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Reviews 2002, part II

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Sacred Life - The Evil And Insane Asbest Man, Independent

Here's a CD that wins the fictional award for the funniest booklet of the year. It contains a full color comic strip about that evil and insane asbest man terrorizing town. The three guys in Sacred Life are the ones to free town from his evil deeds. It's a pretty cool comic strip, beautifully made but above all: funny! The good impression lasts when listening to the tunes on the disc you'll get for free when buying the booklet... This is punk rock music in the vein of bands like Dogwood, Craig's Brother and MxPx. Sometimes a song might make you think of one band, the second of another. But it's interesting to hear how Sacred Life has progressed from their previous EP. The production of Martijn Groeneveld in the Mailmen Studio is clearly paying off. My favorite tracks are Stupid Tiny Tickling Card In My Pants, When Weakness Controlls Your Life and Bad Music. Hopefully this band will be as productive as MxPx!

Various Artists - Brazilian Collection 2, Metal Mission

With 63 minutes this is another Brazilian compilation CD containing thirteen songs collected by the editor of Metal Mission magazine, Flávio de Souza and his wife Rosemari. This time they clearly decided to bring the collection to a higher livel of quality. The previous effort had quite a few poorly recorded songs. The Brazilian Collection 2 is much better. Especially the melodic metal bands are a pleasure to listen to. A band like Destra proves Brazilian bands are able to deliver fine quality recordings. The bassplayer from Destra is quite good as well. Four of the songs on this CD are sung in Portuguese, the rest of the lyrics are English. And, of course, there are various musical directions varying from melodic metal to black metal. As it comes to extreme metal no band sticks out though Zurisadai has a singer who definitely knows how to shriek with a most wicked sound and thus is worth mentioning. Conclusion: this collection is a nice introduction to Brazilian bands and various of them are definitely interesting.

Slechtvalk - The War That Plagues The Land, Fear Dark

Two years after the release of Falconry, Slechtvalk releases the second full length. And it's the previously announced concept album. The story is following the nightmare scenario where everything goes wrong. It's about a warrior slain by enemies and what happens thereafter. Browsing from one intro to another the feeling overwhelms me this is an amazing album. This is an album with a huge potential. However, musically The War That Plagues The Land has comparatively long songs. The longest is almost eleven minutes long. Drawback of this is that the songs tend to become monotonous. Of course, this is a moody kind of black metal with keyboards and guitars setting a somber tone. Sometimes it becomes violent with furious playing, but most of the time you'll hear mid tempo or slow stuff with depressive tendencies. Only two songs are presenting the rawer kind of black metal. Besides Shamgar's shrieking there are death growls and female singing in a bunch of songs adding to the atmosphere. I can't say anything definite about the way this CD is wrapped up as the inlay is missing. But, don't worry, all copies in the stores do have them, I believe. Production wise this album is ten times better than Falconry. Also the new formed band seems to work as an oiled machine. So, if you like moody black metal this disc you don't wanna miss.

Project 86 - Truthless Heroes, Tooth & Nail Records

Here's a real gem. The third album from Project 86 exceeds all expectations. To be honest, I wasn't sure it was going to be. Their debut was one of my favorite discs of the year 1998. The follow-up, Drawing Black Lines, didn't satisfy me though. Yet Truthless Heroes is ten times better. The production (Matt Hyde) is excellent. Each song is a pleasure to listen to. From the harsh, thrashy S.M.C. to the catchy Hollow Again, this material's great! The instrument playing is better than ever. Just listen to the haunting guitar in Another Boredom Movement or the subtle keyboard arrangement in Last Meal. This last song also features the singing of Mark Salomon (Stavesacre). Musically Project 86 mixes postcore, nu metal and rapcore. It's much heavier than POD. Another song worth mentioning is Your Heroes Are Dead which can be screamed along quite easily. I'm sure such a song will do great live. Also of interest is the enhanced part of the CD containing a documentary about the band and this album. Without doubt this disc is in my personal top three of 2002.

Swirl - Trans Illuminated, Liberty Music

Finally the Dutch rockband Swirl released a new EP. Their previous demo was released around 1998/1999. In a couple of years much can change. The band made a giant leap forward. With much better production they recorded four catchy modern rock songs. It's not progressive in the sense that lots of ideas have been used by other bands before. But the compositions show that the band is able to write a good song with head and tail. This is music in the vein of Grammatrain and Beam. Swirl has potential that should be nourished to grow further. So, hopefully we'll hear more from them (and not have to wait another three years...!).

Flight-09 - Rifflections, Neurosis Records

I admit, music from Uzbekistan is rare! Uzbekistan, you wonder? Yes, that country once part of the Soviet Union. Go and look it up on the map. The capitol city is Tashkent. You've learned something today, eh? Neurosis Records re-released this ten track album with a title that could have been the title for a Rick Ray disc. Musically this band could be the younger brother of Rick Ray. While Rick Ray is rooted in the early seventies, Flight-09 is more akin to late seventies, early eighties rock music. Sometimes it's funky (as in Just Do It), sometimes it has an atmospheric touch (Colour Of My Pain). Yet heavy material you won't find. The heaviest track is probably the rock 'n roll song For Sale with its thriving riff and nice solo. Heart, mind and soul of this band is Igor Savitch who sings, plays guitar, keyboards and harmonica. Rifflections is of surprising quality. You can order this disc for seven dollars from Neurosis Records: hobbelshnimp@hotmail.com

Living Sacrifice - Conceived In Fire, Solid State Records

This band started out as a Slayer copycat band, transformed into a death metal band and then moved into a metalcore infected band. Their previous record The Hammering Process was misinterpreted as a hardcore album by some. Well, the hardcore influence was evident anyway. On Conceived In Fire the five guys in Living Sacrifice seem to go in the opposite direction. The development is still small, but discernable. The hardcore influence is getting weaker, the metal bigger. Two tracks are even reminiscent of old Living Sacrifice: Seperation & The Martyr. Also the solos in these tracks are much like solos on the first few albums. This is death metal in your face. The other eleven tracks are more in the vein of The Hammering Process. Even the screaming is more grunt like. Now having described the music, what do I think of Conceived In Fire? The production and sound is excellent, the playing tight as it can be and the "old" tracks give some variation on an album that sometimes becomes boring as hardly any of the other eleven songs sticks out in my memory. This is hard, uncompromising music, hitting hard as a sledgehammer yet doesn't make much of an impression on me.This might be a matter of taste.

Element 101 - More Than Motion - Tooth & Nail Records

With More Than Motion this girl fronted rock band is straying away from its punk pop roots. What you can hear is some real catchy melodic rock music that fits the fragile vocals of Crissy Verhagen much better. Yet she proves for the first time she can sound nasty as well in Something Like A Dream. This is candy coated stuff that'll do great on mainstream radio with poppy rock songs and a real nice production of Bill Stevenson, Stephen Egerton, Jason Livermore and the band. More Than Motion also contains a nice variation of mellower and heavier tunes. One of them has male vocals (A Song). Even though this album isn't really heavy, it's beautiful and in between all extremer material I usually listen to, this is a nice moment to relax.

Mortification - Relentless, Rowe Productions

It's been a long time since Mortification had an album without an official title track. The omission of a song called Relentless is clear, yet Priests Of The Underground has that ruthless word in the chorus. Why this change of the unwritten policy? It's not the only change. Mortification has a new lineup after the departure of Lincoln Bowen. He's replaced by Jeff Lewis from Canada, and Mick Jelinic. As I understand it, all guitar parts on this album are from Lewis. And he proved to be a real shredhead. Solos were almost extinct on recent albums but on Relentless they are all over the place. And very cool solos too! Another obvious change is the cover by Troy Dunmire. This was one of my complaints about covers of previous albums as they were too simplistic and boring. Relentless has an appropriate cover that won't leave a doubt you've picked up a metal album. Musically the songs on this disc are straight forward, simple riffs, though there's nothing wrong with that. Sometimes a riff is repeated too often which makes a couple of songs quite boring. On a few occasions Mortification reintroduces elements of their early material as in Bring Release, which is also one of the more interesting songs. Other tracks you must check out are Synchretize, Web Of Fire and Altar Of God. Especially the solos embellish this record and make it one of the best of the recent efforts of this Australian band. Whether that's enough to win back the old fans, is yet to be seen.

Mortal - Nu-En-Jin, Tooth & Nail Records

Mortal's new musical engine is a radical return to the roots. Lusis, their first album came out ten years ago and Nu-En-Jin sounds like doing it all over again. Evidence of this are two classic tracks from Lusis that were remixed, modernized. Here are those dance beats and distorted voices and samples again. It's different to the stuff that Gyro and Jerome did with Fold Zandura. Back in 1992 it was all quite experimental  and refreshing in a time when a lot of the music coming out was becoming predictable. This experimental phase is past now since the enormous growth of the electronic music scenes. Experiments have led to a natural blend of industrial, dance and electronica. The new tracks on Nu-En-Jin are without guitars, yet some of the songs have an internal aggression, like Dymenshan. There are also tranquil songs as Muj0 with its clear vocals. The heavier songs are dominant but due to the lack of guitars (only in the old tracks) this is stuff for the open-minded hard music fan. To me it's a refreshment.

Acoustic Torment - Schwarzwald, Morija Medienproduktion

Imagine the woods of the Schwarzwald area in Germany. Acoustic Torment, the local orchestra starts playing songs from their latest album. You hear instruments such as cello, tubatronic, organ... You might expect the locals starting some kind of folk dance, but that'd be a moshpit though. Well, here's not a group playing some marches as the aforementioned instruments are overpowered by Acoustic Torments death metal. The first track, Satanic Seduction, gives a good impression of the album. It has all the variety the rest of the album offers: Clean singing, death growls, shrieking, slow parts, acoustic parts. Old school death metal is the essential part of the CD. Yet one song is a real black metal tune: Belated Perception. In length the eight songs vary from 1:37 to over 15 minutes. Only the last song is sung in German though you can hear them utter their English with a thick accent which shows in the clean singing parts in particular. So, how's the quality of the disc? Not bad. Of course, this is not a top notch product as their budget was probably quite low. But it's not quality to be ashamed of either. It gives a good impression of the band. Not all songs are great. I think a song like Belated Perception sticks out.

Blindside - Silence, Elektra

The history of Blindside is a success story. Started in the mid nineties this band got their first record deal with the new Swedish company Day Glo Records. The self titled album attracted attention overseas which led to a tour with another upcoming act: POD. A license deal with Solid State Records came forth plus more tours. And then, in the slipstream of POD's worldwide success, Blindside signed a deal with Elektra which made them labelmates of Metallica and AC/DC and other well known acts. Silence, the third album, is also released through 3 Points Records (the label started by POD). As it's likely they had a bigger budget for this CD, the quality is excellent. Musically the harsh sounds and screams of the previous effort have evaporated. The clean vocals of the debut returned but sound way better. It's catchy music with powerful vocals and instrumentation. It's probably best compared to POD without the hiphop and reggae influences, which makes Blindside heavier. Memories of the second CD are only rekindled in Time Will Change Your Heart with its harsh screams. I wasn't particularly enthusiastic about that album but this song rocks! There are many other great songs on this new album. A real recommendable disc.

Megiddon - Incidents Before The Time, Independent

Megiddon is another upcoming band from Finland. Musically this five song EP contains atmospheric metal. The vocals are in the black metal style, shrieking. It sometimes sounds like a pig going to the slaughter, screaming out in anguish. The keyboards give the music its atmosphere and black metal feel. Yet it's not pure black metal as the riffing is more straightforward metal. Nor is it fast stuff. As this is probably Megiddon's first effort, they did a fine job. Perhaps this is also due to the use of Studio Watercastle and productional help from Arttu Sarvanne (Deuteronomium, Immortal Souls, Jacks Of All Trades). Nice start for a band though.

Stairway - On Hallowed Ground, Independent

It took them 15 years for the first album, six for the second and three for the third. Here's evidently a band speeding things up and it's about time! Three CD's in almost 25 years isn't much. Stairway from the UK presents an album filled with good ole traditional metal, from the galloping riffs of Under The Gun to Liar, a song reminiscent of old Whitecross. Yet there's also a real blues rock song at the end. The playing shows their experience. The guitar soloing proves lead guitarist Pete Jennens knows how to shred. Unfortunately the production is not as top notch as one might hope. Not that it's bad but sometimes the guitars could be a bit more in your face. Like the brilliant soloing on Deo Volente sounds a bit distant, like all the music does to some extent. It's a pity because this band is great in their own style. It's not trendy music but no one said music needs to be trendy. Rock hard!

Krush - Sindrome, TMAG Records

The follow-up to Welcome To Paradise is the logical next step. Even though the band went through some line-up changes (three left to be replaced by bassist Stan Peel and former Crystavox drummer Fred Helm) yet they still sound as crushing. The continuity is most clearly with the remake of two old songs (Light Of Day & Wrath). These stay close to the originals on WTP. Yet the production is better. This is music of crushing quantity. Man, it's heavy music that makes you feel like you're lying on the street while someone runs a drill over you. Basically it's a metal effort, heavy and with raw, screaming vocals. It sounds very American, in a sense. A song like Stand And Fight obviously is easy to scream along to in the chorus. Not every song appeals to me but the band does a nice job. Best songs are probably the title track, Fly Away and the aforementioned Wrath.

Steel Prophet - Unseen, Nuclear Blast Records

For their latest album Steel Prophet entered the world renown Silver Cloud Studios again with Joe Floyd (from Warrior) as producer. This is also the final record with singer Rick Mythiasin who left Steel Prophet a few weeks ago. His trademark vocals have become a part of the sound of this band. Sometimes he sound raspy, biting, and sometimes gentle. Sometimes he knows how to put a lot of emotion in his singing. You might wonder what his departure might mean for the future of Steel Prophet. The band has indicated to go on. Well, there's always the records already out to enjoy, like this one. The line-up of the band has always changed and so has the music, as is clear on Unseen. The aggression and dark heavy metal from the Dark Hallucinations days has evolved, getting more melodic nuances. The band doesn't shy away from doing a few lighter songs like Bolero and Magenta. The metal is still predominantly present here as melody and metal don't contradict but form a strong bond on this album. Here's an album you can listen to for hours. Great job! Personally I also like the mystical cover.

Tinnitus - Human Creation, Independent

Well, you gotta have guts for a death metal band to come up with a cover such as this one. Imagine a photograph of an elderly black man against a pitch black background. Only the logo of Tinnitus seems to suggest you're not dealing with Uncle Joe's new black gospel album. No, on the contrary, this two song disc contains slow, melodic death metal tunes. Tinnitus made progress since their last effort with a better production and improved song writing. The first track, Soul Escape, has some real nice riffs and an excellent guitar solo. This is not the kind of harsh metal some might love. It's rather a gentle, melodic sort of metal that's in nice contrast with the raw guttural outings of singer Fredrik Kass. The title song is not as radio friendly as it is more monotonous in sound. Song one make me want to hear more. Time for the real stuff?

Jumpin China - We've Already Won, Independent

Finland rules! There's no longer doubt about it. Over the past few weeks several Finnish recordings fell on my doormat and this is one of the most interesting. We've Already Won is a single with hit potential. Imagine an Alanis Morissette singing as catchy as ever with real catchy music. You can hear heavy alternative rock with trombone and trumpet in the background. I love this song! It sounds great and has great hooks. We've Already Won was also remixed by DJ Anzon. Expect a breakbeat song. The CD also contains the video for this single which is of professional quality. The disc in its entirety is quality. From the Tomb Raider kinda image on the cover to the excellent video or the nicely layered and climaxing music of the single. It's great! You see, Finland rules!

Anchor - ANC004, Independent

Ten minutes and 42 seconds is what you'll get on this disc from the Finnish band Anchor. It's the follow up to the Pain Inside EP. This time there are three songs, much in the vein of the EP. It's groovy metal that was recorded fat and heavy. Set Me Free, the first song, lacks variety to keep the attention all the time even though it's played nicely. The second song is much better in this respect. The singer varies clean singing (which sound rather depressing) with barking screams. The riffs differ also. Sometimes it would be nice to hear them pick up the tempo. Nice disc, good recording, but not always convincing though the band is clearly up to more.

Brain:FAQ - Promo, Independent

I'm not sure if this promo is available for purchasing. Well, I'm reviewing it anyway. Compared to their previous effort, Brain:FAQ has made some progress, song wise. The songs are more interesting. The singing sounds as if this was recorded in a cellar though. All songs are in German this time. I hope this is no indication for the next album because with English lyrics they would be more interesting, internationally.

Kekal & Slechtvalk - Chaos & Warfare, Fear Dark Records

A former colonial power (The Netherlands) and a former colony (Indonesia) work together on this split effort. Is this leading to chaos or to warfare? Probably both as this is a black metal attack. Indonesia's Kekal is the first with its four tracks, one from their latest album. The Skull is a cover from the now defunct band Trouble. The new songs are The Only Sound Of Rain, which would have fitted on the latest album perfectly, and A Stranger So Close. This last song has some perfect riff ideas but it's also rather progressive with weird changes. The recording leaves something to wish for. The guitars could be more prominent. They should ring the grease out of your ears! The rendition of The Skull is a highlight though. Slechtvalk from The Netherlands also did four tracks. The first, Whispers In The Dark, was recorded in 2000, probably during the Falconry sessions as it's much in that vein. The other songs were recorded in April 2002 with the new band line-up. On one hand there's the primitive The Dragon's Children which varies fast and furious parts with midtempo passages. On the other hand there's Storms, which starts with ethereal piano and keyboard playing, the prelude to an atmospheric song, still with faster than fast parts. And Slechtvalk covered Kongblod, originally from the Norwegian formation Antestor. Slechtvalk stays close to the original yet disappoints. In an attempt to sound identical, weaknesses become all too clear.

 

Rick Ray - Guitarsonist, Neurosis Records

A workaholic, this Rick Ray from Euclid, Ohio, USA. Since 1999 he has released at least 24 CD's through his independent company Neurosis Records. They are mostly his solo records and a few of his band Riot Act. And, no, these CD's are not singles or EP's. They are all full lengths and the copies that I've got are all at least 55 minutes long. His works mainly showcase his incredible talent as a guitar player so you might call him a guitaraholic. Yet he has been active in music much longer than you might think. Between 1973 and 1996 he fronted three bands: Neurotic, The Rick Ray Band and Riot Act. His singing has been compared to John Lennon, his playing skills as a guitarist to Jimi Hendrix. This album contains sixteen songs with various musical directions. One song might be an acoustic rock song with brooding keyboards, another might have a jazzy flavor or have a progressive rock feel. It's not real heavy rock music. The rock is solidly embedded in the seventies. He definitely knows how to play his instruments and there's a uniqueness to his CD's, this one included. If this description appeals to you, the Guitarsonist may set your heart on fire. My favorite tracks: Mr. Cooper, The Climb From Sheol and I'm Sorry.

Warlord - Rising Out Of The Ashes, Atrheia Records

Travelling back in time to Los Angeles in 1980, you could witness the start of Warlord, a band inspired by British heavy metal and the load of bands coming out on top of the so-called New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. At a time when glam metal had big hair in Los Angeles, this band tried desperately to get a mainstream deal. Their song Lucifer's Hammer was included on the legendary Metal Massacre volume II compilation. However, the band never made the desired breakthrough and thus dissolved in time. In 2000 the band rose from its ashes and this album is the outcome. Expect power epic metal. You can hear long songs with tale-like lyrics that especially display the talent of guitarist William Tsamis. He's rather fond of pivots in his solo playing but he does them as tight as possible. Sometimes I get overdosed with high notes. High are also some of the notes of the singer Warlord has nowadays: Joacim Cans (from Hammerfall). The album contains a rendition of Lucifer's Hammer as well. The playing is superb!

Sanctifica - Negative B, CL Music & Publishing

Here's a band with guts. After a demo and an album (Spirit Of Purity) containing atmospheric black metal, this band changed direction musically. There's gut needed to do it as there's no doubt you will heavily disappoint the fans who are mainly into black metal. In fact, the fans will hear a completely different band. The only thing that hasn't changed, is the name and you might wonder if it wouldn't have been wiser to change that as well. Lengsel did so when they started playing thrash rock instead of black metal, and thus are now known as Ganglion. Here's a band with guts, also because of the music. It's experimental metal. Take for instance the first track, Labels. Here is a song that blends progressive metal with clean singing and death grunts. And then you hear, all of a sudden, a flute playing. The music is constantly evolving. The keyboard playing is a bit in the vein of Veni Domine. Fast parts are almost extinct. Only occasionally the speed goes up. The result of the disc is experimental with lots of great ideas that sometimes need to be worked out better. It's an album that also needs a bit more time to fully dawn upon you. A song like Lavender is an absolute beauty but, I have to say as a deejay, with almost eight minutes it's not really radiofriendly! A bit more catchiness and hooks wouldn't be such a bad idea either. So, the conclusion is: a talented band with guts, with many great ideas and potential and yet...

MxPx - Ten Years And Running, Tooth & Nail Records

Ten years went by so it was time for a compilation CD covering the history of the band. And it's a not a cheap "we pick two songs from each album" kinda disc. No, besides two new tunes, this album contains a remake of the classic Punk Rawk Show while fourteen songs were remixed by Tim Palmer. One thing that strikes me is that it all sounds so MxPx... I mean, ten years went by and whether you pick an old one (like PxPx) or a new one (like My Mistake), it sounds like MxPx regardless of musical developments. I don't wanna forget mentioning the thick booklet with lots of photos and an overview of the band's history. Ten Years And Running was aptly released by Tooth & Nail Records where the success story all began. Hats off for this band's achievements before we start running again!

Jacks Of All Trades - Superior, Warner Music Finland

With a new record deal under their belts, the Jacks Of All Trades return with the next full length album. The three songs on the Liar EP were an indication of what was to come. One of these songs, Point Of No Return, was re-recorded. The twelve new songs were recorded in two sessions (May & September 2001) with producer Artu Savanne. As was clear on the EP, JOAT has grown musically. The songwriting is more mature than on RU Ready, the 1999 full length. This is heavy rapcore music with groovy rhythms. The raps from J-Blast are combined with the barks from guitarist Lary. All songs are heavy and sometimes start to sound like each other. A bit variation might do well. But don't misinterpret this by thinking this is a mediocre product. On the contrary, Superior is, well, not superior but it does pass all quality tests without a shadow of doubt. Personally I favor songs like Round 12, Black List Of No Good and Soulsale. Finland rocks once again.

Sympathy - Invocation, Fear Dark Records

Sympathy, I feel, needs some introduction. It's another one man band consisting of this obscure person Dharok. He's been active in the extreme metal for more than a decade. His first demo appeared in 1992. Invocation is his third full length and the first with support from a label. Now, you might be prejudiced about a one man band. Is this guy able to deliver a great album alone? Can a guy play all these instruments, sing, and even produce it? Well, he did a much better job than I expected. This is the seventh release from Fear Dark and most likely their best so far. I tell you why. You can hear technical death metal with black metal influences. You can hear frantical rhythms and speeds while maintaining a tightness that requires a lot of skill from the musician. You might hear some touches of Tourniquet and Extol but I also have to think of Cannibal Corpse. The keyboards used aren't dominant, yet they enhance the songs greatly. Amidst all aggression there is also a piano interlude called Prelude And Tocatta In E Minor followed by Christus Factus Est where the soprano Angel does the lead vocals. But then the slaughter continues with the furious Immolation Of The Dragon. If you like extreme metal, you don't wanna miss this one!

Dead Poetic - Four Wall Blackmail, Solid State Records

When I put on this CD it was like playing a new Embodyment CD, with a different singer. Musically the comparison is easily made as Dead Poetic seems to pour from the same sources. They also took the same producer and the two bands will be touring together soon. Yet Dead Poetic isn't a copycat band. The first track might easily have been written by Embodyment, the next couple of songs are showing different elements. It might be true that both band pour from the same sources. Yet Embodyment comes from a metal background while this band seems to come from a hardcore/alternative background. Their music varies melodic vocals with harsh screams, lighter moments with heavier parts. By the way, you can build your own four wall room tinkering at the booklet. There's a description how to make it, if you like cutting with a pair of sciccors. Hey, this is the first album that actually stimulates the creativity of the listener! As it comes to the creativity of the band itself, I have wishes left unanswered even though this is a neatly produced piece of work. There's a variety within songs, but the songs as a total lack variation so they all begin to sound like each other.

Aeroflop - Demo, Independent

Another Finnish band and this time I'm hearing Britpop. Even the singer tries to sound English rather than American and does it nicely. There are four songs on this demo CD, three heavy and one ballad. The music is not bad at all but the quality leaves something to wish for. Of course, it's demo quality. However, the booklet says the CD was produced by God. Well, then he did a poor job for a God because I'm not convinced. It's not quite original music though a die-hard Britpop fan who wants to have all CD's might wanna check this one out. You never know whether this band is going to famous one day and their demo a collector's item. You never know...

 

Rick Ray - Insanity Flies, Neurosis Records

This is the third album from Rick Ray that I've come across and it's a bit different to the previous two. It's a little heavier and more seventies progressive rock oriented while the use of clarinet by Rick Schultz is more prominent on this album than on any of the others. And, it's an instrumental album. The twelve songs fill almost an hour and there's quite a lot of lead guitar playing. The solos in Anymore for example are as long as this instrumental is. You can hear faster than fast note picking. You either like it or it starts working on your nerves. Rick Ray freaks on playing guitar, which is evident in this track as on the rest of Insanity Flies. Each song is different but has the elements of the endless soloing and the singular use of clarinet. There's a lot of creativity on this instrumental piece, yet it's not my cup of tea.

Deep Insight - Deep Insight, Fullsteam Records

Deep Insight is the new band from former V.I.P. guitarist Johannes Ylinen. But instead of metal this five song EP contains a mix of styles. But it also presents itself as a concept EP about the suicide of Julia. The story comes forth as a court case with various exhibits. If this was molded into a novel, it would be a psychological novel. So, let's call this music pshychological rock, just to label it. The first exhibit is a blood spatted page from Julia's diary. Musically this is alternative rock that start mellow while distorted guitars join later. The next song has only piano and vocals with additional keyboards. The last three songs are heavier again with influences ranging from grunge to emocore, but overall it's a mellow album. It's not bad.

Ace Troubleshooter - The Madness Of The Crowds, Tooth & Nail Records

Happy power rock, that's how you could describe the music on The Madness Of The Crowds. It's the first opportunity for me to get to know the music from this band so I can't compare it with previous efforts as this is not their debute. There's undoubtedly a lot of positive energy flowing through the music. It was the band Toto that discovered how great it is to sing about girlnames ending with 'a' and thus had hits with Pamela and Angela. Well, Ace Troubleshooter is giving it a go as well with Amanda and Estella, both great tunes to listen to. The music is easy to digest, lighthearted and fun, with a hint of sweet punk rock. Too much cream is bad for your teeth, but it does taste oh so well!

Brain:FAQ - Brain:FAQ, Independent

There are eight songs on this debute EP from the German band Brain:FAQ. Two of them were recorded live and one song was sung in the German language. It's music in the vein of Fear Factory and Sepultura. The playing is not bad, nor the song writing but only two songs are interesting: The heavy Rulers and Be Free. These songs show the band has potential. The live version of Be Free proves they can pull it off live. They're young so if they push hard it might become more interesting. Especially the quality of the recording could be improved.

The Spirit That Guides Us - The Sand, The Barrier, Sally Forth Records/Idol Entertainment

This is an obscure band. The majority of the members, I happen to know, is from The Netherlands. Yet the CD gives no information about who's in the band. Nor does it tell where this disc was recorded and who produced it. Besides the song titles and the addresses of the labels there's no printing to be found but only a lot of white space and photos that only give small glimpses of the band. And yet, this band is promoted as one of the biggest promises for the future. So, how's the music then? Well, it can be described as an atmospheric amalgam of emorock and emocore. The band has two lead singers. One does the clean singing, the other the shrill screams. When I saw them live the screams were quite dominant but on the album the clean singing is the main vocal. Only in a few songs the screams dominate, like in the raw Onwards. On the other hand, the title track is quite mellow with no heavy guitars at all. It's a gentle tune with acoustic guitars and harmonica (I think). The result of this album is convincing. This is a promising band indeed. Beautifully written songs.

Oblivion - Renewal, CL Music & Publishing

From Sweden comes Oblivion with Renewal as their debut release. The band consists of guitarist Jimmie Isacsson, bassist Johan Isacsson, drummer Haakon Sjoequist and singer Samuel Emtlind. On Renewal they are assisted by former Oblivion guitarist Bjoern Isaksson, singer Ulf Blomberg and Narnia keyboardist Martin Claesson who adds the atmospheric touches to the album. It's the use of keyboards that sometimes gives the songs a dark metal feel while the vocals are somewhere in between a death growl and a black metal hiss (like in Renewal Of Our Minds). Yet Oblivion is not a black metal band. They describe themselves as metalcore but the average metalcore fan will be disappointed as this band is way too metal. According to the credits their influences come from Living Sacrifice and Meshuggah. A song like I.D.W. does have things in common with Living Sacrifice but Oblivion is not nearly as good. The band covered the LS song Reject. If you, after reading this review, are even slightly interested in this band, I encourage you to go to the MP3.com page of their record company. There you can download all songs but Reject. How nice! With a bit more dedication to sound tight and with a better production these tracks could be much more enjoyable. Not bad though.

Riot Act - Maniacal Disastrophe Tour, Neurosis Records

Riot Act was Rick Ray's band from 1990 to 1996. It was reunited in 1999 for the sake of recording and Maniacal Disastrophe Tour is one of the fruits so far. Compared to his solo work, Riot Act is, generally spoken, a heavier outlet for mister Ray. This doesn't mean that most songs are heavy. She Could Win An Award makes me think of The Police while Thinking About You is in the vein of bluesrock. Yet there are songs that have powerfully driven riffs like the heavy rock opening track Red Tape with its blistering solo guitar work. There are a couple of these and they are heavier than the heaviest stuff I've heard on the solo albums. So, Riot Act has a format that seems to allow a bit heavier tracks amidst all the gentle progressive rock. Speaking of gentle songs, one of my favorites is They're Only Words which is a nice, modest song. Maniacal Disastrophe Tour contains fourteen songs. The playing is definitely good though the quality of the recording is not exactly top notch.

Rick Ray - Cast Into Our Dimension, Neurosis Records

More than 70 minutes of music features this disc from the ever active Rick Ray. He breathes, eats and drinks music, so it seems. Except clarinet he played all instruments on Cast Into Our Dimension. The songs are very guitar oriented, seventies rock. The first track doesn't impress me, nor the second. But Guitarm And Hammer is a nice instrumental with nice melodies. Real heavy stuff you won't find on this record. A song like Time Seems To Fly you would expect to be a Beatles ditty. Unfortunately the quality of the recording is not good enough to enjoy it fully. Heavier is the instrumental Deadman's Boogie which is fun to listen to. It proves once again that Ray is a master on the fretboard. And A Wheel Within A Wheel is even a better example of his skills. Songs like these I sure wanna hear more. Just like all his records you get this disc for only 7 dollars.

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