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The Black Pacific – S/T

Of course no tears were shed when Jim Lindberg left Pennywise. Everybody knows that real punkrockers don’t cry! I’m willing to bet though at least a few hankies were pulled out once people thought they were alone. I mean, come on… didn’t we all grow up with those early Pennywise albums? Those people can rejoice now because Lindberg is back with his new outfit, The Black Pacific and they have just dropped their first album.

On the band’s self-titled debut you won’t really hear all that much difference between The Black Pacific and Pennywise to be honest. Musically both bands are fishing in the same pond… it’s all fast punkrock with catchy hooks and singalongs that you’ll hear. What has changed though is that Lindberg seems enthusiastic again about the material, something that seemed to be lacking on the last Pennywise albums.

But seriously… who cares if it sounds alike. What you’ve got here is a solid punkrock album that will appeal to all the fans of Lindberg’s previous outfit. And they’ve got even more reasons to celebrate because apparently there will be a new Pennywise album later this year as well!
Score: 7.5 out of 10

21 Eyes Of Ruby – Conquer The World pt. 5

No idea what happened to “Conquer The World” part 1 through 4 but they do seem to exist. Whatever the case may be, I had never heard of this Dutch band up ‘til now.

These Dutchies kick off “Conquer The World pt. 5” off with the 7-minute long opener “The Fountain, The Fight & The Flood”. It may seem like a bold move but it succeeded in grabbing my attention thanks to a powerful riff that owes a lot to Arabic music. They like their rock music loud with some additional proggy parts. A characteristic that will especially rear its ugly head later on in the album on songs like “She Smiles Like A Machine Gun”, which sounds like The Mars Volta. Other bands you might catch a whiff of are A Perfect Circle, Smashing Pumpkins,… I dunno. I’ve got mixed feelings about this one. It’s adventurous, it’s bold and these guys definitely have got skills and know how to rick. But I’m just not getting as much out of it it as I think I should. Is it the Dutch accent or simply because the compositions don’t feel complete? I don’t know… maybe I’ll know once they release “Conquer The World pt. 6”.
Score: 5 out of 10

Comeback Kid – Symptoms + Cures

After the departure of original vocalist Scott Wade, Comeback Kid was struggling for a bit to keep things going. It showed on “Broadcasting”. It was not a bad album but it wasn’t a worthy follow-up to the instant classic that was “Wake The Dead”. Guitarist-turned-vocalist Andrew Neufeld seemed to feel a little uncomfortable in his newly appointed role as frontman and it was lacking that special something. Live they were still a force to be reckoned with and they took stages all over the world by storm as they proved themselves to be a touring monster.

While listening to “Symptoms + Cures” it becomes obvious right off the bat that all the touring paid off. As soon as opener “Do Yourself A Favor” storms out of the gates, fans of circle pits all over the world will go nuts. And the band just keeps on going from there building up even more momentum with songs like ”G.M. Bincent & I” and “The Concept Says”.

Neufeld sounds even more pissed off on “Symptoms + Cures”, but at the same time seems to have become more versatile vocally which makes for a more varied sound. The riffs are aggressive as fuck yet at the same time more melodic than ever and the gang vocals have somehow become even bigger. It’s got everything you already loved about Comeback Kid times ten, making “Symptoms + Cures” one of the better hardcore albums you’re likely to come across this year.
Score: 8.5 out of 10

Honor Bright – Action! Drama! Suspense!

On album number two, Syracuse’s Honor Bright at least deliver on the first part of the album title. There’s plenty of action to be found on “Action! Drama! Suspense!” as they’re off to a rocking start with “How To Break A Heart”. As you can tell from that song title, it’s a boy-meets-girl kinda song. Kinda cliché… then again, pop-punk isn’t exactly a genre known for its originality.

They keep on banging out rocking songs from there that sometimes reminded me of Taking Back Sunday and of New Found Glory at other moments. That’s the thing with this modern kind of pop-punk… it all sounds a lot like other bands out there. Granted, these guys have an ear for catchy melodies and play their material with a lot of enthusiasm. Yet I’m afraid that - despite delivering a pretty good album – it won’t be enough to set them apart from the rest of the oversaturated scene.
Score: 6 out of 10

Shang-A-Lang – Collection

Simply titled “Collection”, this release boasts a whopping 22 songs by New Mexico’s Shang-A-Lang. It’s all of the band’s out-of-print material you can ask for with a couple of additional rare songs nicely pressed on one shiny disc. Or maybe you didn’t ask for it but you’ll get it anyway.

Shang-A-Lang came to life when hardcore band The Answer Lies called it a day and vocalist Chris Mason went looking for a new musical project. That ended up being something you could call garage-y poppunk. It’s a lot of fun and reminded me of early Lookout stuff… lo on fi, high on energy. Or you can compare them to the fellow New Mexicans that made up Scared Of Chaka as well if you want to.

Whatever you end up comparing them to, there’s no denying the effectiveness of it all. It’s releases like “Collection” that prove independent punkrock is doing just fine thank you very much.

Oh yeah, the album comes with liner notes about all of the songs and artwork comes courtesy of Mitch Clem, the author of the webcomic “Nothing Nice To Say”.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Deer Tick – The Black Dirt Sessions

Whereas predecessor “Born On Flag Day” was more of a rambunctious countryrocker, “The Black Dirt Sessions” shows a more introvert side of Deer Tick. This band around singer/songwriter John McCauley restrains itself this time around and lets the acoustic guitars and piano take center stage. It however doesn’t mean that the songs are any less powerful or attractive.

McCauley manages to reign you in with his gritty voice that expresses nothing but sincerity and honesty and on songs like “Goodbye, Dear Friend” and “Christ Jesus” I actually felt a lump rise in my throat. And then there’s “Mange” halfway through the album, one single song that already warrants the purchase of the entire album.

Recorded at the same time as predecessor “Born On Flag Day”, “The Black Dirt Sessions” show a different side of the band and one can only applaud the band’s versatility and it makes me wonder what they’ll be up to next. I’m already looking forward to hearing it!
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Disturbed – Asylum

“Asylum” is the name of Disturbed’s latest release and while they have always been very much themselves and one of the few to survive the whole nu metal hype, they have also always been very much themselves. It’s both their strength and their biggest weakness with every single one of their albums not offering any surprises. I got tired of their formulaic approach to songwriting after “Indestructible”. So when the time came to roll out a new album, I was curious to hear if maybe they had injected some fresh sounds into the mix.

After a rather boring intro, the Disturbed groove that they’re known for bursts out of the speakers and it’s once again business as usual. The riffs are still as tight as a virgin and David Draiman’s characteristic vocals ring out all over the songs. And on the title track and “The Infection” (didn’t they already have a song with that title? Oh no, wait… that was “The Sickness”) they prove they can still rock. But all too often they rely on their tried formula which also sounds like a very tired formula. Even the eighties cover they always include (this time it’s U2’s “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”) sounds obligatory. It’s a shame but I think that the infection has taken over, the sickness has set in and the patient is terminal.
Score: 5.5 out of 10

Professor Green – Alive Till I’m Dead

On his debut album “Alive Till I’m Dead”, Professor Green aka Stephen Manderson sometimes reminds of The Streets’ Mike Skinner (on whose label he dropped his first releases) while at other times you’d swear you’re listening to Eminem spitting rhymes with a British accent. It works well for the guy and while he has a grime past that he tries to maintain, he injects his material with enough poppy hooks to warrant mainstream attention.

Add some guest vocals by Lily Allen (“Just Be Good To Green”), a sample from an INXS song (“I Need You Tonight”), throw in some loud guitars (“Oh My God”) and dubstep (“Monster”) and you’ve got yourself an album that offers plenty of variation. The only downsides are the triphoppy (“Closing The Door”) and the way too cheesy r&b of “Where Do We Go”, both of which serve as filler slipped in towards the end of the album.

It might sound like it’s all over the place (and it is) but it’s done in a very good way making “Alive Till I’m Dead” a very enjoyable hip hop album that is packed with potential singles.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Various Artists – Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World OST

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World tells the story of Scott Pilgrim, played by the always geeky Michael Cera, who after finding the love of his life, must defeat her seven evil superhuman ex-boyfriends or lose the girl. The movie is based on a comic book series written by Bryan Lee O’Malley.

Further enhancing the appeal of Edward Wright’s latest movie is a hip soundtrack. It’s like a flashback to what made the 90s good with all of its alt-rock awesomeness and slacker attitude. It boasts the likes of Frank Black and Beck right next to T-Rex and The Rolling Stones. The latter of which are not quite a product of the 90s, yet their contributions blend in well between the Sex Bob-Omb songs on here (Beck writing for Pilgrim’s band in the movie) and the more recent flavours of Blood Red Shoes and Crash & The Boys (another fictional band from the movie, the material for which was written by Broken Social Scene).

It serves its purpose and it made me even more anxious to see the movie. Being the slacker that I am though, I’ll probably just wait for the DVD to come out so I can watch it from my couch.
Score: 7 out of 10


Valient Thorr – Stranger

Just when us earthlings were led to believe that women are from Venus and men are from Mars, the guys that make up Valient Thorr showed up from Venus and let me tell you, they are all male. Just check out their beards. Or have a close look at Valient Himself’s incredibly tight jeans if you’re so inclined.

Anyway, they have come to our planet to point out how we’re fucking up things up here and they do this with the help of powerful riffage. On “Stranger” they rock hard and I was told that producer Jack Endino was only just able to capture this boundless display of energy on tape with his earthly equipment. Because let’s face it, Valient Thorr is first and foremost a live band. A band for whom it was not unusual to play 300 shows a year. 300!

The songs on “Stranger” do rock however and tracks like “Sleeper Awakes” or “Night Terrors” can even be called memorable. Overall though this is nothing you haven’t heard before. Or at least not something your dad hasn’t heard before. Because this is what they used to call hardrock and heavy metal in the 70s and it comes complete with sleeveless denim vests. Use the album to get amped up, then go see them live and witness one of the most exciting shows you’ll see all year.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

School Of Seven Bells – Disconnect From Desire

Whereas School Of Seven Bells’ debut “Alpinisms” came with both its highs and its lows, the band’s follow-up is already a lot more cohesive and danceable. They still distill the essence of shoegaze acts like My Bloody Valentine and then proceed by translating it to the 21st century with plenty of electronic flourishes and beats. Add to that the mesmerizing voices of the drop dead gorgeous identical twins Alejandra and Claudia Deheza and you’re well on your way to floating between the clouds.

Album highlights are aplenty but I would go for “Heart Is Strange” and “Babelonia”, two tracks in which producer/guitarist Benjamin Curtis perfectly combines dreamy guitars with simple yet effective keyboard sounds. It’s something that New Order did before them but let’s face it… Bernard Sumner doesn’t look nearly as good playing this kinda music as Alejandra or Claudia!
Score: 8 out of 10

Suicidal Tendencies – No Mercy Fool / The Suicidal Family

In 1986 guitarist Mike Clark started a speed metal band called No Mercy with Mike Muir as the vocalist. They released one album called “Widespread Bloodshed Love Runs Red” which was okay. Nothing more, nothing less. When the time came to record the follow-up, they instead called it a day. Clark joined Muir’s Suicidal Tendencies and the rest – as they say – was history.

While everybody’s wondering if Suicidal Tendencies will ever release a new album again, Muir & co now dropped “No Mercy Fool / The Suicidal Family”, which is not really a new album. They simply re-recorded four songs from No Mercy’s debut (“We’re Evil”, “Widespread Bloodshed”, “Crazy But Proud” and “I’m Your Nightmare”), seven songs from Suicidal Tendencies’ “Join The Army” and a couple of other tracks.

So is this worth listening to? Sure! “Join The Army” was generally considered a weak ST album but the re-recorded versions show not only what the songs were originally meant to sound like but also what skate metal in general was all about. So get that bandana out of the closet and wear it with pride once again!
Score: 7 out of 10
Suicidal Records

Solar Bear – Captains Of Industry

Okay, so when is a called Solar Bear and their MySpace address is, I’m already liking them before I’ve even heard one single note. Seriously, them being from Denver and carrying on the torch where acts like Vaux and Fear Before left it smouldering, is just icing on the cake.

On their latest release “Captains Of Industry”, the angular guitars and off-kilter changes in rhythm may sound like a noisy mess at first. But upon close inspection, you’ll find that these tunes are actually carefully placed layers of madness. And over it all is vocalist Marcus Tallitsch who sounds like he’s got something particularly nasty lodged in his throat. This is some pretty cool post-hardcore that goes from calm to frenetic in about the time it takes for you to take a breath. Pretty cool stuff for anyone who has missed out on the original screamo wave of the early 90ies.
Score: 7 out of 10
no label

Fake Problems – Real Ghosts Caught On Tape

“Real Ghosts Caught On Tape” is Fake Problems’ third album and sees them moving from their folkpunk roots into indie rock territory without ever looking back. It comes with a production job by Ted Hutt, which has become somewhat of a guarantee for a damn fine album over the last couple of years. Yup, this one has ‘big plans’ written all over it.

While I wasn’t a big fan of this album’s predecessor, the Florida outfit immediately wins me over this time around with opener “ADT”… happy, upbeat indie music the way it’s meant to be played. Next up is ‘5678” which is a little more danceable, something that comes back later on in “Soulless”. Not that they have a problem with slowing down as is aptly proven with songs like “Songs For Teenagers” and “White Lies”.

With “Real Ghosts Caught On Tape” Fake Problems made a solid album that nicely combines 60ies pop sensibilities with indie pop/rock that should appeal to a lot of boys and girls out there who are looking for an album that will make autumn feel like summer all over again.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Hostage Calm – Hostage Calm

When Hostage Calm released “Lens”, they had delivered a solid hardcore punk album that was influenced by the likes of Dag Nasty and Gorilla Biscuits. So I was about ready to get my mosh on with their self-titled album, when all of a sudden I hear handclaps, keys, acoustic guitars and a general appreciation of Britpop in all its shapes and forms.

That it takes some getting used to is a bit of an understatement, but once you get over your initial surprise there’s a very nice album to discover. Of course there are the social/political lyrics that are actually worth reading. The music itself jumps from The Smiths/The Cure-like influences to “Ballots/Stones” which comes with some Latin influences and a cute piano that wouldn’t have looked out of place on a Clash album over Beatlesque melodies that pop up all over the album. And closer “War On A Feeling” is an amazing pop song that comes with an energy boost that takes the whole thing to the next level.

These guys basically wrote an album that contains the best things from some of the legends while they still managed to maintain all the energy from their hardcore past. It’s the sound of a band that has found their own voice and it’s a voice worth listening to.
Score: 8 out of 10


RPA & The United Nations Of Sound - S/T

Richard Ashcroft, the former frontman for The Verve, made friends with some hiphop people with whom he collaborated on his latest album. Hence the United Nations of Sound. No doubt was all this meant as a way to get Ashcroft out of the slums in which he’s been dwelling ever since The Verve came to a grinding halt.

Unfortunately he fails miserably and doesn’t get a helluva lot further than some mumbling about life (“This Thing Called Life”, “Life Can Be So Beautiful”) and music (“She Brings Me The Music” and “America” which comes with a line that says the universal language is music). If that last part is true, then Ashcroft’s version of the universal language is a very annoying and dull-sounding dialect that is only spoken in a desolate part of an even more desolate country where locals either moved away to a far away place or stopped talking altogether years ago.

The first two songs on the album sound like intros that go on forever without ever leading up to anything. The repetition of the question “Are You Ready?” in the opening track with the same name had me shouting YES! for 6 minutes and 33 seconds without ever coming through. And things just got worse from there on. “Beatitudes” is a tired attempt at blending hiphop together with rock. “How Deep Is Your Man?” comes with an equally tired blues riff. Then there’s “Royal Highness”, which does come equipped with a great riff. It’s a tragedy Lou Reed already wrote it 40 years ago and called it “Sweet Jane”.

Seriously, this album is just a mess.
Score: 3 out of 10

Iron Maiden – The Final Frontier

Okay, so I admit that I was quite the Iron Maiden fan back in the day before losing track of them completely in years to follow. I have seen them live a couple of times though at various festivals and while they still put on a great and engaging live show, it seemed as if they were mostly living off of their old hits, rather than their most recent output. New albums merely seemed like an excuse to tour some more. So what about their latest effort?

“The Final Frontier” starts off very weak with an soundtrack-like intro that leads up to the title track that really isn’t going anywhere either until the last couple of minutes where they take off. And once “El Dorado” bursts out the speakers, it’s like I’m thrown back in time to when I was still rocking my long hair. Galloping drums, a bass line that keeps the guitars in check only to give them slack every now and then for one of those typical Maiden solos. And then there’s of course Bruce Dickinson with his trademark vocals shooting off lyrics that read like a book.

“Mother Of Mercy” and “The Alchemist” is more vintage Maiden and I’m eating it up as fast as a fat kid devours his birthday cake. Unfortunately indigestion sets in with the 9-minute long “Isle Of Avalon” and “Starblind”, both of which could’ve done with a couple of minutes less. It just feels like stretching the fabric. Luckily it’s back to the birthday party after that with the trio that is “The Talisman”, “The Man Who Would Be King” and the epic closer “When The Wild Wind Blows”.

Personally I could’ve done without the proggy parts which would’ve made the songs more compact.
But all in all “The Final Frontier” is another solid addition to the Maiden catalog and it shows that even after all those years, these guys are still relevant in 2010.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Frontier(s) – There Will Be No Miracles Here

As it turns out Frontier(s) is not only the name of one of the best French horror movies I have ever seen, it’s also the name of former Elliott frontman Chris Higdon’s new project. If you are familiar with that band’s output, “There Will Be No Miracles Here” will hold little surprises for you. That’s not saying this is no good album. Quite the contrary actually.

Take some loud and distorted guitars, place them over driving rhythms and then proceed by adding Higdon’s soaring vocals in the mix. Don’t forget to leave some room for effective hooks and crescendos that are strewn freely throughout the album and you’ve got yourself another great post-hardcore album on your hands.
Score: 8.5 out of 10

Dax Riggs – Say Goodnight To The World

Now that vampires and horror in general are making a return on the big screen, it might be time for people to take notice of Dax Riggs. Just like I did when I first popped in this album. Fuck, I hate it when I find out I’ve been missing out on something good. Anyway, on his latest effort “Say Goodnight To The World” Mr. Riggs sings about Satan, witches, graveyards and hell. Come to think of it, this might not be so suited for all the Twilight fans creaming their panties over Robert Pattinson. This is the real deal while Twilight… well, not quite.

Anyway, while the songs on here are all very different in terms of atmosphere, they all come from the blues. The opening track comes with a mellow Black Sabbath vibe while Riggs croons like the best of them on a cut like “You Were Born To Be My Gallows”. And then in comes the King cover “Heartbreak Hotel” on which Riggs sounds like an Elvis bound for hell and you find yourself completely won over.

“Say Goodnight To The World” comes at you at a mellow as fuck pace but it had no problem getting under my skin like few other albums have this year.
Score: 9 out of 10

Stream City – Stream City

Stream City is a Danish band who took me completely by surprise after sending over their self-titled EP. Apparently they started out in 2004 before taking some time out, only to go at it again a couple of years later. Which brings us to their latest and self-titled 6-song release. Well, five songs and an intro actually.

As soon as they tear into “The Magician”, you’ll notice they like to use a violin. And I don’t mean in a Yellowcard, gimmicky kinda way. Nope, these dudes incorporate the instrument nicely into their uptempo punkrock songs that come with socially aware lyrics. They’re experimental but they don’t go over the top. It’s kind of like listening to a more straightforward version of RX Bandits or Streetlight Manifesto minus the ska. They’d much rather add some folky influences but not in an obvious Flogging Molly kinda way.

I don’t know if the above makes any sense but believe me when I say that this band is worth checking out! They’re onto something good…
Score: 6.5 out of 10
no label

Grave Maker – Ghosts Among Men

Okay, so not everything Victory releases these days quite lives up to my standards. But then in comes an album by a band called Grave Maker who get right in your face with some aggressive hardcore. The artwork they slapped on “Ghosts Among Men” may lead you to think that you’re in for some Viking metal, but these guys are quick to set you straight with opener “Ghosts Among Men”, a slow burner that taps from the same vein as Call To Preserve and the likes.

From there on the band rages through the tracklisting, never taking too long to make their point but always making sure to inject their material with great riffage, excellent breakdowns and some nice and heavy barks with the occasional gang vocals backing up the vocalist. Closer “Never Be Like You” is the odd one out, lasting for well over five minutes but not boring once. Grave Maker come in quick, tear down the house and leave through what used to be the backdoor in half an hour. And they get the job done just fine.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

The Casting Out – The Casting Out

After the release of The Casting Out’s debut full-length “Go Crazy! Throw Fireworks!”, I did an interview with vocalist Nathan Gray in which he said that it was okay to mention BoySetsFire but from the next release on, he wanted to be known simply as The Casting Out rather than like a new band featuring the former BoySetsFire frontman. I guess it has something to do with why their new album is simply called The Casting Out.

Yet comparisons with the man’s former band are never that far away simply because Gray has such a characteristic voice. If you look to the music though, you’ll notice that The Casting Out is a lot more straightforward punkrock. And the songs on here show you that they are very good at what they do. They are catchy, infectious and rock from start to finish with “” and “” as the album’s highlights. And all the while they manage to incorporate enough just the right amount of aggression to counter all the poppy elements they inject into the material. Really, the only thing you can object to is the production, which is a thin and flat. It’s a shame really because the songs themselves would love nothing more than to jump right in your face. Solid melodic punkrock!
Score: 7.5 out of 10


Helmet – Seeing Eye Dog

With “Seeing Eye Dog” Helmet is back with their third album since the 2004 reformation. Ever since then Page Hamilton has been the only constant member and driving force with a revolving cast backing him up. The line-up seemed stabile since the release of “Monochrome”, but during the recording of the new album bassist Jon Fuller was replaced in the studio by Chris Traynor. The new permanent bassist who will get to take “Seeing Eye Dog” on the road is a guy called Dave Case.

On to the music then… the album opens with some vintage Helmet sounds. Both “So Long” and the title track come with nasty, sludgy riffs and Hamilton’s typical bark. Drummer Kyle still beats the living shit out of his drums like the damn thing owns him money and guitarist Dan does a nice job of pairing up with Hamilton, tearing into the meaty riffs like a rabid dog.

Next up are a couple of more mellow tracks with “Welcome To Algiers” (one of the album’s highlights) and “LA Water”, the latter of which takes off from a dark place only to have poppy elements added later on in the song. Kind of like putting a cozy cushion with a nice floral print in an electric chair. It’s not like you’ll hear Helmet do anything you haven’t heard before but the real surprises are found as you work your way further down the tracklisting.

A song like “Morphing” is more like an instrumental interlude and it shows Hamilton incorporating his work on movie soundtracks in his other body of work. And then there’s the Beatles cover “And Your Bird Can Sing” which is another great way to incorporate more melody into the album without completely changing up the sound Helmet became known for with monster albums like “Betty” and “Meantime”. Other songs like “Miserable” are pretty fucking awesome as well and the monster drone of closer “She’s Lost” rounds out another perfectly fine Helmet album.
Score: 8.5 out of 10
Work Song

This Drama – Tarantula Mata

Following up their debut “San Diego XIII”, This Drama from the Canary Islands is back with a new 7-song EP produced by The Bronx’ Joby Ford. “Tarantula Mata” is the name of the album and it rocks from start to finish with a mix of Spanish and Enlish lyrics, heavily distorted guitars and rocking rhythms. It’s halfway stuck between danceable and moshable… choice is up to you I guess. This Drama is doing nothing new, they just like to play rock ‘n roll the way The Bronx and Riverboat Gamblers like to go at it. Ain’t nothing wrong with that!
Score: 7 out of 10

Terror – Keepers Of The Faith

Terror is one of those bands that lives up to its name. You know exactly what you’ll get when you hear their name and that’s once again no different on album number five. As far as I’m concerned these guys are one of the best NYHC bands around and they definitely do not disappoint on “Keepers Of The Faith”.

Okay, so they’re no longer the pissed off little bundle of hate that exploded through the speakers on “Lowest Of The Low”. They’ve grown a little more melodic over the years but as far as I’m concerned that’s not a bad thing. It just makes “Keepers Of The Faith” a more diverse album. It’s not like they became all cuddly and shit, Vogel still sounds pissed as fuck on songs like “Your Enemies Are Mine” and “Dead Wrong”. The only difference is that you will come across a melodic riff here and there in “Return To Strength”, “The Struggle” or “You’re Caught”.

Like I said before, when it comes to kickass NYHC Terror is the band you’re looking for and “Keepers Of The Faith” is just more proof of that.
Score: 8.5 out of 10

Orbs – Asleep Next To Science

Orbs started when Between The Buried And Me’s Dan Briggs started trading music with Ashley Ellyllon, who has played keyboards for both Abigail Williams and Cradle Of Filth. Rounding out the band are Fear Before’s Adam Fisher, Clayton Holyoak and Chuck Johnson. Despite their metallic background, Orbs’ debut is more like an epic space-rock adventure where you are constantly surprised.

Guitars and keyboards are constantly swirling around and feeding off of one another while busy drumwork sets the pace with Fisher’s vocal stylings further whipping up a wall of sound. While it could’ve easily turned out to be a cacophony of sounds, Orbs sounds amazingly restrained in all its exuberance. It all makes “Asleep Next To Science” a must for all the Muse fans out there. If this is just a debut, I can’t wait to hear what else they have up their sleeves.
Score: 8 out of 10

Street Dogs – Street Dogs

When some snotty kid in tight jeans and a bad haircut tells you that the world needs a little punk rock and roll, it’s OK to roll your eyes, shrug your shoulders and say ‘whatever’. When Mike McColgan and his Street Dogs says exactly the same thing, it’s perfectly acceptable to sing along while throwing your beer in the air.
The difference is that McColgan is the real deal. This former Dropkick Murphys vocalist / firefighter / Gulf War vet / Street Dogs frontman is blue collar and punk as fuck and has the right to demand more punk rock and roll. After all this self-titled album is already the band’s fifth so he has done his fair share of providing punk and rock and roll with a little bit of folk thrown in for good measure.

With a whopping 18 tracks to get through, the songs don’t outstay their welcome. They come in, blow up in a singalong chorus and then quickly ring out to make way for more pounding drums and loud guitars. Nothing wrong with that because after all, we all need more punk rock and roll.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Devil’s Brigade – Devil’s Brigade

While the other Rancid members all already came out the closet with their own side-projects, Matt Freeman was kinda quiet compared to his brothers in arms. Featuring Freeman on vocals and bass, Armstrong on guitars and former X drummer DJ Bonebrake, Devil’s Brigade formed back in 2000, but have only sparingly released anything. A couple of EP’s and contributions to Hellcat Records’ “Give ‘Em The Boot” compilations was all up ‘til now. That’s all changing now that Devil’s Brigade first full-length is finally a fact. And this album may be many things, quiet it is not.

Freeman whipped out his standup bass for this one and wrote some loud and fast punkrock/psychobilly songs around his runs up and down the bass neck. Right from the start he storms out the gates with the one-two combo that is “I’m Movin Through” and “My Own Man”. He doesn’t mind slowing things down though as is proven on songs like “Gentleman Of The Road” and “Bridge Of Gold”.

As it happens it’s the mellow songs I like the most. Not that there’s anything wrong with the fast cuts on here, it’s just that Freeman’s barks are a little over the top and get kinda tiresome after one or two songs. That’s the album’s biggest flaw if you ask me. If you can look past that though, you have yourself a well-written punkrock meets psychobilly album on your hands.
Score: 7 out of 10

Kid Liberty – Fight With Your Fists

Wow, this Dallas outfit really is all over the place on their debut album! On “Fight With Your Fists” Kid Liberty mix up pop punk and hardcore with additional metal riffage, gang vocals and single note breakdowns. And that’s just the opening song which follows up an unnecessary intro in which they mutilate Ennio Morricone’s “Ecstacy Of Gold”. But hey, every album has its flaw, right?

Next to the intro, they are doing a pretty solid job here keeping things upbeat and melodic with just the right amount of aggression to let the kids beat each other up in the pit. Kind of like Four Year Strong and Set Your Goals getting it on with A Day To Remember. They will occasionally slow things down to give the listener a breather (like in the instrumental “The New Recipe”) but overall “Fight With Your Fists” is an adrenalin rush that unleashes some serious energy.
Score: 6.5 out of 10

The Dopamines – Expect The Worst

Whipping out a ton of whoa’s, singalong choruses and melodic hooks over a foundation of fast-paced drums and distorted guitars never fails to grab my attention when executed properly. And properly executed is what The Dopamines do best.

All you need are good punkrock songs, passion, energy and a sense of humor doesn’t hurt either. It all sounds simple enough yet so many bands fail at getting these things right. These guys on the other hand have all of the above and what makes me like them even more is their own description: "We're a punk band from Cincinnati, Ohio. We don't have cool hair cuts". Amen to that! If poppy punkrock is what you’re looking for, then get high on The Dopamines.
Score: 8 out of 10

The Holy Mess – Benefit Sesh 7”

Hey, apparently you don’t need just three chords to make it in punkrock. Three songs are all you need! This is proven by The Holy Mess, an outfit operating out of Philadelphia. On “Benefit Sesh” they take you on a joyride with plenty of catchy hooks, shouted vocals and a general sense of fun.

Two of the songs are included on this 7”, the third one you can download with the coupon that comes with the vinyl. Think Latterman, Larry Arms or The Menzingers. The only downside I can think of is that this is just three songs long. I don’t know about you but I’m ready for a full-length by these guys right this second. What’s that? You don’t especially like this? Fuck you… I don’t want to be your friend.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

The Order Of Apollyon – The Flesh

All those Christians who are disappointed by the most recent wave of pedophilia in the church will find a new gospel waiting for them in the form of “The Flesh”, the first album by The Order Of Apollyon. “The Flesh” is what you get when you put former members of Aborted, Cradle Of Filth and Akercocke together in a band. What that sounds like? Like a very brutal mix of black and death metal.

It’s explosive, no holds barred, evil and it’s fast as fuck. From the moment that “God Speaks” bursts out of the speakers, there’s no going back and you’ll have to sit all the way through the ride, simply because these guys don’t give you any time to get out. It’s a ride that takes you to some pretty dark places like “” and “”. After you’ve been pummeled completely, they pull out all the stops and race to the finish with “L’Orgeuil”.

“The Flesh” is a very good album. Its only flaw is the production which could’ve used some more time. Seeing as they’ve signed a three-album deal with Listenable, one can only hope this will be remedied on the next album. When that happens, these guys should be able to bring down entire churches.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Noctiferia – DeathCulture

What started out in 1997 in Slovenia as a pagan black metal band, evolved over the years into a completely different beast. Metalcore, black metal, some industrial sounds,… these guys have played it all in the last 13 years.

Noctiferia now attacks once again with a new album called “DeathCulture” and it soon becomes clear that this time around, they’ve focused on death metal. I have to say it’s a sound that works well for them. After a slightly abundant opening track, they dive straight into brutal territory with “Terror”. They keep up the pace from there on, only slowing down every now and again for an ominous intro. And while vocalist ? claws his way through the songs, grunting one time and using a creepy whisper at other times, the rest of the band does a solid job of backing him up with lots of shredding and just the right amount of electronic bleeps to give it all an industrial edge on songs like “Monarch” and album highlight “Demoncracy”.
Score: 8 out of 10

Kruger – For Death, Glory And The End Of The World

No idea why I haven’t heard of these guys before but listening to “For Death, Glory And The End Of The World”, I wish I had. Kruger is a Swiss band and they know how to make a shitload of noise. Like an early Mastodon or Baroness, they plow their way through nine sludgy as fuck songs that almost always go on for longer than five minutes without ever feeling tired.

Then there’s the slower parts which come close to what a band like Godflesh is doing. And listening to the clinical drone of “Muscle”, they reel me in completely. Not in the least thanks to the guest vocals by Gojira’s Joe Duplantier.

If you like metal bands who display a mind of their own and aren’t afraid to experiment a little, then by all means do check out Kruger.
Score: 7 out of 10

Pierce The Veil – Selfish Machines

When Pierce The Veil dropped their debut “A Flair For The Dramatic”, all I could think about was that the album title was quite the understatement. These guys are back with a new album called “Selfish Machines” and unfortunately they still display that same flair for the dramatic. And the bombastic. And the over the top. And the auto-tuned.

While wrestling my way through the dozen tracks on this album, I can’t help but feel that Pierce The Veil are pretty much everything that’s wrong with music today. Okay, so they’re not the only one around out there with this kinda sound… then again, that’s also part of the problem isn’t it? How many similar sounding bands are out there? They all dress like they’re fifteen years old and colorblind and like to sport five haircuts at the same time. They want to rock out on one hand but use girly voices to do so and are so over the top that even a gay ballet dancer would frown at the display of so much pathos. So yeah, I don’t really care for this album.
Score: 2 out of 10

Maps & Atlases - Perch Patchwork

With two EPs under their belt, Maps & Atlases decided the time had come to capture their math pop (if that’s what you want to call it) on a full-length. On “Perch Patchwork” you’ll hear the band taking off in different directions such as psychedelic folk, prog pop and art-rock. Not the most attractive genres if you ask me and while their technical skills are obvious, they somehow fail to incorporate any real hooks. They’d rather dwell through carefully built structures constructed with unusual rhythms, complicated guitar work and a solid production job. I guess it makes them one of those acts where you know they’ve got the chops but use them to do … well, not much of anything really. Guess that only adds to the frustration of listening to “Perch Patchwork”!
Score: 4 out of 10

Defiance Ohio – Midwestern Minutes

On their fourth album Defiance Ohio continue to treat us to some finely carved out folk tunes. The band’s positivity is still as contagious as their socially aware lyrics are insightful. Not that the band ever gets too heavy with those, making sure they are always wrapped up in warm and melodic tunes that always sound like Defiance Ohio even though most of the members of the band share lead vocals on different songs. With plenty of gang vocals, these songs are also a plea for crowd participation at live shows. A plea that will not go unheeded because the songs are simply too damn catchy to be dismissed. It all makes “Midwestern Minutes” a serious contender for folk-punk album of the year.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Heartsounds – Until We Surrender

Ben Murray and Laura Nichol were previously in the metalcore beast that was Light This City but their true calling has apparently always been punkrock. So when their previous band came to a halt, they were quick to grab the chance and formed Heartsounds as a duo with Murray and Nichol sharing guitar and vocal duties and Murray also tracking bass and drums on what would become their debut album, “Until We Surrender”.

If I didn’t know I would’ve never suspected them to have been in a metalcore band before. All you could say is that that’s probably where they picked up their speed and technical chops. Other than that “Until We Surrender” is filled with fast yet poppy punkrock songs that harken back to the mid 90s Fat Wreck sound… think Strung out or 88 Fingers Louie but with additional female vocals and a bit of a No Motiv vibe at times. It’s all positive though and I’m already psyched to see them at this year’s Fest!
Score: 8 out of 10

Caulfield - Caulfield

Caulfield is a band from Sacramento, CA I had never heard anything about until I started listening to their self-titled LP. From what I heard I think these guys are some mighty depressing pricks who willingly mislead their listeners by luring them in with some mellow instrumental parts. Okay, so even those parts didn’t exactly fit the ‘happy’ mold but still… And then they launch into this all out war with menacing crusty parts and some Clevecore echoes that will waltz right over you. Think of Integrity mixed up with Neurosis… Integrisis or Neurogrity. Bleak bunch of motherfuckers!
Score: 6.5 out of 10

The Tired And True – Scenarios

“Scenarios” comes with some of the most misplaced cover art I’ve seen in a long time. I was already on the floor doing push-ups, getting all pumped up to unleash hell in my living room. Only to then find myself listening to the kind of melodic pop-punk Drive-Thru used to drop back in the day. Think The Movielife or New Found Glory.

The songs on “Scenarios” are not too shabby but I’ve heard this kind of thing a bunch of times before right down to the lyrics about ‘boy meets girl and gets dumped’ sung by a high-pitched vocalist. And to be perfectly honest, the recording quality was a lot better back then. This sounds like a polished demo and it takes something away from the sheer enthusiasm these guys play with.
Score: 6 out of 10

End Of A Year – You Are Beneath Me

On album number three End Of A Year offer more of what they are best at. Call it post-punk, post-hardcore or post-something. Or describe it as hardcore disguised as indie rock. It all works.

This New York outfit is not the easiest band to get into but once you let “You Are Beneath Me” get its hooks in you, it will not let go. Opener “Composite Character” consists of a simple rhythm and some distorted guitars while vocalist Patrick Kindlon tells us how to best enjoy this album. Kind of like a post-hardcore version of Underworld’s “Born Slippy” if you will.

From there on they gently move on to a bunch of songs named after actual people that all come with neat drumming, swirling guitars and more witty and poignant observations. “Eddie Antar” sounds a bit like Fugazi while “Marissa Wendolovske” has a Hot Water Music vibe. Whatever these guys go for, it always shows great songwriting skills and it comes with enough surprise twists and melodic hooks to make “You Are Beneath Me” a solid listen.
Score: 8 out of 10

The Bitter End – Guilty As Charged

Here to bring back crossover from where most bands left it in the late 80s and early 90s, is The Bitter End. These guys get to call San Antonio, TX home but should’ve really lived in New York City. These guys rage through 10 songs in about as much time as it takes me to lace up my shoes and get my mosh on. Songs that are as blistering as the Texas sun they were written under.

With shredding riffs, thundering drums and pissed off barks, these guys aren’t out to make any new friends. They launch straight into “Corrupted Souls” with a vengeance and don’t let go until the instrumental “Suenos Muertos” comes up in the middle of the album. It’s just long enough to give you a quick breather before you’re thrown right back into the pit for the remainder of the album with “Victims” as the absolute standout.

This one’s not quite as good as Cruel Hand’s latest but if you’re into the likes of Biohazard or Madball, there’s really no going wrong with “Guilty As Charged”.
Score: 7 out of 10


The Black Pacific interview

For all of you who feared Jim Lindberg would be a fulltime punkrock dad after leaving Pennywise last year, rest assured. The good man pretty much immediately started a new band called The Black Pacific. They are currently gearing up to release a self-titled debut album which will be out September 14 on Side One Dummy. While the songs on it do bring back memories of his former band, it's different enough to sound fresh and invigorated. Read on to see what Lindberg himself had to tell us about both The Black Pacific and Pennywise.

PRT: Did you already regret not calling the band The Black Atlantic? With the whole BP thing it could have generated a lot of free publicity. How did you come up with the name The Black Pacific in the first place?
Jim: We named the band and then the whole BP oil spill thing happened the next week so maybe it was prophetic in a sense. I grew up at the beach in the South Bay of Los Angeles and so I wanted the name to reflect that in some way. Adding the ‘Black’ part was meant to reflect the whole yin and yang of good vs. evil and all that. Basically I just liked the sound of it better than the Jim Lindberg Explosion or something ridiculous. It seems these days a lot of bands just name themselves after a quote from a bad television show or something.

PRT: Was there any ever doubt in your mind about starting a new band or did you immediately start writing new material?
Jim: There was never any doubt in my mind that I’d start another band. I’ve been playing guitar and writing music since I was 12 years old. I played in a few bands before I was in Pennywise. Some pretty good, others really bad, but I always had fun doing it. This is what I do, for better or worse. I play music and write songs and play shows, and when I’m not doing that I’ll write books and use my writing in other ways. I’m unbelievably appreciative for the opportunity we had in Pennywise and I’m glad that a lot of people enjoyed the band and themusic we made together, but for me it was just time to move on. No one’s fault. I just wanted to be happy playing music again, and for whatever reason it wasn’t happening in my last band anymore. So the minute the decision was made, I literally picked up my guitar and haven’t looked back. I hope people can understand that, but I also understand if they don’t. Like the saying goes, you’d have to walk a mile in my shoes to understand things from my perspective.

PRT: The other two guys in the band are Alan Vega and Davey Latter. How did you hook up with them?
Jim: I’ve gotten to know a lot of musician’s over the last two decades, and unfortunately the stuck up, wannabe rock star a-holes outnumber the nice, cool, down to earth people about 2 to 1. My first priority for this band was to find normal, well-adjusted, cool people without attitudes. I met Alan on the Warped tour and we hit off right away. I sent him a track to put some drums on and he just killed it. He loves being in the studio and working on songs and so that’s great also. Davey has been my friend for years. We played in a cover band together and even though we played a few really embarrassing songs, we had fun doing it so I always wanted to be in a band with him again. We’re having a crap load of fun which is exactly what I wanted. That’s always been my focus for playing music and it always will be. Never been about money or fame. That shit’s ephemeral and overrated. I couldn’t care less what anyone else thinks.

PRT: On the one hand The Black Pacific is a new band. But you also have all your years in Pennywise behind you. How much of this feels like starting over?
Jim: It’s completely starting over. New band, new label, new everything, so that’s really great. A lot of bands from when we started out are going through a serious mid-life crisis right now. Some implode, some evolve and some just keep milking it. Basically I just wanted to rediscover what I loved about playing music and luckily I got that chance. Starting all over makes it all fun again. You can look at everything from a new angle, which makes it interesting.

PRT: I have to congratulate you on the album…it sounds extremely fresh and more diverse. Was it liberating for you to be able to write whatever you wanted to? Because with Pennywise it seemed as if you had certain criteria a song would have to live up to.
Jim: It’s definitely liberating to have the freedom to write whatever and however I want, and that goes for everything surrounding the band not just writing. Thepigeon hole that we were allowed to slip through seemed to be getting narrower instead of broader after 20 years. It’s hard not to feel stifled and frustrated in that situation. But I think this first album then is a transition from where I was to where I want to be. You have to make your own happiness in life and that’s what I had to try and do. The band is just getting started and there’s a lot of influences I haven’t explored yet that I think will surprise people, both lyrically and musically, that I didn’t have the freedom to pursue those before. There was always a sense I was writing for the Pennywise sound and representing thePennywise outlook. That wasn’t the other guys fault, I felt that more than anyone, that I was writing words and music that had to adhere to a certain list of constraints, so in that way it was easy to get trapped creatively, but now I’m free to do whatever I want. Which hopefully won’t result in some really bad disco salsa techno music at some point.

PRT: Now that I dropped the P-word… how did you feel about stepping out of a band you helped start 20 years ago and have you already seen the band live with Zoli?
Jim: Here’s the problem. I don’t bus chuck – which means slagging people in public. I think it makes bands look really bad. At some point in my last band all of us acted like assholes at one point or another. I had my reasons for leaving Pennywise but it would be impossible to go over them without chucking people under the bus, especially people who, regardless of our differences, we did something really great together. Pennywise and our fans and our experiences mean the world to me, we had our differences and there didn’t seem to be anyway to fix them anymore without someone getting burned. When it became obvious it wasn’t working, I did us all a favor and took myself out of thesituation. Now they have a great singer and can carry on what we did together and I can start all over again.

I feel I did everything I could possibly do right in leaving the band. I didn’t jump out of the van in Europe or walk off during a show like some guys do. We made our last album, and did a shit load of touring for it. When things got to a breaking point, I called a meeting and tried to discuss the situation like grown men and I offered to help find a replacement if we couldn’t find a compromise. I don’t know many people who have left a band that way. I never wanted it to be a situation where we flip each other off and never speak again.

As far as Pennywise with Zoli goes, I like Zoli a lot and I love Pennywise. I am inextricably attached to the band, but I don’t follow what they’re up to now. Too weird to see someone else singing a song I wrote about getting kicked out of a frat party. I lived it. I know what it’s about.

PRT: One of the reasons of leaving Pennywise was that you didn’t feel like touring as much as the other guys. So what’s the plan with The Black Pacific? Will you be going out on short two-week runs or will it be more of a studio project?
Jim: That was reason number twenty of a hundred. I love touring and I love playing shows. I’ll tour my ass off for this album just like I did in the past. In the Punk Rock Encyclopedia, it says, we were popular “Due to relentless touring” – that’s not a mirage or some unfounded misconception. We did album then tour without a significant break for about two decades. I’ll tour now exactly how I want to tour but it won’t be at the same level or intensity.

PRT: After having read “Punk Rock Dad” I’m guessing that not wanting to tour as much has something to do with wanting to spend more time with your family. I heard something about an upcoming “Punk Rock Dad” documentary. What can you already tell us about that?
Jim: These friends of mine are doing it and I suggested people for them to interview for the doc. There’s everyone from Tim from Rise Against, Fat Mike from NOFX, Duane Peters, Lars from Rancid, Mark from Blink 182, Tony from theAdolescents, Hetson from Circle Jerks, just countless dads talking about growing up listening to anti-authoritarian music and then having to be an authority figure for their own kids. A lot of these guys came from broken homes, so it’s amazing to see the heart coming from these guys when they choose to be great dad’s for their kids after coming from a bad situation.

PRT: You’ve always been someone with strong opinions and outspoken ideals. Something that apparently hasn’t changed when I listen to songs like “TheSystem” and “Put Down Your Weapons”. Do you never become discouraged and tired of fighting?
Jim: Sure. Sometimes when I read the newspaper every morning I just want to stop reading it and build a cabin in the woods and retreat from it all. It seems to get worse instead of better the older you get unfortunately. A lot of the population is self righteous, idiotic, selfish, ignorant, greedy…you can supply the adjectives by just watching the news every night. Hard not get discouraged in that environment. Only way not to give in is to try and focus as much as possible on positive things and reduce the negative cognitive dissonance in your life, focus on family, friends, music, skating, surfing, art, Mexican food, helping old ladies across the street. Everyone just being decent to each other is the only real answer to the man made problems of the world, its not more complicated than that.

PRT: Your first show will be September 26 at the Epicenter Twenty Ten festival. What can people expect and are there already plans for more shows after that?
Jim: Yeah we are putting some stuff together. I think we are doing a Europe tour and then back here in the states we’ll go out next year after the holidays. We really want to get out there and start playing.

PRT: Any last words for our readers?
Jim: Yes – check out and go online and watch “Flight From Death” if you want to understand why the world is the way it is. Don’t be a hater. Peace, love, barre-chords, backyard ramps, and a nice swallow tail.

Cruel Hand – Lock & Key

Splat! What was that? That’s the sound your head makes when you crank “Lock & Key” up all the way. While their first two albums (“Without A Pulse” and”Prying Eyes”) were already stellar, on album number three however the guys in Outbreak mix up thrash metal and hardcore in a way that will run your ass into the ground and then back up over you a bunch of times just to make sure you stay down.

They continually mix up metallic riffage with mosh parts ending up sounding like a mix of Madball, Leeway, Cro-Mags or any other legendary NYHC band. Even though they albums lasts only a little over 20 minutes, they manage to bang out ten songs, even squeezing in a couple of short solos in the truest of metal traditions. Short, hard, energetic as fuck and simply put, amazing.
Score: 9 out of 10

Heroes & Zeroes – Simian Vices Modern Devices

Heroes & Zeros is a relatively new Norwegian band who were lucky enough to immediately get recognition in their native country along with one of the songs of their debut album being featured in “Fifa 2008”. They’re back now with “Simian Vices Modern Devices” which turns out to be a great rock album with a very modern and slick sound.

These guys are great at steering a song towards a climax that they can postpone indefinitely with ease. In songs like “Iron Honey & Gold” and “Via Satellites” Heroes & Zeros manage to create a lot of tension in the verses with restrained drums and riffs that float around in all directions before leading up to an explosive chorus. Kind of like what the Belgian band Soon used to be great at. If you don’t know that band you might want to check them out. And while you’re at it, check out this album as well because there’s no denying Heroes & Zeros made a very solid album with “Simian Vices Modern Devices”.
Score: 7 out of 10

Dirty Tactics – It Is What It Is

Dirty Tactics hail from Philadelphia and get to spread some more of their melodic yet gritty punkrock with “It Is What It Is”. I’m still not sure whether to place them in Gainesville with the rest of the No Idea roster or on the other side of the US in San Francisco with their awesome poppunk bands back in the 90s. But whatever… these three guys are very good at what they do in songs like opener “When You Wake Up”, “Highway Robbery” or the slower “Train Song”. Unfortunately they have some bizarre desire to repeatedly fuck things up by adding lame intros of them horsing around in the studio or goofing off with a silly song. It might have been fun in the studio, not so much on an album you want to listen to more than once.
Score: 6.5 out of 10

The Real McKenzies – Shine Not Burn

The Real McKenzies are a bunch of Scottish Canadians who have been pillaging liquor cabinets around the world for quite a bunch of years already when they’re not too busy impregnating the local women. Oh, and they play folkpunk as well. “Shine Not Burn” finds them playing an acoustic show in Berlin which means you’ll get to hear stripped down versions of their best known songs in a live setting. Luckily it’s just the songs they stripped down, they themselves kept their kilts on.

Armed with a wide array of traditional instruments (bagpipes, penny whistle,…) and plenty of alcohol, they rage through 21 songs about drinking, partying and – of course – Loch Ness with lots of onstage banter thrown in. I’ve never been too much of a fan of these guys and even though I agree with most people that the McKenzies are first and foremost a live band, it apparently doesn’t mean I like this live album better than one of their studio albums. Pass!
Score: 5.5 out of 10