precision these guys hammer away on all the songs and deliver a very solid offering. It’s got a bit of everything for everyone... from tech-y riffs to friendly mosh parts and from chugga chugga riffage to all-out melodic solos. It’s all here and thanks to Lifeforce it’s now widely available.
Score: 7 out of 10

Arch Enemy – The Root Of All Evil

When I did an interview with one of these guys a couple of years ago, it had to be one of the most boring things I have ever had to sit through. But man, can these guys shred! Of course I’m not telling you anything new because over the years Arch Enemy has become one of the biggest names in the melodic death metal scene. First with Johan Liiva on vocals and for the last four albums with Angela Gossow. It’s something that has divided Arch Enemy fans... some of them think it ended when Liiva left the band and when its remaining members went with a more commercial sound. Others see that as the beginning.

It’s with Angela that the band has now re-recorded a bunch of tracks from their first three albums (“Black Earth”, “Stigmata” and “Burning Bridges”). Maybe an effort to unite their divided fanbase? Whatever the reason may be, they’ve dished out another solid album on which the Amott brothers get to shred their little hearts out showing off their love of both Dave Mustaine and Yngwie Malmsteen. All this while drummer Daniel Erlandsson sounds like he has four feet and six hands. Over it all are Gossow’s grunts and it proves once again that it’s this blonde bombshell who actually has the biggest balls of the whole bunch.

The new recordings may not sound as evil as the originals, which is a shame. But if this won’t make you believe that Arch Enemy is better off with Gossow on vocals, I don’t know what will.
Score: 7.5 out of 10


Dead By Sunrise – Out Of Ashes

A couple of years ago Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington started a side-project with a couple of former Orgy guitarists and called it Dead By Sunrise. They have now released their debut effort called “Out Of Ashes” and everything on it from the artwork to the production job courtesy of Howard Benson and - of course - the music itself, says slick.

While songs like “Crawl Back In” and especially “Inside Of Me” have that latter day Papa Roach vibe going on, Chester leaves his characteristic caterwauling behind most of the time and trades it in for a more mellow voice that fits the ‘woe is me’ type lyrics (“My Suffering”, “Condemned”, “Walking In Circles”).

Most of the songs on here are not all that different from what the guy does in Linkin Park… it’s poppy with a crunchy edge and easily digestable. Only “My Suffering” might be a bit too loud for a Linkin Park album and the attempt at hair metal that is “Condemned” would look out of place as well. On the other side of the spectrum there’s the ballad “In The Darkness” which is a complete 180 from all the electronics-enhanced guitar noise on “Out Of Ashes”.

So what does that leave us with? An album that does not show enough of a sound of their own and doesn’t leave enough of an impression to make us forget about Bennington’s other paycheck.
Score: 6 out of 10

Janus – Red Right Return

Here’s a Chicago quartet that has taken cues from all the big alternative rock stories from the last couple of years and molded them into ten energetic and catchy songs. Listening to “Red Right Return” you’ll hear 30 Seconds To Mars, Chevelle, Breaking Benjamin and there’s even a little Deftones creeping around in there.

It all sounds extremely smooth with a nicely polished nu metal sheen over it and a couple of electronic sounds blend in nicely as well. Vocalist David Scotney has the right kind of voice for this kinda thing as well, sounding both plaignant and powerful at the same time.

I can’t really say anything bad about Janus’ debut album but I can’t help but not get excited over it either. It all sounds a little too much like what I’ve heard a couple of years ago from the abovementioned bands and even the songs on “Red Right Return” themselves are kind of interchangeable.
Score: 6 out of 10

Lipona – Pigeonholed EP

With “Pigeonholed” Florida’s Lipona pick things up right where they left them with last year’s “Atlas”. Their brand of furious punkrock meets melodic hardcore is still intact and with these five new songs, they prove once again that when you’re into A Wilhelm Scream, Strung Out or “Unraveling” era Rise Against, there’s no going wrong with this outift.

The acoustic “Shooty Hoops” is a bit of a dud but other than that there’s nothing wrong whatsoever with this release. Someone please offer these guys a record deal so more people find out about them! Until then there’s really no excuse why you shouldn’t check them out once you’ve read about them. Especially seeing as you can download this EP for free on their MySpace page so you can rock the fuck out while listening to “Beginning The Dynamite Era” or “Hawks”.
Score: 7.5 out of 10
no label

LoneWolves – Carcaroth EP

LoneWolves is a new band from the UK who have dropped their first proper release with the 5-song “Carcaroth” EP. Lasting just under fifteen minutes, this is one album that does not outstay its welcome.

With reckless abandon for their own safety, these guys play a very potent brew of sludgy hardcore. The same kind that put Belgium’s Rise And Fall on the map. They do a solid job and while I doubt the singer’s vocal chords will last much longer with the guy screaming his guts out, I’d love to hear more from LoneWolves in the future.
Score: 7 out of 10
Thirty Days Of Night Records

Slayer – World Painted Blood

When Dave Lombardo returned to the fold for 2006’s “Christ Illusion”, many thought it would be the Slayer album they had been waiting for for a long, long time. But it wasn’t. The fans had to wait three more years to finally get to hear a real return to form. Because yes, “World Painted Blood” is Slayer like they used to sound back in the day. Araya sounds like a rabid dog, Lombardo is beating the shit out of his drum kit even nearing lightspeed on “Public Display Of Dismemberment” and over it all Hanneman and King are shredding like the maniacs they are.

It’s not at all what you’d expect from the 40-somethings they are but cuts like the title track, “Beauty Through Order” and “Americon” show that these guys can still blow bands half their age away. Oh, and fuck Metallica and their weakass attempts at thrashing! Slayer is here to show everyone how it’s done. If the rumors about them calling it a day are true, then at least they are going out with one hell of a bang.
Score: 8.5 out of 10

Slayer - World Painted Blood

The Get Up Kids – Something To Write Home About – 10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition

It’s been ten years since Kansas City’s The Get Up Kids released their seminal album, “Something To Write Home About”. To celebrate the occasion, Vagrant is now releasing the deluxe edition of the album which comes with a live DVD recorded at the band’s show at the Liberty Hall in Lawrence, Kansas in March 2009.

The show features the band playing the album in its entirety along with a whole bunch of other songs. And as if that isn’t enough yet, this sweet little release also gives you the chance to download a bunch of demos from the “Something To Write Home About” recording sessions.

Yup, it really is all a Get Up Kids fan who’s still crying over the band’s breakup can ask for. Even ten years after its initial release, this album still sounds as fresh and contagious as when I first heard it back in the day when this was one of my all-time favorite albums.
Score: 9.5 out of 10

Willard Grant Conspiracy – Paper Covers Stone

Now that it’s getting colder again and because it’s all dark and gloomy outside most of the time, people tend to get a little depressed. Which is probably not the best state of mind to be in while listening to Willard Grant Conspiracy’s latest album.

Chances are you’ll hear some familiar songs on “Paper Covers Stone”, because apart from two new tracks (“Scars” and “Preparing For The Fall”) and a Tom Waits cover of “The Ocean Doesn’t Want Me”, the other ten songs already appeared on previous WGC releases.

These are all acoustic and completely rearranged versions though, which at times make you completely forget about the already damn impressive originals. I’d even go as far as saying that Nick Cave can still learn a thing or two from these guys about adding drama to your songs. Armed with just acoustic guitars, piano, organ, trumpet, a viola and of course Rober Fisher’s commanding voice, these songs draw you in and then claw their way straight into your soul. While things do tend to sound alike a little towards the end, “Paper Covers Stone” is still an impressive album.
Score: 8 out of 10

Dan Webb And The Spiders – S/T

The artwork on this one looks like it was slapped together in about five minutes. And the album sounds like it was recorded in about the same time. Which is impossible because it lasts longer than that. But it’s all jangly and dirty… slacker aesthetics rule though so get over it! Buried under layers of distortion are actually nine kickass indierock songs written by a man named Dan Webb who’s backed up by his Spiders on this album. Get it? Webb and his Spiders?

Anyway, with the same kinda vocals and fuzzed up guitars that J Mascis is known for, Webb takes this baby home all the way from opener “The Fall Of ‘08” to “Couldn’t Wait”. It really does sound a little like Dinosaur Jr. minus the solos and with more speed.

Apparently the guy also plays drums in The Cold Beat, a punkrock outfit you should definitely check out if you haven’t done so. That band displays the same kind of honesty and integrity as the songs on this self-titled release. Simply put, good stuff!
Score: 7 out of 10
No label


Saosin interview

To be honest, Saosin is one of my more guilty pleasures. No, scratch that. It's not even that guilty. With "In Search Of Solid Ground" they prove once again that they have a solid grasp on writing catchy yet powerful songs without letting them drown in a sea of cheez. Kudos! Here's a short email interview I did with them.

PRT: Ever since the release of your self-titled debut you have done pretty much nothing but tour for three years. How on earth do you keep that up?
Saosin: It's not easy. We laugh a lot, fight a lot, and we try to keep life on re road fun and interresting. Without a good sense of humor it gets really boring very quickly.

PRT: The name Saosin comes from the Chinese meaning that nothing lasts forever. Is that something that you – especially being involved in something as fickle as the music industry – keep in mind?
Saosin: Definitely. We all know that this won't last forever.

PRT: Saosin has already been a band since 2001 but this is only your second full-length. How come it takes you guys so long to get a new album ready?
Saosin: Well as you mentioned before, we toured on the last record for over 2 years. We did 2 world tours, went through the states like every other month. We didn't stop touring. People just kept wanting us to keep playing shows. So we did. And it's really hard to complete a record in a tour bus. We tried to do it, but it's really hard for us.

PRT: For the new album you recorded with different producers and on top of that you produced five of the songs on the album yourselves. How come you chose to go this way rather than just working with one producer for the entire album?
Saosin: We wanted to do something different on this record. We liked the idea of using different producers on different songs to keep a fresh perspective on thongs. It was cool to watch John feldman and butch walker work and see how they approach things. It was a great learning experience.

PRT: Before the actual release of the album, people could already hear songs on iTunes,, and you also streamed the entire album on your MySpace page while in the old days, a band simply recorded an album and released it. Is this more exciting for you guys or is all that online marketing a necessary evil?
Saosin: I think now, with how many billions of bands there are, a band has to really step up and give the fans something more than the next band.

PRT: Alternative Press revealed the artwork of the album in July, which was met with a negative reaction from your fans. You then decided to change the artwork and said that ‘When you spend a long time on something, its really easy to lose track of where you started’. How hard is it to do that while you’re in the studio recording an album?
Saosin: Well it's part of the process. We really like being very hands on with everything. So unfortunately when it comes down to crunch time handing in a record you start to get spread a little thin when we are handling producing mixing, artwork and the DVD.

PRT: So what’s up next for Saosin? Another three years of touring?
Saosin: Hahaha. I sure hope not!! But I'm sure we will be doing a lot of touring. But hopefully not to the point where we forget what it's like to sleep in our own beds again.

PRT: Any last words for our readers?
Saosin: Go buy the record!! And if you already have, then thank you. And thank you to everyone who has been, and continues to support Saosin.

Anchor Arms – Cold Blooded

Wow, these guys had me hooked right from the second opener “” kicks in with a simple rhythm and some muted chords. Then it all explodes in a flurry of melodic yet rough around the edges guitar licks, gruff vocals and some ‘hey hey’ gang vocals. Yes, Anchor Arms plays punkrock with that typical Gainesville twist where things sound just sloppy enough to be heartwarming yet still have enough energy left to power a small city.

These dudes aren’t doing anything new but for nine songs, they do this kinda sound just as good as say Smoke Or Fire or whatever. The only real downside I can think of is that the album only goes on for 22 minutes... I want to hear more!
Score: 7 out of 10

Flood Of Red – Leaving Everything Behind

While opener “The Edge Of The World (Prelude)” might led you to believe that you’re listening to the new Copeland album with its extremely mellow mood, the rest of the songs on Flood Of Red’s debut album are upbeat affairs that have more in common with Saosin… with a thick Scottish accent that is.

It’s all pretty well done. These guys have a knack for writing catchy tunes that sure are energetic enough. But listening to the whole thing at once is somewhat of an undertaking seeing as Flood Of Red’s material tends to sound somewhat alike after the first couple of tracks.

“Leaving Everything Behind” is a decent enough album but it’s nothing you haven’t already heard before.
Score: 6.5 out of 10
Dark City

AFI – Crash Love

AFI has never been afraid to try new things. While “Sing The Sorrow” saw them take their gothpunk to its limits, “Decemberunderground” was a mix of hair metal and their dark punk sound. On their latest effort, AFI show that they’ve once again evolved. A song like “End Transmission” may be far removed from their hardcore punk days but it’s still a very, very solid song with its übercatchy chorus. ”Veronica Sawyer Smokes” sounds a bit like The Cure and “Too Shy To Scream” has a lot of glam influences.

This time around AFI have come up with an album that’s full of variation in terms of rhythms and guitar sounds. They’ve also aimed for more of a straightforward rock sound that works well for them. But no worries, Davey Havok’s trademark ‘oh’ is still present in pretty much every single song, there are plenty of singalong parts and cuts like single “Medicate” and “Sacrilege” will satisfy every AFI fan out there.

I doubt they’ll ever write an album as good as “Sing The Sorrow” again but maybe “Crash Love” will be the album that finally gets them the mainstream success that they’ve been flirting with ever since the release of “Sing The Sorrow”.
Score: 8 out of 10

Pinhead Gunpowder – Kick Over The Traces

Pinhead Gunpowder has been a part-time affair for its members for almost twenty years now, cranking out the kind of poppunk I fell in love with back in the day.

“Kick Over The Traces” features 23 songs in just 43 minutes. These are songs off of early 7"s, rare compilation songs, various tracks off later 7"'s and albums along with three previously unreleased cuts.

Yes, this band features Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong on vocals. Yet you won’t find any of that band’s long epics on “Kick Over The Traces”. None of the songs last longer than three minutes except for the acoustic closer “On The Ave.” and that’s just fine by me as long as we are treated to drummer Aaron Cometbus’ (Crimpshrine) lyrics coupled to three-chords-are-all-you-need poppunk anthems.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Common Enemy – Living The Dream?

I don’t know these guys personally so I can’t say whether or not they’re living the dream. But I do know for sure that this Reading, Pennsylvania outfit is having fun cranking up their amps.

“Living The Dream?” boasts a whopping 20 songs (none of which last longer than two minutes) of pure unadulterated skatepunk fury that’s imported straight from the 80s… think DRI. They play ‘em so fast you’d think they had somewhere else they’d rather be and kill it on every single track. There’s room for a little bit of social commentary (“We’re Under Attack”, “Police Story”) but you’d be hard-pressed to find anything serious in songs like “Beer Bong” and “Pac-Man Fever”. Good times though!
Score: 7.5 out of 10