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Reviews 2001, part I

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Various Artists - Millenium One : A Dot Artist Sampler, Dotmusic

This is a compilation with various artists for people with varied tastes. There are twelve artists/bands on this sampler, all from Norway and Sweden. Some of this can be described as hard music but the core is not. In fact, Millenium One starts with a dance track by Acts. Next come the vocal group Albin singing in Swedish only. But this is just several samples taken from an Albin album taped together. The first heavy contribution comes from rock band BIG with a pretty good poppy rocksound. A lot softer is former hardrock band Charizma. Also heavy on this disc are Narnia (melodic metal from the Long Live The King album), Fueler's heavy poprock and the britpop of Stereofish. For those who like the mellow material too, soul act New Born Soul is interesting. Also worth checking are the blues of Himlaväsen en Emilh. This sampler will please the pop fans especially. There are some great tunes on this disc proving that the Scandinavian countries are a cradle of creativity and talent.

Various Artists - Blam SM Sampler 2001 Volume Rock, Sitruunamaailma

The Blam sampler is a compilation of both secular and Christian hard music and alternative bands. Most of the bands are punk rock and hardcore related. And Finland related as 16 out of 23 bands are from that Scandinavian country. Other bands are from the USA, Sweden, Brazil, Argentina and Italy/Germany. With the hardcore relatedness I don't mean it's the straight ahead stuff but styles like emocore, metalcore, rapcore and such. And there are other styles as well. There are too many good cuts to mention them all. And there are too many bands on this disc to mention them all. What I do want to mention is that the quality of the songs doesn't let down. In other words, this is an excellent sampler for everyone who's interested in more than the typical Art For The Ears bands.

Global Warning - Global Warning, Independent

Global Warning is an old school melodic metal band from the USA. This is not the energetic power metal that's so popular in certain parts of the globe nowadays. What you can hear is the sort of pop metal sort of stuff that was hot in the late eighties and early nineties. It's not done badly but I can't really get excited about it either. The playing is fine and the guitarist knows how to play solos well. But it's not convincing me. The singer lacks the passionate vocals to grab your attention. This is nice, though not more than that. Only for the die-hard old schoolers among us.  

Hallowed - End Of The Age, Little Rose Productions

Another Boyzone or Five. That's what I thought when I saw the band picture inside the CD. Just take a look at the way they dress and their short hair-cuts. Only singer Michael Majalahti has hair long enough to touch his shoulders. No, I'm not reviewing haircuts but the photo strikes me as Hallowed is a band in the melodic metal vein. Historically the bands in this business are long haired. Anyway, this five-song EP kicks off with the titletrack that has powermetal leanings. The keyboards also play a role along with the riffs. End Of The Age features a ballad too to catch a breath. Hallowed is a young band with an enthusiastic collaboration of its members. It's not top notch quality but nothing to be ashamed of either. Some of the playing is done very well. Forget about the hair and you'll hear some nice melodic metal.

40DT - Forty Day Tempted, Diverse Recordings/Rowe Productions

With Limp Bizkit's claim to fame it was a matter of time for others to arise from the underground to pour from the same musical melting-pot. 40DT is such a band with the same looks and musical endeavors though I doubt if they're doing it to surf along Limp's slipstream. The first song sets the tone for the rest of the album. Feel The Funk has funky parts varied by heavier guitarwork. It's groovy and the rapping vocals fit the music well. Interesting on the heavier side of this album is There's Something Out There while there's a guest role for hiphop artist John Reuben on the mellow track Extra Terrestial. The last two songs on the album and the bonus track are quite out of line. The bonus track for example, is like an attempt to sound like Stryper. Forty Days Tempted is a very nice debut though the band should work on their own musical identity.

Jacks Of All Trades - Liar, Independent

The new EP from the Finnish rapcore formation is here. The music is quite groovy and heavy with plenty of scratches thrown in. The production is better than their R U Ready album and the songs show some growth. The band's getting more of their own color now. With less than nine minutes this CD is too short to satisfy the hunger for more. So, I say they should give us some more than this snack. On the other hand, if you want to get to know this band this might be worth the purchase.

Never The Less - Through The Night, Boot To Head Records

Here's a melodic hardcore release that makes me think of Stretch Arm Strong. The vocals are not of that raw screaming type though. It's clear singing and screaming/calling. Never The Less has a punky feel to their music which is mainly because of the vocals. Songs like Too Far, 22 Years and the title-song are energetic packages with fast and slower parts. It's an intense music with a positive vibe. Although Never The Less didn't deliver a flawless album, they made a nice effort. Funny are some of the spoken samples like the one of a guy calling a chick for a date.

Wonderboy PHD - The Other Side Of My Divorce, 1340 Records

Sometimes CD's are so easy to review. Just put the pen on the paper and it'll start writing instantly. In other cases it might be quite a challenge to describe or categorize the music as displayed on an album. Somehow I looked up to reviewing this disc as I find it hard to label it. There's light material on The Other Side Of My Divorce with piano and acoustic guitars. But there are also heavier rock tracks. The singing is clear and melodic and so is the music. Even in heavy songs you can hear piano or keyboards playing, sustaining the overall sound. This is not done in a metal way. So, this is a heavy rock album that sounds new to me, style-wise. Or is it my lack to label it properly? Anyway, the band plays some fine music. If you still got no clue how this band is like, check out the album.

Various Artists - Extreme Music Sampler Volume 3, Cross Rhythms Music

This compilation contains 17 tracks from Massacre, Metal Blade, Rowe Productions and Godfather Records artists and independent releases. It starts real nice with the progressive/melodic metal of Balance Of Power. The other bands/artists are: Mortification, Tourniquet, Michael Sweet, Cybergrind, Betrayal, Atomic Opera, Jacob's Dream, Fourth Watch, Eleven Hours Down, Visionaire, Inversion, Awake, Step Cousin, Antidemon, Uplifted and Noiz. Most of this fits in with the metal category, ranging from melodic metal to extreme grindcore. There are gothic influences like the Betrayal contribution. A bit on the lighter side is Visionaire with interesting atmospheric synthesizer music. The dark vocals give the music a heavy touch though. The first half is the better half of this disc. Few of the independent bands are promising. In other words, this disc is a welcome addition to my collection.

Crestfall - Evanescent Imperfection, Independent

The first Crestfall CD is an EP with four tracks. The first, Frozen Forgiveness, is a thrash tune with raw vocals in the heavy parts and whispers in acoustic passages. The changes from acoustic to heavy are sometimes a bit abrupt. Floodland comes next with the clean singing of Remco. It's a nice melodic metal tune. For all the linguistic freaks the third title was developed: Indeclinable Prognostications. The song starts acoustically and builds up. The final song, Presence, is the longest track. This song has some interesting sounds. No song on this EP is really catchy but the playing is nice and the quality is not bad. It gives a good impression of the skills of this Dutch band. Given time and inspiration they might become really interesting.

Various Artists - Eurochrist SaMMpler One, Sarepta/1340 Records

This compilation is a collaboration between the American 1340 Records and the Norwegian Sarepta. It contains music from 13 bands from the United Kingdom, two from Germany, one from Ireland and two from the USA. This is also the first of a trilogy of compilations. The only two bands I had heard before were NSC and Wooden Cross. The cover depicts three kids with piercings, chains and tattoos suggesting a heavy alternative/hardcore album. This is not the case though. There's even some mellow stuff like Debby Barnes' pop. Quite soporific. Most of this stuff fits into the broad spectrum of alternative music though the hard music is rare. Best attempts are Wooden Cross's punk and the metal influenced music of Xegesis. This does not mean that the softer rest isn't worth checking out. There's some fine playing to be found on this disc. I just think it could be harder edged. But please don't judge the book, uh, CD by its cover.

Various Artists - Lost Lonely Vicious, Boot To Head Records

Lost Lonely Vicious is a punk rock compilation with 31 bands filling 70 minutes. So, this disc is chock-full of music. I use the word punk in its widest meaning as the music varies from postcore to poppunk, from rock 'n roll influenced punk to ska, from female fronted punk to punkabilly. The essence of all the music can be defined by that one word: Punk. Boot To Head Records captured the sounds of bands worldwide as there are contributions from Sweden, USA, Canada and Australia. Somehow it surprises me that there are no bands from the United Kingdom where punk was invented long ago. Anyway, there are quite some names on this record and some I knew about name-wise only. It's interesting to get a chance to hear their music. The overall quality of Lost Lonely Vicious is above average so if you like punk in whatever form or shape, this disc is your thing for sure.

Scum Of The Earth - Better Late Than Never, Boot To Head Records

Scum Of The Earth is a non-existent Aussie band that was started more than 10 years ago as an Oi! band. Better Late Than Never is a posthumous release with tracks dating from 1990-1998. This is also the debut-album of this band. The history of the band is outlined by one of the fans giving some interesting anecdotes. The music can be categorized as punk rock but there's a variety that makes it difficult to label this band. Some of this stuff is pretty cool, like a song called Mediocrity. In a day and age when punk seems to be on the upper hand it surprises me this band never got some more attention. This is not pop-punk though. Scum Of The Earth stays close to the origins of punk rock. It's a good thing that this material is on a CD finally. Better late than never, eh?

Crux - How Does This Go?, Boot To Head Records

The Crux flag was drawn a few years ago but to look back on this band, Boot To Head Records released this record. How Does This Go contains 21 tracks. The first seven are from a recording-session in 1998 shortly before the band called it quits. Those songs contain solid hardcore punk. The first tracks starts quite fast. It's hard pumping music that must be a wild experience live. One song on this album was taken from the Cakewalk album recording session in 1997. Eleven songs are from an 1993 independent demo. And the last two songs were once on a 7" Crux release in 1994. This is no nonsense hardcore punk, plug in and play. Aggressively but friendly at times.

Various Artists - Get Your Snack On/The Sally Family 3, Sally Forth Records

There are eleven bands on this album: Scientific, The Spirit That Guides Us, Magnussen Arrived From Fjörnebö, Glorybox, Selfmindead, Swiss Transport, Kryptonite Garden, Subatlantic Starfish, Soapbox, Rollercoaster 23 and The Lionheart Brothers. Just like the previous two Sally Forth samplers, this one is filled with a remarkable collection of songs. One moment you might hear something wild and aggressive (Soapbox, Selfmindead), the other something light or even ambient (Magnussen Arrived From Fjörnebö, Rollercoaster 23). And there are different shades in between. Get Your Snack On is also exemplifying the internationalization of a Dutch record label as five of the bands are from abroad. This compilation gives some quality music. Perhaps it has too much variety to listen to all the time....   

Michael Sweet - Truth, Restless Records

Finally Michael's new solo album is out officially. Truth was released as a demo CD two years ago. The official release contains nine songs from that demo but most of them were totally or partly re-recorded and rearranged. In most cases those songs were enhanced greatly. There are also four entirely new songs. Keyword for this album is Variety. It has heavy tunes and poppier rock stuff. And the heavier stuff varies from grungy (Achilles Heel) to metallic (Save Me). The poppier stuff varies from radio-friendly midtempo rocksongs (Life My Head) to musically candid material (Stone). Another keyword is Quality as Truth is the result of years of brushing up and developing of songs. Cool to hear is Stryper and SinDizzy guitarist Oz Fox doing a solo on the song The Ever After. This is also one of the new songs. Michael Sweet is an interesting songwriter with a long reputation in the rock 'n roll world. This is evident on his new album. Truth is, I like it.

Various Artists - Screams Of Abaddon, Laceration Productions

A short note about each band. Feast Eternal - Double bass overdosed deathmetal. Not bad though; Israel - Quality-wise poorly recorded death metal with soaring growls and occasional hisses; Maximum Pentacost - Brazilian death metal. Nice intro and at times interesting; Goredeath - Weird combination of harsh gnarling and repetitious singing; Quejidos Del Seol - Death metal from Panama with Spanish lyrics. So far one of the better contributions; NOIZ - The German Mortification. Dark and deep grunting with fast and midtempo parts. Good playing but the recorded quality should be improved in order to enjoy it more; Grim - Atmospheric black metal, yet without vocals. Monotone; Bedrata Dezum - Poorly recorded deathmetal but what I can discern is not bad; Clemency - Quality-wise a better recorded grindcore piece. Musically interesting; Pronounced Dead - Recorded live. Death metal with doomy parts; Getsemani - Atmospheric black metal with a soprano and deathy vocals. The soprano is mediocre; Tortured Conscience - 120 mph death metal. Not bad at all; Sculpture - Good death metal though the sound could have been more fat; Antidemon - Brutal death metal with deep guttural grunts. Simple but pretty good; Vaakevandring - Atmospheric black metal with potential; Crimson Thorn - Not bad. Death metal, but I don't like the vocals being mixed so loud; Salutary - Interesting thrashcore with black metal parts. The overall quality of Screams Of Abaddon is underground (demo-ish) with a few good exceptions. The second half is the better half. But it's a good way to get introduced to these underground bands.

Missão - Eu Vou Morar No Céu, Independent

Missão is a melodic metalband from Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Eu Vou Morar No Céu was recorded in 1998 and 1999. As you may have guessed, their music is sung in the Portuguese language. Only one song is English. The music is played fairly well with a variety of acoustic parts, ballads and heavier songs. But it's not extreme stuff though. The vocals are quite loud in the mix so you can hear them clearly. The guitars sometimes suffer under it as you can hear in a track like Missão.   But the lead guitars are mixed through better. One of the better tracks is Ei Você. Missão is not a ground breaking band but the playing is nice and with a better production more enjoyable. They have potential.

Narnia - Desert Land, Nuclear Blast Records

The Swedish rockers of Narnia are finally presenting their third album. Desert Land was delayed for some time. On the record are nine songs. It kicks off with the powerful metal track Inner Sanctum. This song features a well oiled metal engine. It has strength and even Christian Liljegren's singing sounds a little raw here and there. The guitar playing is superb again. Carljohann shows he knows how to grind his axe while playing scales, arpeggios, pivots and other licks and tricks with ease. You can hear some of his skills in the two instrumentals on this album. Desert Land is an album with variety. Powermetal you can hear in the song that was clearly inspired by the Narnia novels of CS Lewis: The Witch And The Lion. There's a ballad called Revolution Of Mother Earth. And Desert Land has some midtempo and slower rocking cuts. The playing is good though not all songs are as catchy as could be. Sometimes the singing could be more nasty instead of vibrating notes. Besides those remarks I have to say this band delivered a very fine piece of quality melodic metal. Out on February 12th 2001.

Zao - Zao, Solid State Records

The last album in their contract with Solid State Records is self-titled. Does this mean they perceive this as a new start? Or were they inspired by other bands that didn't give titles to their fourth releases (like Led Zeppelin and King's X)? I don't know. What I do know is that the first track, 5 Years Winter, sounds more metal than this band has ever sounded. But very heavy with the harsh growling screams of Dan Weyandt and even a short guitar solo. The second half is quite speedy. The next track, Alive Is Dead, is slow and appears to be instrumental. And then the third track starts quite mellow. This sound like a new Zao has arisen with a self-titled marking its new start. But that's not really true. This third track simply explodes after the intro is over. What you can hear on this release is the heavy and inventive riffing as we have come to expect from this band. But one thing is true: The self-titled is all about variety. There's even an acoustic song on it and you can hear some rapping in another track. The core of Zao, however, is still the amalgam of metal and hardcore though there's more metal in the mix. The riffing is sometimes inventive and the structures are not easy digestible, ever riff-shifting. The production is superb sound-wise though I'm not sure if I like this album yet. I've gotta chew on this one a little longer....Out on February 27th 2001.

Mortification - The Silver Cord Is Severed, Rowe Productions/Nuclear Blast Records

When I heard the new song Dead Man Walking on the 10 Years Live Not Dead album, I was afraid Mortification was heading for a Hammer Of God part II. The Silver Cord Is Severed is in my CD-player now to proof whether my fear was justified or not. The album also features the drumming of newcomer Adam Zaffarese. I think the first dozen seconds surprised me. It starts with processed sounds, dark but not heavy, yet. And after 45 seconds the song simply transforms into a heavy metal song. What can you expect when the title for that song is Metal Blessing? But the sounds are groovier than on Hammer Of God. And the new drummer doesn't let down at all! Vocally Steve Rowe still goes for the raw, raspy shouting. The second track is a ragged modern thrash tune. It's fast and hard hitting as a sledge-hammer, right in your face. There's also a great solo from Lincoln Bowen who also wrote this song called Access Denied. Another cool song is Sensitive Nerve Endings. The album ends with the eight minutes long titletrack. At the end of this song you'll also hear Steve do some near black metal type of growling. And there's some cool lead guitar playing here too. The chorus is slow, doomy, while the verses are midtempo. I think the band succeeded in making fresh produce. But one thing: Forget about the cover! Available through mail@roweproductions.com

Blenderhead - Figureheads On The Forefront Of Popculture, Tooth & Nail Records

Finally Blenderhead has a new album out. Figureheads On The Forefront Of Popculture contains twelve punkpop songs with the fragile yelling sound of Bill Power. The music is not that high-energy, full speed ahead type-of punk you can hear from so many other bands. What you rather hear is indie punk rock with nice sound textures like in the song Versatile Solutions For Modern Living. There's some high speed material (Fort Lewis Gun Club Youth Day) though this is not prominent on this disc. Figureheads On The Forefront Of Popculture was produced by Kip Beelman and the band. Result is a good product sound-wise. I start liking it. 

Ultimatum - The Mechanics Of Perilous Times, Independent/Rowe Productions

Ultimatum is a band that's been active for years. This is their third album I think. So far I only heard one of their songs; Never, from the 2000 The Second Coming compilation album. This album is the first time to get really acquainted with Ultimatum's music. The Mechanics Of Perilous Times is mainly a heavy thrash album combined with a little death. The basis is thrash but besides howling, biting and snarling vocal performances, there are death growls like in the song Perilous Times. Shroud Of Science is a speedy track while Muta Mitlu is an interesting instrumental piece, perhaps my favorite cut with its excellent solos. The album also contains a cover of the 1988 Vengeance Rising classic Burn. This version stays close to the original but I still prefer the VR one. The Mechanics Of Perilous Times is a heavy pounding metal album though I'm not entirely satisfied. The playing is very good and yet the songs can't always fascinate me. Maybe this thing has to grow with a few dozen listening sessions. Available through mail@roweproductions.com

Mortification - Break The Curse 1990, Rowe Productions/Nuclear Blast Records

The 1990 demo cassette by Mortification that led to their deal with Intense Records is now on CD. It's cool to hear this historically interesting album. It features the death metal songs that marked the start of Mortification just after they had abandoned the bandname Lightforce. Lightforce came out in the mid eighties with their 1987 release of Mystical Thieves which was heavy metal. Half of that band formed the line-up for Break The Curse: Bassist Steve who also did the grunts, and guitarist Cameron Hall. The demo also has the excellent drumming of Jayson Sherlock. Five of the songs were later re-recorded for the self-titled debut CD of Mortification. The songs on Break The Curse sound great but the versions on the debut-CD were produced a bit better and are better sound-wise. The other songs are in the same vein and are must-have tracks for the die-hard fans of old Mortification. Available through mail@roweproductions.com

Starflyer 59 - Easy Come Easy Go, Tooth And Nail Records

Starflyer's newest release is a double disc covering the band's history. The first disc gives fifteen songs taken off of the albums. Those songs lucidly show Starflyer's musical development. Starting with the heavily buzzing guitar sounds on the first three albums (Silver; Gold; Americana) and changing into the Beatles inspired rock as played on the albums The Fashion Focus and Everybody Makes Mistakes. What stayed are Jason Martin's dreamy vocals and Starflyer's retro sound. Disc two contains twelve songs picked from non-album recordings like the EP's and seven inches. Furthermore, this disc has eight songs recorded live. The booklet has a biography written by Edward Keyes, bridging Starflyer's history and mentioning some interesting anecdotes. You'll get some insight in the struggles of an artist like Jason Martin. Photos inside speak for themselves. This double-disc is a tribute to a colorful band.

Ballydowse - Out Of The Fertile Crescent, Grrrrecords

Ballydowse comes out of the JPUSA community in Chicago. A community widely known for its social concern. That Ballydowse is a brainchild of JPUSA is clear from the very first second of this release. It starts with a sample of a reporter asking foreign minister Albright about the Iraq sanctions. The song that follows it, Weapon Of Mass Destruction, deals with this issue and the social consequences for the population. Musically the vehicle of this message  is dark and full of Irish/folkish elements. In some parts you can hear violin, concertina and mandolin. Or the Australian folk instrument: Didgeridoo. There's a heavy rock basis. Result is an original album. Vocals are mainly handled by Andrew Mandell (formerly of punkband Crashdog) and Robina Mandell. Personally I prefer the heavier tracks like January 18 1943 and The Channel. Sometimes the guitars could be heavier in the mix to make it a little more powerful. Nevertheless, this is a good album. For all of you who would like to hear a Yiddish wedding song, listen to Honga And Freylekhs From Podoloy. It's not a song with heavy guitars and yet it has energy. It sure will move feet and build a party.

Various cassettes by Unevil Hopes, Independent

Unevil Hopes is a project from St. Petersburg, Russia. The logo seems to signify an extreme metal band. However, this is definitely not the truth. The first tape is the Extreme Thoughts promo cassette, only available for promoters. The other two tapes are available in extremely limited quantities (100 and 160 copies). One of them is the Pretranscendental demo containing four tracks. The other is a split-release with Bealiah from Indonesia. Musically Unevil Hopes is dark, mysterious and hard to understand instrumental piano music. It's not extreme in terms of speed or power. But it may be conceived as extreme for its vagueness and mysterious atmosphere though I have to say I'm not into this. Bealiah also has an extreme logo and I thought it was death metal. But listening to the split-tape, I only hear ambient synth music. It's dark and brooding but not  heavy stuff most people here would like to get pumped into their ears. Music weirdly different. Available through: unevil@eudoramail.com

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