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Reviews 2001, part II

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Joshua Perahia - Something To Say, M & K Records

Some will read the name of the artist and think he's a new star in the firmament of the music world. However, guitarist Joshua Perahia is a star who has been blinking in the sky since the early eighties. With his band Joshua he released three records. He formed the band Jaguar and later on M-Pire. It was M-Pire that released the last Perahia album, in 1995. It seemed that since the star was dwindling. But he's back. The year 2001 marks the refocussing on Joshua's widely acclaimed talent. His solo album was produced by Keith Olsen (Whitesnake, Scorpions, Santana), guaranteeing a flawless effort. Besides Olsen this disc features an all star cast. Besides two of his old M-pire buddies, Perahia is assisted by  Jason Scheff (Chicago), Alex Ligertwood (Santana) and Richard Baker. Lead vocalist on the album is Jerry Gabriel. Musically this record offers great melodic rock/hard rock. It sounds very eighties-like. But it's done with convidence, convincing the listener. Tracks like I Can Feel Again, One Night Is Not Enough and the titletrack are powerful and catchy rocksongs. Tears Of Joy sounds like a Bon Jovi classic. On the lighter side, The First And The Last, is a soulful ballad with close harmony elements. And, of course, Perahia is a top notch guitarist, playing with enough fingerspitzengefŘhl to send shivers over your back. Something To Say is a perfect return for this veteran. Let it shine!

Fire Fly - Beauty For Ashes, Independent

The first full length album from the British band Fire Fly is the logical step to take after the well received Swings & Roundabouts EP. Their music can be described as atmospheric rock. Just like on the EP this is evident on the new disc. There are heavy rock songs with different moods and emotions. The keyboard component is responsible for the atmosphere. The sounds created by the keyboards are sometimes mystifying or ethereal and in other cases the keyboard is played in a piano fashion. Rather nice are the sounds of bells in the 'straight ahead(ish) rock 'n roll' song A Moment Standing Still Forever. Bassist Mark Broomhead's past in metalband Detritus relives partially in A Stolen Glimpse with some metallic parts and harsh singing. The disc also has several mellow, modest tunes with keyboards being the main ingredient. Lyrically you can find introspective texts, like in Trying To Be Cool. It makes me wonder in how far these lyrics can be considered as autobiographical material. On Beauty For Ashes Fire Fly further establishes their remarkable sound. There are 14 songs with a total length of almost 69 minutes. You'll find more beauty here than ashes.

Embodyment - Hold Your Breath, Solid State Records

Their previous album The Narrow Scope Of Things was the result of a progression the band was making. It sounded like an identity crisis, as they combined two different kind of bands: Death metal and emocore/postcore/heavy rock. Hold Your Breath is step two of this natural progression. They no longer sound as if they're in an identity crisis. Here's the real Embodyment and I welcome the musical clearness. They dedicated their efforts to what was obviously to come. Here's the charming beauty of heavy guitars, fighting along with drums and bass, and on top of it you can hear the soulful singing from Sean Corbray. The music is harsh, in a way, but the melodic vocals almost have a soothing effect. No matter what song you listen to: There's a balance between the heaviness and the friendliness. This balance is captured rather nicely on Hold Your Breath. Some of the beautiful songs here are Set The Stage, the aggressive Heaven In A Letter Bomb and Cruise Control. A really likable record.

Dogwood - Matt Aragon, Tooth & Nail Records

Building A Better Me, Dogwood's last record was an enjoyable effort. I still listen to it from time to time. Energetic poppy punk. Power pop punk. Matt Aragon is in the same vein. First of all, Matt Aragon is a real person who's described as 'our man in Amsterdam' and 'the super glue that has held Dogwood together when we got tired'. Got tired? These guys must be joking! You can't imagine it when you hear this band kicking one energetic song after another. There's lots of explosive energy, and yet there are lots of melodies. Beautiful. But with only 33 minutes way too short. Play it at the loudest volume your neighbours will allow.

Saviour Machine - Legend III:I, Massacre Records

The Legend Trilogy was once perceived as the unofficial soundtrack for the end of the world. Originally it was supposed to be a project featuring three albums. Hence the trilogy. Somewhere in the process it was decided to include a fourth piece so here is the third but not last part of the Legend series. Each album in this series so far, has its own trademarks. The music is gothic rock. But the first album was mainly an introductional album. The second featured musical chaos and confusion. And this one brings back clear structures. But it's heavier as the guitars are more prominent. And certain melodies that you've heard on the previous album return. The emphasized guitars were played by Jeff Clayton and extra guitarist Carljohann Grimmark (Narnia). Result is an album with a variety of songs. Sometimes heavy, sometimes dark, threatening, sometimes mellow, tranquillizing your sinews. But it's always full of melodies. There are 18 cuts on the album and several are real gems. If you know the previous albums from the Legend series, then Legend III:I won't be the big surprise. Nevertheless, this is already legendary.

Crash Rickshaw - Crash Rickshaw, Tooth & Nail Records

Crash Rickshaw is a new name with familiarities. Two of the members are known for their contributions to Project 86: Alex Albert and Steve Dial. They are accompanied by Joby Harris on guitar and vocals. Also the music sounds vaguely familiar as if I have heard it all before. Maybe it's just their ability to crank out these sounds that match perfectly with my musical memory. I don't know. Fact is that Crash Rickshaw has an intriguing effect upon the listener. There's a familiarity, music-wise, yet each song has its own individuality. From different rhythms to different guitar sounds. The raspy voice of Joby sounds spacey, giving the album its own trademark. The band's first effort sounds elaborate. It's different and intriguing. The only problem I have with it, is the small orange printing in the booklet. Hardly readable. Man, I need glasses!

Kings's X - Manic Moonlight, Metal Blade Records

Over the years King's X delivered albums with quality melodic rock. Musically they don't bring many surprises anymore. Yet what surprises me on Manic Moonlight is the productional decision to use loop programming. Many of the songs start with loops. This is the input of guitarist Ty Tabor who took care of production again. The songs, like False Alarm and The Other Side, sound exactly like what you might expect from this band as they are in the unique King's X style: Great vocal melodies and hooks, harmonic vocals and melody driven rock. A musical surprise is Static with a mellow start and loops giving the song its drive. The second half brings in the heavy guitars. The lead vocals are handled by Doug Pinnick alone this time. Lyrically you can find all sorts of contradicting phrases that keep me puzzling, like: "I don't wanna do this anymore; I really wanna do it" (Static). "I can't wait to see you smile; I can't wait to see you cry" (Jenna). As you might expect, this is a quality rock product. Few surprises, but good.

Antithesis - Dying For Life, Massacre Records

 

This is the second album of this band that was formed four years ago. They are another metal band from the state of Ohio (like Jacobs Dream, Biogenesis, Gnashing Of Teeth). Musically they play bold US metal. It's old school metal, rooted firmly in the eighties. This is what some call true metal, to differentiate it from the load of new bands that are described as metal too, but are not to be compared with bands from the old school. This band is undoubtedly a representative of the old school movement, almost to a freakish extent. Their songs have a variation of riffs, but with some elements returning to keep it at least memorable. Sometimes it's a bit too much to me though, as they go from one riff to another. And some of these songs are quite long. But as freakish as they are about the music, so freakish they are about the quality. This is excellent stuff: Tight playing, blistering solos and a good recording. Personally I would like a bit more compact songs, structured a bit more understandably. Interestingly, this European release on Massacre Records has a bonus track called Secret Fires. This is the only ballad on the album. Nice extra, showing a different side of the band.

Screen - Some Feelings (When You Try To Overcome), Independent

Screen is an alternative rock band based in Alphen aan de Rijn, Holland. Two of their members had experiences in metalbands (Salutary & Beneficial) but wanted to go in a different direction. This was way back in 1997. The self produced album they placed into my hands is their CD debut. Musically it's very easy for me to say they play alternative rock, so let's describe it a little more. Their music seems to be a variation of quiet parts with acoustic guitar picking, and heavier, grungy, parts. The acoustic parts often have all sorts of pleasant sounds, being gentle and calm. As it comes to the heavier parts I sometimes miss an aggressive tone to the distorted guitars to make them sound fierce. Vocally you can hear a dreamy kind of lead vocals, in the vein of Starflyer 59. The five songs are well constructed. To draw to a conclusion, Some Feelings is a good debut for alto rockers Screen. Available through: D.J.JaspersFocks@12move.nl

Various Artists - Southern Extremities: Brazilian Metal Compilation, Rowe Productions

The Southern Extremities album introduces the music of three talented Brasilian bands, described as evangelistic Christian heavy metal by Steve Rowe. The president of Rowe Productions seems to be enthusiastic about the three bands as I may believe the booklet. The first band to appear is V÷llig Heilig. Their music is basically melodic metal with good singing from Helio D'Tarso and some nice lead guitar playing. The production of their four songs is fair but lacks the power to convince. Stauros, the second band, is much more convincing with their production. Their instrument playing is excellent and is a contributing factor to the quality of these progressive metal songs. A song like Vital Blood really shines. The last band on the disc is Light Hammer. They are the only band that hasn't have an album out. So, these songs are the first on a CD ever. The first thing that I notice is the length of each individual song. The shortest is almost seven minutes. Imagine songs with a lot of melody, acoustic playing as well as electrified guitar picking, and keyboards to create some atmosphere. And there are solos. Southern Extremities is a cool project and the overall quality is good. It's a pity though that other talented Brazilian bands are not part of this as Brazil has much more to offer.

Biogenesis - The Mark Bleeds Through, Rowe Productions

A keyboard tone starts off the first song on this heavy metal album. The intro is enhanced greatly with the addition of keyboards. It creates an atmosphere or darkness and gloom. Unfortunately they play a minor role on the rest of the song and the rest of the album. However, this does not mean that the album's a disappointment. On the contrary, here we have a very neat piece of music. Biogenesis' music can be described as heavy metal. Yet there are various influences, vocally and music-wise. For example, in Legal Murder I notice a slight black metal influence (though this is definitely not black metal). Most of the music is heavy, with plodding riffs, yet without the obvious speed. Only occasionally the speed goes up, like in songs as Mental Violence and the thrashy Crystal Ball. A great song is I Am The One. Vocally there are two types of singing. On one hand there are raw and deep screams. On the other hand there's singing reminiscent of Eric Clayton of Saviour Machine. This album is of surprising quality. The recording is done well, making the guitars sound heavy while the rhythm section doesn't suffer under them. Rowe Productions may congratulate themselves for signing this band.

Psycoma - ... Of The Mind, Rowe Productions

Psycoma is one of the new bands on Rowe Productions. They recorded this album at the Hammer Of God Studios in Mellbourne, Australia, as this band's from the same country. Musically I would like to describe them as a thrash band, mixed with modern rock. To explain this: On one hand I hear the kind of riffing that you might hear on a modern groovy thrash album. Yet there is much melody and vocally it's much more in the modern rock vein. A ballad like Footsteps could easily have been some sort of modern rock ballad, the ones a band like Third Day does. The intro of This Killing Tree reminds me of Metallica, which is probably one of the main sources of inspiration for this Australian band. There's also an influence from this band vocally. Overall the recording is good and heavy, but a bit different musically though. Give them a good listen first.

Immortal Souls - Under The Northern Sky, Little Rose Productions

The first time I got acquainted with this band's music, was through their four songs on the split-EP with black metal band Mordecai. Now the full length album with its ten songs is rotating in my CD player, making me wonder how much progress the band's made. With the first assault on my ears, I'm inclined to think the band moved on to black metal. Yet that's far from accurate. The opening track Frostmind has the inhuman speed and nasty biting vocals you can often hear black metal bands do. To do Immortal Souls more justice, I can describe their music as the perfect blend of power metal mixed with the crispiness of black metal and the grunting vocals of death metal (though they sometimes touch the hissing sound of black metal). But it's all covered with a thick layer of melody. Basically the music has a lot of energy and power. The added melody is created by lead guitar playing on top of the riffing. The production of this album is solid and it's a shame this album (recorded in winter 2000) took so long to see the light. A worthy progress from the split-EP days.

Balance Of Power - Perfect Balance, Massacre Records

Here's the fourth album from the American/English melodic metalband Balance Of Power. The music seems to take a progressive metal approach with vocal harmonies in the choruses. The songs are often lengthy and most of them are midtempo. One Voice is one of the songs with speedy power metal elements yet the chorus is very catchy/poppy. The vocals are most of the time high pitched. Keyboard are used on most of the songs too, though none of the band members play keys. The instrument playing is splendid and the album contains well produced songs that the melodic metal fans will love. My favorite song on the disc is probably One Voice which kinda sticks in my head the best. The cover depicting a naked and winged girl (as an angel) might raise a few eyebrows though. Apart from that this is a real classy album.

Stretch Arm Strong - A Revolution Transmission, Solid State Records

The third full length album from the guys of Stretch Arm Strong rotates in my CD-player. The band was started back in 1993 and after eight years they prove to be standard-bearers for the hardcore scene. Their music seems to be the perfect blend of emotion, melody and sheer power. It's energetic hardcore with loud screaming vocals, gang vocals, and with a punk rock attitude to it. A Revolution Transmission is a self produced masterpiece. It was mixed by Ryan Greene who worked for bands like NOFX and Lagwagon too. The disc is also enhanced which means you can find some extras when you put the disc into the CD Rom player of your computer. There are explanations of all the lyrics, photos, wallpapers and some video footage of their 2000 European tour and from the studio. However, I couldn't get the video stuff working on my computer. So, this is a top notch album though it's hard to say which songs are best as they all rock!

Virgin Black - Sombre Romantic, Massacre Records

Dark cellos, acoustic guitars and classic like male singing characterizes the opening track on this Australian album. It was a dark, heated atmosphere. The song is aptly titled Opera De Romanci and song two is actually the second part called Embrace. With the second track the electric guitars break loose like thunder on a hot and sultry summer night. The use of keyboards in this part of the composition add to the clammy atmosphere. Virgin Black's music reminds me of Saviour Machine, yet the guitars are heavier and the album offers more variety. The wonderful cut Walk Without Limps has a dark, eerie sound. And Drink The Midnight Hymn is a heavy rocking tune with a continuing flow of distorted guitar riffing. And Sombre Romantic ends with an epic song: A Poet's Tears Of Porcelain. The music on this disc is an interesting melting-pot of gothic with classic influences. And well produced too. I'd also like to mention that I like the cover. It's beautiful!

Global Warning - Promotional Release 2001, Independent

The new Global Warning CD contains two songs. With the music of their previous CD in my mind, I'm surprised while hearing the new songs. This is a different band! The sound is darker and heavier. And it sounds like they have a different singer because the vocals are more raw, sand paper quality. Their music can be described as heavy metal but it's not fast. Sometimes the drummer could pick up the beat a bit as most of the stuff is the same speed. But the band certainly made progress.

Space In Your Face - The True Essence Of Life, Ugly Records

Music for the Korn/Limp Bizkit generation. Space In Your Face is a hard music band from France, the last place on earth where you would expect this sort of music to come from. I thought the French people were still into chansons. However, this band proves that there's either hope or that my presumptions are wrong. The music is groovy and has both rap like vocals as screams. The riffs plod heavy but there are softer parts in the songs too. The True Essence Of Life contains ten songs plus some instrumental tunes. Two songs are sung in French and the rest is English. The quality of the disc is quite alright. Space In Your Face knows how to play a song. Surprising to hear nu metal from France. It makes me wonder if there are more of such bands...

Jeremiah's Grotto - Through It All, Vindicated Records

Through It All is the second album for Jeremiah's Grotto as a follow up to Exemplar, their 1999 debut. The music on Through It All can be described as a mixture of energetic rock ala Foo Fighters, and emo. It's music with a good sense of melody. There are ten songs here. Most of them are good rock songs with vocals that are nice most of the time and there are occasional screams, only to express a certain feeling better. It's quite a pleasant record to listen to. The last two songs of the album are a bit different with more quiet moments and some keyboards (in Better Things Undone). These two songs are really beautiful even though they are not hard all the time. With Through It All this American band Jeremiah's Grotto delivered something of both quality and beauty.

Aeon's Promise - Welcome To The Soul Farm, Independent

Man! This is a messed up CD with a potpourri of styles all performed by a guy called John Layne. Common factor in all the songs is the classic rock and John's recognisable vocals. But the rock is played with all sorts of flavors, like Jazz, folk and Latin. And few songs have heavier elements (like Tying Up The Devil), but nothing is essentially hard music. This is laid back music, rooted in the seventies and early eighties. A track like Sing A Song is rather a tune to play as background music on a hot summer evening while sitting on a terrace. The singing is modest, sometimes more in a spoken fashion. Lyrically John Layne gets inspiration from his faith which is also clear only by reading song titles like I'll Praise You and Jesus Saves. Welcome To The Soul Farm contains ten sons with a total of 44 minutes and some minutes. The music is nice but not entirely convincing.

This Beautiful Mess - Falling On Deaf Ears, Sally Forth Records/Idol Entertainment

This Beautiful Mess is the band previously known as Subatlantic Starfish, a band that released only a few songs on samplers from Sally Forth Records. Musically they've grown significantly since the first songs came out. Their music is dark emopop with beautiful soundscapes. There's a retrospective sound to the songs and mostly they're tranquil, relaxed. Sometimes there are postgrunge elements to make it a bit spicier. Especially the use of keyboards enhance the songs enormously. This is clear in songs like Fly Anna Fly and Sola Gratia. Though the songs are poppy in a way, this album is not an easy digest all the time. It needs a couple of times of close listenings to appreciate it fully. But then you will discover this album has a lot to offer. Great debut album!

Anchor - Pain Inside, Independent

Out of Finland comes Anchor with this six song EP. Musically they offer groovy metal. The vocals vary from clean singing (often with a wailing tone to it) to raw singing, but not screaming. The title song is a good example of the band's sound. You can hear a variation of acoustic parts and heavier stuff and some faster stuff. But most of their music isn't the speedy kind of music. Quite an energetic start has Search. The music often has a depressive mood, which is apparent in a song like Broken Day. The quality of the recording is good, though not exceptional. Good for a first introduction. 

Dust Eater Dogs - Oil, Take Off Your Shoes Records

The first notes coming out of my speakers are the plucking sounds of a banjo. You might think this is the new 16 Horsepower album. Yet when the electric guitars join the banjo you will get a different impression. This is the raw sound of the Finnish band Dust Eater Dogs. Their own description of hardrock 'n roll is quite accurate as their music has a real rock 'n roll feel though a bit raw. The opening song Millstone Grrrind is a good example of their abilities. Great song with Benny's raw vocals. Oil contains nine tracks DeD wrote from 1996-2000, and a cover song. The band did Bride's Psychedelic Super Jesus and the liner notes say that Oil was meant to be a cover album but only Bride survived the selection. Anyway, Ded's rendition of this Bride classic is as good as the original. And it features the singing of Mike Majalahti (of Hallowed) and J-Blast (Jacks Of All Trades). Production is good and the package is neat. With other words, the Finnish people have another export article to be proud of.

Wisdom Call -Wisdom Call, Massacre Records

"Energy is running through my veins," so singer Christian Liljegren points out on the opening song of Wisdom Call's debut album. You can imagine that this song, Power From The Sky, is just that: Energy running through your veins. You can sense the adrenaline rushing through your veins. It's a fast song, energetic and heavy. Wisdom Call is Christian's side project that he does besides singing for Narnia. For his side band he recruited the Narnia drummer, two members of the Swedish band Stormwind and two other guys. Musically it's very much like Narnia with Christian's vocals as a trademark. The next song, The Lost Generation, is not as fast but still heavy. Those songs are definitely harder than many of the Narnia songs but still in the same direction: Melodic power metal. Only the last few songs on this disc are in a different direction. Wisdom Call also covered a song originally from hard rock band Europe entitled Wings Of Tomorrow and did a fine job. Quality wise this album is very solid. And, of course, it also has a ballad (Hold On To The Truth). If you look for good Swedish melodic metal you can be sure to find it here. Personally I would like to see them to pursue their own sound as most of this stuff could be on a Narnia album as well, with the only difference coming from different musicians playing the songs. But it's good stuff anyway.

Soul Embraced - For The Incomplete, Clenchedfist Records

Soul Embraced is a trio consisting of two members of Living Sacrifice (Lance Garvin & Rocky Gray) and vocalist Chad Moore. The music on this record is what Living Sacrifice might have sounded like today if they hadn't strayed away from their death metal path in the mid nineties. Yes, Soul Embraced is death metal and sounding pretty good too. This disc contains 11 songs of which four are remastered versions that come from the independent EP the band did, and the other seven are new songs. The booklet doesn't give the names of the four EP tracks however, nor the name of the bassist. For The Incomplete is a neatly produced album with grunts in the vein of Steve Rowe of Mortification in the days when he grunted. The music is powerful and heavy but not full speed all the time though there are fast parts. Like the intro to Ascend Into My Embrace that is like fast black metal. But when the intro is over the song continues with midtempo death varied with faster parts. The four EP songs are less influenced by modern styles so for old school fans they are worth to check out. Overall I say this is an interesting album and that's why extreme metal fans have another band to look out for, especially those who are disappointed with Living Sacrifice's current musical direction. Good album.

Martyr/Betrayal - The Passing Of Time, Black & White Records

In the eighties one of the most promising Christian thrash bands was Martyr. This band released several demos but never got a record deal. When original member David Prado left the band and took the band name with him, the remaining members reformed and took up the name Betrayal and eventually released CD's. The Passing Of Time is a recollection of the demo days. This CD contains songs from almost all released demos except Death Is Dead (1987), but there are three cuts from a never before released demo recorded towards the end of Martyr. Of course, the quality of the recordings is not as high as you're probably used to as these songs are demo recordings by the standards of the eighties and early nineties. But what you can hear is some real great thrash tunes with speed and heavy metal mixed in. Some of these songs were later on rerecorded by Betrayal for their first CD. One of them is Escaping The Altar which is one of the true gems the band has ever made. I really wonder why Martyr was never picked up by a label as this is great material. The Passing Of Time contains also a live video of the song Frantic that was made out of footage of three or more gigs of Martyr and Betrayal. It's not perfect as the audio and video are not quite synchronic but it's just cool to see it as it's reflective of a time that I bear memories with me too. For the old Betrayal and Martyr fans this is a real collectors item to cherish. Not perfect in quality but relevant in history.

Jacobs Dream - Theater Of War, Metal Blade Records

The new Jacobs Dream is a real treat for fans of heavy melodic metal with power metal leanings. While I listen to this disc I can't help but be impressed by the neat arrangements that melt together elements of power, melody and emotion. It's all well produced, heavy with the guitar prominent in the mix. The craftsmanship is evident on Theater Of War, worked out in all details. Result is a tasty bite. Great songs are Traces Of Grace and Black Souls (in the veins of Steel Prophet). Impressive is the semi-ballad Sarah Williams with its gentle strumming and heartfelt lyrics. The singing is excellent and it gets across the story of the song: the sorrow and regret of someone who has killed someone else. Also great is the instrumental tune De Machina Est Deo. One moment it's like a wild ride on the highway and the other the ride continues at a calmer speed. This is not the kind of instrumental in which the solo guitarist gets the chance to show his talent alone. This is rather a track where the whole band cranks out. The quality of this disc is excellent. A real treat indeed.

Poundhound - Pineappleskunk, Metal Blade Records

This is the new solo album of Doug Pinnick of King's X. Pineappleskunk is like the experience you can have when you go to the attic of a house. All sorts of things are stored, some real precious and beautiful and there's some junk. There's a huge variety of things and they bring back memories. Well, the same goes for this record. You can hear all sorts of sounds, styles, influences and things on it. The main part is the heavy melodic rock/metal Doug is familiar for. One of the weird things is a track with answering machine excerpts. The music on the disc is reminiscent of King's X mainly because Doug's singing is on it. It's what you might expect from him. This doesn't take away that there are some beautiful songs on this record. Really beautiful. There's also some junk. But I like looking around on the attic.

Inversion - The Nature Of Depravity, Independent

Brutal. That's the first word to come up in my brain when the first notes and beats are unleashed. Inversion from California dishes up some real extreme death metal with blast beats and deep grunts. The grunts sound like singer Ja´rus is breathing in while vocalizing rather than breathing out. It's one thing to make extreme music but the challenge is to make it digestible, not a pile of rubbish. While listening to The Nature Of Depravity I started appreciating the musicianship and the result of the studio process. The songs come well out of my speakers. And besides all the horrifying speeds, thundering beats and brutal grunts there's room for some melody here and there. This is evident in songs like If Not Emasculated (with black metal influences) and Independence. The drums are a bit far away in the mix though. However, to the extreme metal fans this album can be recommended. Excellent death metal, and there are 17 tracks (three of them are demo recordings) with a total of almost a full hour.

The Cartwrights - Slow And Steady, Penny Back Records

The Cartwrights is a three piece pop punk band with three J's: Josh (Serra), Jordan (Wyatt) and Josh (Hunter). Their music is reminiscent of The Huntingtons with a little Green Day. Singer Josh Serra sounds a bit distant now and then and the recorded quality is not as what you would expect from the aforementioned bands. The five songs on this EP are nice and fun. With the competition going on in the pop punk business it's necessary to come up with something strikingly wonderful to attract people's attentions but this EP can't be categorized as that. It's nice though but nothing more. Good for a first acquaintance.

Transfigural Form - Sinborn Conscience, Independent

Transfigural Form is a new project of Todd Pope, known for his previous Eden In Ruins material. This tape contains four songs. The tape starts with keyboards and some guitar work. It's only the intro tune to the tape. The first real song is a speedy death metal track with Todd's dark growls. The other songs are in the same old school vein. The guitar playing is quite good with some excellent leads. The quality of this tape is very low budget and the drum computer is awful. It's a pity because the music deserves better.

Stronghold - Prayers Form A Yearning Heart, Nordic Mission

The CD cover sets the standard for the music on this five song disc. You can see what seems to be a carbonised fist bound by barbed wire. This makes clear that this isn't the next Britney Spears album, just to name a pop artist. Stronghold is a Norwegian one man band. Mastermind is Eirik Hellem B° who played most instruments on this album (guitars, bass, drums) and he also did the vocals. Additional keyboards were done by Kjartan Vestvik. Musically Stronghold is black metal mixed with dark and doom metal. The doom elements remind me of Ashen Mortality but the production is shrill, giving it a winter-like feel. The dark and black metal elements sound much like Antestor with the vocals being distant, more growling than hissing/shrieking. The songwriting is good, though not really progressive. The musicianship is fairly good and B° succeeds in creating a dark atmosphere. The quality sound wise isn't fully satisfying though, but definitely not bad.

Gryp - Left Behind, Independent

Left Behind is the title track of a new EP by Gryp. There are five heavy alternative tunes on this album with a passion for hardcore and nu metal. Vocal styles and guitar tones make me think of bands like Korn, Limp Bizkit and Deftones. The vocals vary from passionate singing to harsh screams. It's not rap style. Sometimes I can almost put my finger on an idea they picked from another band. The combined result is intriguing at times yet not satisfying all the way. Best cuts are Left Behind, Lessons Of Distance "Can't Explain" and Change My Name. Production is pretty good.

Luti-Kriss - Throwing Myself, Solid State Records

Dark, threatening sounds are the most striking aspect of this band. It has a dark overall sound. Luti-Kriss is a metalcore band from Georgia, USA. Throwing Myself is their first Solid State Records release. And quite an intense one too. The music is diverse in intensity, yet the dark sound is like a sauce to spice it up and give it the same taste. The music is groovy but without fast drum work. The vocals are most of the time heavily distorted, screaming, and in a song like An Act Of Volition they make me think of Training For Utopia. Throwing Myself was produced by Andre Wahl and this resulted in an excellent Solid State Records debut. What bugs me a bit is the senseless use of silence. Track twelve is six minutes of pure silence and the final track starts after 45 seconds. This doesn't make listening to the entire album convenient. I wish bands would stop doing this.

Element 101 - Stereo Girl, Tooth & Nail Records

Punkish pop ditties, that's perhaps the best way for me to describe the songs of this New Jersey band. Compared to their previous musical piece this disc is even more poppy and less punky. The punkish twist is still clear in some of the songs (Just To Like You) but it's pushed further in the back now. The focus is on the fragile vocal pop styled singing of Crissy Verhagen and the rocking soundscapes of her band. The recorded quality is real good, making it enjoyable for the punkpop fans. Notice that I say punkpop, not poppunk. Personally I have to get used to the fragile singing but the songs are beautiful, like Standing On the Edge Of The Night, 20 Years In The Making and Private Conversations. Element 101 succeeded in making an album with beautiful songs and poppy hooks.

Craig's Brother - Lost At Sea, Tooth & Nail Records

The new Craig's Brother was recorded by Darren Grahn at the Greenhouse Studios in Canada. The result is on the disc in my CD-player. Honestly, the only song of the band I knew before was Lonely Girl from their Tooth & Nail debut which was a catchy poppunk tune. Lost At Sea is a bit in that vein yet it's surprisingly pop oriented. The album starts with Glory, a rather beautiful song with the melodic hooks the pop punk fan will like. The song also features a children's choir. However, the booklet doesn't give any information about this. Nor about the orchestrations in the marvellous song Back And Forth. Even if you're not into pop punk, this album offers enough to check out. There are faster parts in songs, like in Divorce, but also some pop oriented heavy rock songs. There's variety, though not too much. I think the band made an enjoyable effort on this disc.

Troy - Troy, Independent

This is a special EP release from the band formerly known as Sinical Glance. The name changed but the music is still symphonic rock. What makes this record special is that it's a CD-R only available for the really interested as the main focus of it is promotional use. So, it's quite exclusive. The last song is an old recording taken from Sinical Glance's rock-opera Truth Or Delusion: Song Of Mary. Now the main vocal duties are taken care of by female singer Marrieke van Veelen. The other three songs were recorded live. And it's a perfect recording in the sense that you'll get the perfect impression of the live sound of this band and their musical achievements on stage. I saw them live twice in the last ten months so I guess I know what I'm talking about. The music is fascinating, atmospheric, sometimes a little heavy, but most of the time dreamy in a way. It's the sort of music to sit and listen to. It could be heavier to my idea. Their instrumental capabilities are solid as shown on this EP. What you'll hear is what you'll get. Besides, Marrieke has a beautiful voice that fits the music well.

Excision - Visi, THT Productions

I regret this, I really do. What you can hear on this disc is the solo work of Jefray, guitarist of Kekal. His work for Excision is an amalgam of several styles and influences. The first song has an atmospheric feel with clear singing and it builds up quite nicely. In fact, I love this song. The second song starts with that atmospheric feel too. Jeff isn't the world's best singer but he has a distinctive voice that fits the music well. It almost has a poppy sound. What do I regret about this disc then? The lack of a fat sound. I miss the sonic quality to enjoy the tracks fully. It's regrettable as some of these songs are so beautiful. Not that it is really bad though but not enough to satisfy me fully. Jeff combines influences from eighties metal, gothic, industrial and even some black metal, ambient and other styles. Sometimes the mix of styles works excellent, sometimes there are flaws. But overall it's a worthy experiment. Regardless of the shortcomings in sonic quality I will enjoy this disc.

Various Artists - Free Bee Two, Tooth & Nail Records

Samplers are always excellent opportunities to get to know some current releases. This one is no exception. The second Free Bee compilation features seven bands with two songs each: Element 101, The Dingees, Zao, Craig's Brother, Further Seems Forever, Luti-Kriss and the Deluxtone Rockets. All are bands on Tooth & Nail and Solid State Records. It all rocks. The first Free Bee contained more bands with one song each. This approach with fewer bands and two songs each gives you a better idea of the latest releases of these bands. For the sampler-freaks to check out!

Disciple - By God, Rugged Records

Disciple's third full-length is By God. Their music is a heavy mix of groovy metal and rap-like vocals. It's not at all like rapcore. The foundation this band lays down is a metallic one. It's groovy. And besides rapping there is also a lot of normal singing, like in Can't Breathe. Disciple is also a band on a mission. Their lyrics are plain and there are even short liner notes telling what each song's about. A cool thing is that this album contains an extra disc to give to someone else. The extra disc has three songs from By God. The album also ends with an acoustic piece and singer Kevin Young delivering the Christian message. This is done quite emotively, American style, that doesn't appeal to me though. Sometimes it happens that a band with such a mission neglects the musical vehicle for their message. Not so with Disciple. That's evident on this album as the music is well produced, heavy and in-your-face. And it has 19 songs with a total of more than 70 minutes. Cool!

The Awakening - Ethereal Menace, Intervention Music

The Awakening is not a new name in the music world. Ethereal Menace is his third CD. I say 'his' as The Awakening is the work of one person: Ashton Nyte. Based in Johannesburg, South Africa, he wrote the music on this disc and played most of the instruments himself. A fourth album is already out in his home country. What you can hear on Ethereal Menace is gothic rock music. It's not really heavy stuff. The first song (In Etherea) is guitar driven and midtempo. The second (Naked) is slower and has a dark atmosphere created by keyboards. Nyte's singing ranges from low and slow, almost whisper like, to midrange. The music of the third song, Chains, is more uptempo. The songs are good and the singing fits this style of music very well. It contributes to the dark atmosphere you can sense in those songs. The guitars could be much heavier though to satisfy my taste. Nevertheless a very interesting album with great songs.

Various Artists - Music For The Next Millennium, MCM Music

Though this album is out since the last century, it only fell on my doormat a few weeks ago. It's interesting enough to review it after all. Music For The Next Millennium starts with an introduction talk of pastor Dave Hart of Sanctuary San Diego. There are five bands on the disc. Eva-O, formerly of Christian Death, contributed two tunes from her Damnation album. The songs are dark, gothic and mesmerizing. Rackets & Drapes comes next with two songs from Candyland. Musically they combine thrash metal with some industrial influences. Two songs from Narnia's Long Live The King record were put on this compilation too. They play excellent melodic metal. Top notch. Wedding Party is the fourth band with atmospheric music from their Anthems album. Saviour Machine is the only band with four songs. The first is The Night, that dark piano song with the wailing vocals, lamented to coming doom. The last two songs were recorded live at the Christmas Rock Night in Germany in 1998. You'll get 14 minutes of live music. These recordings make this compilation extra worth checking out.

Minus SF - Minus SF, Independent

Hailing from Finland, Minus SF is a pro energy pop punk band with melodic singing and occasional harmonic parts. It's not really speedy material but you can sense the energy the songs display. The five tracks prove that this formation is capable of writing good songs and play them rather nicely too. Better sonic quality is desirable, though the tracks come across. It's not the quality you would expect from a Tooth & Nail release, sound-wise. But considering the songs themselves, this band is ready to undertake something more worthy their craft. The EP also contains a video track of the song New Colours. You can view and experience it in three formats. One of them worked on my computer. What I saw was a good representation of the band. Really cool.

Silence The Foe - When Summer Turns To Sand, Independent

The titletrack that begins this six song EP sounds rather pleasantly, calm, and builds up a bit. This is only the prelude to five heavy hardcore songs. Silence The Foe was started only a year ago, march 2000, and that surprises me, hearing their music. I guess the members have a past in other bands as they sound too well experienced. Their music is raw, aggressive hardcore with hoarse screams. It sometimes reminds me of early Training For Utopia. Other moments are quite straight forward, raging rock. Tommy Akerholdt from Silver took care of the production and this resulted in a very fine debut release.

Purgation - Realm Of The Dead, Independent

About a year ago I reviewed a record by Purge. Well, Purge changed its name into Purgation and this is their new release. The disc contains four songs written by vocalist, guitarist and bassist Ronnie Griffin. It's not fast stuff though you'll find some fast parts (like in the titletrack). It's not really doom metal but most of the time you can hear dragging rhythms, almost Tool like. Compared to the previous album I don't hear much progress. The songwriting is good though the production could be more fat in sound

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