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Reviews From Q To U



Reviews from letters: R - S - T - U

QUO VADIS: "Day Into Night" - CD (Hypnotic/TNT)

Prepare yourself! If you thought "Forever" was good, "Day Into Night" is mind blowing right from the opening SLAYER-inspired "Absolution", to the CARCASS-influenced "I Believe", the guitars have a great sound, thick and with just enough crunch to it. The melodies are breath taking, reminiscent of CYNIC. But it's Yanick Borcier's drumming skills that takes the cake; the double bass is extremely fast! Probably the fastest I've heard among my hundreds od discs, which reminds me: Whatever happened to Sean Reinart, anyway!?? The techniques Yanick uses throughout the disc are unbelievable. My personal favorite is "Mute Requiem". A strong record from start to finish! A must!
J.L.
Web site!
5 out of 5

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Reviews from letters: Q - S - T - U

RABIES CASTE: "For The Vomiting Tractor Drivers" - CD (Infernal Racket Records)

This is a pretty weird and cool, extremely aggressive and depressive Metal act that remind me somewhat of the fucked up NEUROSIS... Their music has a lot of rhythm, just verging on the Punk side, all mixed up with Rock'n'Roll and some much more powerful and heavy stuff, definitely Metal in nature... Some of the parts may remind me a little bit of BLACK SABBATH... All this comes in a neurotic package, full of aggressing sounds and tones, squeaks that have your teeth grinding together, full of depressive parts too with desperate vocals that are totally, insanely screamed and full of distortion... The guitars sound fat and heavy as hell, maybe a little bit muddy but very heavy. Some of the riffs seem to be intentionally repetitive, in a "let's annoy them with this one" type of way. The solos are totally sick and melody-less... The bass basically does whatever the guitars do. The drumming isn't that complicated but is tight, powerful and does the job very well with several breaks and strange tempo changes. I guess that this is an album that I do enjoy very much in smaller doses but this is one that may get on your nerves if you listen to it constantly! Definitely worth getting!
S.B.
Web site!
4 out of 5

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RAKOTH: "Planeshift" - CD (Code666)

Here is a pretty good Black Metal event that has a lot of other things to offer, such as Folk flute and things like that. The music has a wide range of genres and style to offer: From the outmost ultra fast Black Metal with very little originality in the three chords riffing, to some more esoteric ambiance music to Folk sounds, all the way to quiet, smoother Rock. Eventhough the album is supported by a drum machine, this one does sound pretty veracious... But it's still not as fluid as a real drummer. Now this said, I wonder why there are some of the guitar parts (especially in latter songs) that are not tight at all... While the punches can't miss with a drum machine, the guitars are often off tempo by plenty. But, generally speaking, the guitars sound pretty good and large and they offer some pretty decent playing. The riffing will also vary a lot in style but do flow pretty well. The bass does the job without flashy stuff. The vocals are also very different from one part to another; it will get from the high pitch growls of Black Metal style to some clean vocals with some great overtones. All in all, this CD sounds good, is well composed and arranged... But it isn't really ground breaking original though. If you enjoy this genre of Black Metal with the European touch of Folk, this will be your thing!
S.B.
Web site!
E-mail!
3½ out of 5

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RAPTURE: "Futile" - CD (Spikefarm Records)

Extremely harmonized...? YES! Focused...? YES! Positively depressing...? Even that, too, and the best thing is that the music flows like colours off a wet painting of Salvador Dali. That's what I would say if someone ever asks me how does this Finland RAPTURE's music sound like (they have their own "lizard" in Sweden as well... just to let you all know that). Who could have guessed that unknown bands like SILENTIUM, ENTWINE, FINNTROLL and now even this RAPTURE, coming out of nowhere, would put their very much hell-raising, definitely ear-licking debut releases out at highest quality and take the globe by hellstorm right away? UM, not me! Many thanks must go to Finland's Spikefarm Records for believing in the potential of the Finnish underground (demo) scene. No doubts! "Futile" is RAPTURE's debut - and what a fine debut it is! Though the music itself, as previously mentioned, really does flow very smoothly throughout the entire package of doomish celebrities, having a careful tendency to be a little repetitive at times. But overall, the guys shouldn't be ashamed one damn bit, nor hide their heads into bushes. It's very well crafted, melodic and let's say, maybe even too melodramatic. And sinfully, maybe too, sorrowful for its own good as it really brings some negative flashes out of your mind while enjoying this grand journey into oblivion of darkest kind. DAMN! Petri Eskelinen truly shines utterly blackish light with these immensely effective Death grunts as no one else could even come close to his calibre of infernally enjoyable vocal performances. He's so DAMN convincing in what he does. Nothing is left for in half-way. You may have heard of KATATONIA's and OPETH's latest efforts but I'm telling you folks; you have not heard anything yet! Welcome to the scene RAPTURE! Hail Finland, too!
L.L.
4 out of 5

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RAISON DíÊTRE: "Collective Archives" - CD (Cold Meat Industry)

I once reviewed RAISON DíÊTRE's last album: "In Sadness, Silence and Solitude". I didn't like the album that much at the time. But it has grown on me since. What CMI are presenting us with on this "Collective Archive" is a retrospective of the projects's first five years, that being 1991 to 1996. Almost all the songs on the album were unavailable or at least rare: Music from VHS videos, compilations and demos; all were re-mixed at one point. What we then have is two CDs of very intelligent dark-ambient music with the evolution of the artist behind it. You can clearly see the evolution from the primal, keyboard based, beginnings to the more noise influenced current sounds all with sample that enhances the music like nothing else could. As always, CMI offers tremendous packaging that puts every label to shame, wether it be underground or mainstream. This is really a great purchase if you want to own a great ambient record. Really a great record.
S.T.
Web site!
4 out of 5

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RAY GILLEN: "5th Anniversary Memorial Tribute" - CD (SRS Records)

This is a tribute from BLACK SABBATH and BADLANDS' ex-singer (passed away years ago from AIDS), featuring mostly material done in the SUN RED SUN session. So I will not go into a lengthy review about that material since you already have one in this very section (see SUN RED SUN here). This said, there are a few extra goods in here, like a pretty useless narrative from Ray and there also are a few remixes and stuff off the material featured on SUN RED SUN. There also is a previously unreleased track; "The Final Curtain" is a pretty cool instrumental tune with a type of groove that reminds me of the material Ray did with BLACK SABBATH... Useless to say, it was the most commercial material that SABBATH had ever done and I never really liked it... But this material is not done as BLACK SABBATH, so I don't have any preconceptions about it. So that makes that very tune almost worth buying this CD on its own. But if you are not into collecting every little items that come out, then I would recommend that you keep your money to buy a more lengthy album...
S.B.
3 out of 5

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RINGNEVOND: "Nattverd" - CD (Edgerunner)

Epic Black Metal from Norway's new sons of Darkness. This is Edgerunner's debut release and I believe it's a good way to start up a label. They have moments reminding me of ENSLAVED, while others are somewhat reminiscent to old EMPEROR. There is some cool atmospherics parts that could get the CRADLE OF FILTH approval... Serious stuff in here!!! Maybe not the most original but I guess that time they will pull it off. The general feeling is good.
R.C.
3½ out of 5

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RIOT: "Sons Of Society" - CD (Metal Blade)

Adoring one of the ugliest cover sleeve in history, this RIOT record is sure to please RIOT fans. Unfortunately for the band, I am not a fan and this album is as ugly as its cover. Containing the usual verse-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo-chorus structure (it is even written where the solos are in the lyric sheet, as if we didn't know), I found it very hard to listen through. Some of the riffs are decent but highly under-utilized for the sake of vocal or guitar prowess. Drummer Bobby Jarzombek is also under-utilized (fortunately, he is no longer with the band) as we can see at the end of a few songs where he lets loose. Please don't waste your time and money...
S.T.
Web site!
1 out of 5

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ROOT: "The Book" - CD (Redblack/M.A.B. Records)

WOW!! Holy freakin' cow! Man, this is one hell of a great album! It is simply incredible to see how much the Czech scene have evolved into one of the most original and ground braking bed of awesome underground bands! My newest discovery: ROOT! I heard they used to be a somewhat ordinary Black Metal band a while ago, but if that was the case, it isn't true anymore. This band sounds a bit like a brutal version of MANOWAR, if I could say it like this. They play a very epic and grandiose form of Doom Metal that isn't depressive, but yet has this awesome dark aura to it. A great mixture of Death-like intensity and heaviness, with the very epic and mighty melodies of a MANOWAR type of music. The guitars are heavy as hell, very defined and sound like a ton of brick, playing all kind of riffs, from clean acoustic guitar melodious ballad-like riffing to more intense, hard picking riffs of a Death nature with crunch and hooks, to some very slow, large and intense riffs of the Doom genre. But most of the riffs are very large and epic, VERY well completed by the vocals, which are as original as insane. They display a great ability to make very melodic and harmonious vocal lines which range from the somewhat dark, depressive type of singing, which sounds awesome (see track "The Curse - Durron"), to more straight forward singing, to some growls and all of this completed by some great back vocal harmonies that just keep on adding to this band's grandiose sound. The drumming is awesome, managing to keep things clean and simple while adding a touch of technical aspects in the tom passes. The drums sound very good, snappy, clear and intense! To finish this, there are a few (I said a few, not everywhere!) passes with synths and piano that completes the picture and embelishes the whole deal quite properly. This album is a must!!! I'll stop here and put it right back on... For the fourth time in a row!
S.B.
E-mail!
5 out of 5

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ROTTING CHRIST: "Sleep Of The Angels" - CD (Century Media)

The first thing I heard about this record was Sakis saying that they were going back to their old style of Black-Death instead of their newer Goth-oriented style. Unfortunately for those happy of that, he did do it. "Sleep Of The Angels" is pretty much a copycat of "A Dead Poem". The only difference is that Sakis has more of a spoken singing, half the time. Although I really liked "A Dead Poem" and this new one having good songs, I have no good reasons for anybody with "A Dead Poem" to buy this. It really is the same album from beginning to end, same climax, same progression. If you don't have "A Dead Poem", then it might be interesting. Otherwise pass on it.
S.T.
Web site!
2 out of 5

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RUPTURE: "Cunt Of God" - CD (Rhetoric)

A couple of years back, RUPTURE did a split picture 7" with BRUTAL TRUTH. Being the BRUTAL TRUTH fan that I am, I picked it up and found them a bit strange, to say the least. They play extreme Punk at high velocity and high volumes of lyrics. Even if that doesn't make them weird, they have a strange way to structure and play those songs. The delivery of Gus Chamber is very strange as the vocals are more narrated at high speed than shouted or sung. Most of the lyrics are very funny and are a ball to read. The production is awful and lessens my enjoyment of the CD greatly. Even if it seems serious in some parts, it sounds a lot more like a big joke than anything else. I don't appreciate most of the music as the riffs are shit and badly played. There is a lot of better bands in this style and they are a lot more interesting.
S.T.
3 out of 5

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Reviews from letters: Q - R - T - U

SACRAMENTUM: "Thy Black Destiny" - CD (Century Media)

Having heard just a little off their first two, I cannot really say if this is similar to them or not. One thing I can say is that eventhough they might have a satanic lyrical content, they are much closer to a SLAYER rip-off than a Black Metal band. Not even close to the brutality and madness that bands like MAYHEM and DISSECTION have, SACRAMENTUM are not very successful in their attempt at being "true Black Metal". As I have said earlier, they sound a lot like SLAYER, just plain old Thrash with harsher vocals. They are not even trying to take this style and getting it better as bands like DEFLESHED, THE CROWN, STRAPPING YOUNG LAD and even FEAR FACTORY do, with such success. This album is not very good and I suggest you spend your money elsewhere.
S.T.
Web site!
1 out of 5

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SADISTIS: "DOM" - MC (Dementia Records)

Well, just look for the VILE "Systematic Terror Decimation" cassette, it pretty much applies here as well... Indonesians are crazy grinders!!!
R.C.
3½ out of 5

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SATARIEL: "Lady Lust Lilith" - CD (Pulverised)

This band plays a very strange mix that I shall call groove-Black Metal. The basis of their music is basically Black Metal, therefore fast and abrasive. Right after this, they fall in Folk parts with clean vocals. After this brief part comes a very groovy Death part with chunky riffs and melodic guitars. This formula is in almost every song, with variations, like a bit of IN FLAMES type of melody. Produced by Tomas Skogberg, the sound is top notch, except for the drums, where a few blast beats sound a bit lost. I guess a lot of the later has to do with the drummer, Robert Sundelin, who is no Dave Lombardo. I think that it is a great album and a lot of people should like it too. A lot of it has to do with its diversity. Really cool stuff in my opinion.
S.T.
4 out of 5

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SCATTERED REMNANTS: "Destined To Fail" - CD (Repulse)

This is what American Death is all about: Technicality, brutality, unintelligible vocals and boring as hell. Eventhough there are a few leads that fail to bore me, the rest just puts me to sleep. SCATTERED REMNANTS are no different. They play average American Death, just the way so many do it in the US and in Canada. I mean, this is not all that bad, the guys know their instruments, the songs are not too bad for a Death band but it just bores me to death. If I were you, I wouldn't go near it.
S.T.
Web site!
2 out of 5

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SCULPTURE: "Sculpture" - CD (Nuclear Blast)

SCULPTURE is ex-CREMATORY's guitar player Lotte's band. Having never heard CREMATORY (Yeah I know, I am ignorant, blah, blah, blah...), I really can't say if this is similar. All I can say is that it is pretty damn good, although not very violent. They are playing music that is close to PARADISE LOST on "Draconian Times" with a lot less of the Gothic and more of a Hardcore feel. It is actually a lot better than "Draconian Times" because it is heavier and less linear. Very interesting keyboard parts are found and complement very well the music. This record is putting SCULPTURE right on the top of the atmospheric bands with such bands as MY DYING BRIDE, TIAMAT, KATATONIA and PARADISE LOST. Even more so since the band retains a heaviness that the other lack without loosing its atmosphere in the process.
S.T.
Web site!
3 out of 5

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SCULPTURED: "Apollo Ends" - CD (The End Records)

Oh my god! The new SCULPTURED! I was literally blown away into small pieces when I got their amazing "The Spear..." debut album, which is still a regular listening habit for me... Eventhough I was expecting pure brilliance from this new album, "Apollo Ends" just amazes me! This band has enormous writing capabilities. I must warn you all that "Apollo..." is far from being an easy listening and it might take a few good sessions with the album to fully capture and comprehend its nature. The last time I've heard something that perplexing was when GORGUTS released their third album "Obscura"... Don't take me wrong, both bands are light years away from each others in style, but the way the music is constructed, weird and off the norm structures, you really don't know where you are heading with this album, song after song. More experimental, I cannot say if the band got heavier or smoother (it's that weird!). It sounds very, very chaotic sometime but everything is well crafted and controled. The amazing dual clean vocals and growls are still there, keeping you on your toes. The odd element (At least for Metal!), the trumpet is still present with, this time, some trombone to make everything sounds even more twisted! Musically, I could say the band sometime sounds like SENTENCED, with great catchy rhythms and great clean vocals, making those particular moments a deserved break to catch up with the chaos displayed from the major parts of the album. Do I like this record? Massively!!! But I strongly suggest to open your mind as much as possible if you're next challenge is to fully capture the band's ingenuity on the very first listening... Something which I doubt is humanly possible. There is some beauty and structures in Chaos; it is called "Apollo Ends"... Wow, unbelievable!!!
R.C.
5 out of 5

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SEIRIM: "Empire Of The Dead" - CD (Cudgel)

Fast! This band is fast!!! Sounding a bit like DEICIDE, this anti-Christian Death Metal band is something to be heard! Ultra grinding Death/Black with amazingly tight blast beats... Musically speaking, you will be encompassed by the raw energy this sick puppy is displaying... Twisted, angry, high octane Death Black Metal... Not much to add, except maybe to get a copy! You can get it from Great White North Records.
R.C.
4 out of 5

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SEPHIROTH: "Cathedron" - CD (Cold Meat Industry)

SEPHIROTH is electronic almost in the purest sense of it. Why? Because it combines many different types of electronics such as: Ambinet, dub, trance and sometimes almost drum and bass. It is mostly ambiant though. Very enchanting keyboards with gentle samples are flooding the album. Most of the climaxes are faster and more rythmically based, though darker. The "Cathedron" song is almost a record in itself as it clocks at over twelve minutes. Each song has its own set of emotions and influences as they are not that alike. That music is not impressing me all that much but it is good stuff none the less.
S.T.
Web site!
4 out of 5

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SEPSISM: "Purulent Decomposition" - CD (Repulse)

Repulse Records seems to have a nak at signing apparent leaders of local Death Metal scenes and giving them exposure. Eventhough those are commendable actions, due to the amount of copycat bands in the Death scene, there often is nothing much interesting. SEPSISM's music is pretty good but not too original in all respects. Technical and brutal Death in the vein of BROKEN HOPE, with good songs and decent musicianship. Unfortunately, nothing is tried to do something different at all. Some of the genre's leaders are stretching the boundaries of extremity everyday; bands like NILE, MORBID ANGEL, CRYPTOPSY are all looking for something else. SEPSISM are just staying in the same spot as hundreds of others and I doubt it will help them.
S.T.
Web site!
2 out of 5

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SHADOWBREED: "The Light Of The Shadow" - MCD (Unveiling The Wicked)

The Netherlands are home for many excellent Death Metal bands and newcomers SHADOWBREED are one hell of a great new band to check out if you grew tired of the corpse paint hoards or just simply enjoy pure Death Metal!!! They were often described as a cross between BOLT THROWER and UNLEASHED, which isn't a bad thing, but I might add this: In my opinion, they are even better! I guess SHADOWBREED will help burgeoning the "new" Death Metal scene... Yeah, the revival of the style isn't just utopian... This killing machine is the living proof... Death Metal is back and prepare for one hell of a ride with SHADOWBREED: Crushing!
R.C.
4 out of 5

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SHOCKWAVE: "Dominicon" - CD (Goodlife)

This band's great! When listening to "Dominicon", two bands come to mind: ENSIGN and BLOOD FOR BLOOD... The perfect mixture for crushing, in your face, full energy Hardcore! Like all good Hardcore bands respecting this particular style, the singer sounds pissed off to the point of being almost frightening!!! I'm sure he's a good guy but... ya know?!?! SHOCKWAVE definitely delivers the goods with a lot of talent and with releases like this, Hardcore (with a big METAL-influenced sound, I might add!) will never die... Good, I entend to live long and prosper! So give me more!!!
R.C.
4 out of 5

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SKINLAB: "Disembody: The New Flesh" - CD (Century Media)

Second full-length from SKINLAB and not much change is to be found. Continuing their mix of slow Thrash and Hardcore, they add a it more speed in some songs to spice things up. Having changed two of the four members between albums, the sound has not changed that much but the songwriting has certainly improved. SKINLAB is full of experienced musicians, so it is no surprise that the quality is as good on album 1 and 2. The biggest problem with this album is that it starts off very good and the last few songs are losing it. They sink into slow, NEUROSIS-type (not as effective as NEUROSIS though), so it gets a bit boring. It is while they combine their two styles that they are the most effective. Nonetheless, a decent album. I would not put this as a top ten contender though. A worthy follow up and should please every fan of BOUND, GAGGED and BLINFOLDED.
S.T.
Web site!
3 out of 5

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SLIPKNOT: "Slipknot" - CD (Roadrunner/Attic)

SLIPKNOT is the new kid on the block of West-Coast-down tuned-KORN influenced Metal. This nine-piece (yes this is not a typo, nine as in 9) collective combines just about everything their fellow downtuners have done and makes it somewhat coherent. They sound a lot like KORN but usually have the velocity of MACHINE HEAD, the scratchings of DJ Lethal of LIMP BIZKIT and the industrial stylings of FEAR FACTORY. Even if that sounds really interesting, they are very predictable; mid way through the third song, I knew exactly when the next scream, scratch, sample was going to happen. Also, on some songs, the guitars are so god damn down tuned that the only thing you hear is a low buzz in the background. This is a pretty good album but nothing as good as "Follow The Leader" or "System Of A Down". There is something to do here but not all of it is in its place.
S.T.
Web site!
3 out of 5

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SNAPCASE VS BOYSETSFIRE: Split CD (Equal Vision)

A split CD for these two Hardcore bands is sitting in the old CD player. SNAPCASE have never been one of my favorite bands and it won't change with these two songs. The music is fairly good but vocalist Daryl annoys the hell out of me. This is just average Hardcore, just a bit more catchy than usual. BOYSETSFIRE split their part with a traditional Hardcore song and a mushy Hardcore-Pop-Punk combination in the vein of ONLY LIVING WITNESS. The latter is really boring and doesn't do anything for me. As for the other song, it is better but not by much. Strictly for fans of the bands I guess.
S.T.
Web site!
2 out of 5

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SONATA ARCTICA: "Ecliptica" - CD (Spinefarm Records)

Power Metal is getting popular in Finland, now? Interesting! I bet it definitely is, as long as bands like SONATA ARCTICA, from the boldest, darkest and northernmost part of the world Kemi, are a proof of all that. Power Metal is such a jolly good thing for all of us, I suppose. When listening to "Ecliptica", one might have a hard times believing that the average age of the band members is under 20. We are talking about these guys' debut full-length here... So now it's all escaping my understanding at that point, I can tell... and suffer... suffer hard! All highly positive being said, written and puked out about "Ecliptica" in several magazines, I guess there's not much left to be said on how fucking Earth these youngsters managed to hit their uncompromising thing so B-I-G in such an extremely short period of time, reaching the brightest stars of success and fame from the universe right away! No quick answers provided here but they DID it - and we just have to accept these hard facts, right folks? And I'm not going to stick analysing this beneath the surface, not even scratching it a darned bit. Those of you who still haven't heard ARCTICA's stiflingly melodic Metal monument yet, well what could I say...? Take any STRATOVARIUS album, which you think is good in your opinion, tease it with the glorious help of a bottle of a vintage wine and the most delicious meal you could ever possibly think of - with all deserts and all that, you know (all this under a romantic candlelight, naturally!)... Kiss it, tease it even more, lick it, suck it, lick it even more until it's got all hard-on, hard as a pr(d-)ick and just let it come all over your... (a-hem?!) -whatever! No killing need to mention the obligatory stand-out songs from "Ecliptica" but come on, that impatient whining makes me fucking nervous! Get out of here! Get a life! Get "Ecliptica"! NOW, suckers!!
L.L.
5 out of 5

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SPACEBOY: "Getting Warm On The Trail Of Heat" - LP (Frenetic Records)

I don't know what distant star or nebula SPACEBOY beamed in from but they reactivated my cerebral patterns with this heavily influenced by cannabis/meta-Rock drama. Time signatures are to the inverse... That is, the musicians are quite capable of going beyond the 'ho-hum 1-2, 1-2, 3-4, 1-3, 1-4, 1-2 riff variety. The lyrics/titles seem to have a metaphysical bent, although the pot influence results in some less than adequate lines. The creep-o-pheric noise intros/samplings builds a mood. Unfortunately, the mud-like production keeps things (for example, Clifford's caught in the airlock vocal punishment) from coming out. It doesn't solidify all that much because you have to overwhelm with the pounding sound! The second side lags a bit and the production needs the "heavy" to make this total slaughter. Anyway, this oddity was definitely a pleasure to listen to and it's far from ordinary!
T.G.
4½ out of 5

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SPIRAL ARCHITECT: "A Sceptic's Universe" - CD (Sensory Records)

Man, oh man! This band doesn't sound like WATCHTOWER... They ARE WATCHTOWER! They play a type of ultra technical Metal that I call Metal-Jazz... And just like WATCHTOWER's "Control And Resistance" was back in 1989, this is going to exclusively be a musician's band, and album... Their music is totally intricate and you cannot follow the songs as you would with any other type of music. It will certainly take you several spins on your CD player before you can grasp and memorize the bulk of those song. It is a total jam of Jazzy nature. However, it is a bit heavier than WATCHTOWER was. I still had to double-check if I wouldn't find names like Jarzombek or Colaluca on this album... As a drummer, the drumming on this CD is completely insane; it is the ultimate deal into organized chaos. The drumming is tight as hell and totally jamming, never doing a regular beat longer than a few seconds, preferring complicated off-tempo beats that beats the crap out of most Metal drummer all over the world. It's all stop and go, technically Jazz influenced drumming... The guitars, as I said earlier, are just a little bit heavier than their Texan counterparts, but the technicality and intensity of the playing is all there. The bass lines are just as insane as the drums lines: Logic into the illogical, structure into chaos... The only other place where I have heard such a display of bass prowess is at Montréal's Jazz festival, when bass virtuosos take the front stage! The bass sound very heavy though, adding depth where the guitars can't do it on its own because of its level of intricacy and the amount of notes played in this music. The biggest improvement they have towards WATCHTOWER is the singing... The TOWER's vocals could become very annoying with its high pitch singing, but Øyvind Hægeland's vocals have a better pitch and more singing abilities than Alan Tecchio had... And he doesn't stay in the higher pitch, which becomes kind of annoying after a while. The overall mix is very much oriented on the rhythmics, with lots of snap and crunchy bounces. This music is not melodic by any means: It's a total jam! Musicians, get it now! For the other fans, check it out first! You still might enjoy it...
S.B.
Web site!
E-mail!
4 out of 5

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SPIRITS BURNING: "New Worlds By Design" - CD (Musea)

Prog all star-type project, featuring members of PORCUPINE TREE, TRAP, etc... It goes from Rock to Prog to Psychedelic Rock, all thrown in in good measure with a sound totally refreshing, impressively cohesive and with a hint of je se sais quoi making everything all new and original. This is not for the sickos into DYING FETUS nor DISFIGURED... You are warned!
R.C.
3 out of 5

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SPOCK'S BEARD: "Day For Night" - CD (Radiant/Metal Blade)

SPOCK'S BEARD is Prog-Rock to the bone, there is nothing else there. Prog-Rock in the pure sense of the term. What I am hearing is a mix of Trevor Rabin-era YES, GENTLE GIANT and GENESIS (when they were good and Phil Collins was drumming is way into life). A mix of all that with a lot of sensibility and a great sense of melody. The quality of musician on this record is simply amazing. The chorus are much in the GENTLE GIANT style, with a lot of different styles of background vocals. The keyboards are pretty much in the way Rick Wakeman did them on old YES records and with a bit more technology thrown in. Most of the shorter songs are very poppy and are obvious attempts at getting in the charts. Because of that, they lose me. If the whole album was Progressive through and though, then I would have appreciated it a lot more. I doubt that many metalheads will like this but if you like Progressive in any way, then buy it! It is really worth it.
S.T.
Web site!
3 out of 5

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STEEL PROPHET: "Dark Hallucinations" - CD (Nuclear Blast)

I am getting pretty tired of these Power Metal bands releasing awful albums and strangely enough, there is still a lot of 'em coming out. If this is how Metal is going back to popularity, then I'd better fold. STEEL PROPHET are right there with a very average album that should not get a lot of attention, except from nostalgics. The songs are not bad but not good either. Little Pac-Man sounds don't help in any way. Run Forrest! Run!
S.T.
Web site!
1 out of 5

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STEVE HILLMAN: "Convergence" - CD (Cyclops Records)

This is an extremely synthesized, programmed type of smooth Rock with some relation to Progressive Rock. This said, this album has none of the intricacy and complexity that Progressive Rock has to offer, unless you've became a very commercial Prog act (of course, I'm thinking of bands such as GENESIS) who cannot even be considered Prog anymore. The music is very subtle and smooth with also all of the instruments and sounds being produced by synthesizers, except for the violin, flute and guitar (played in a pretty cheesy way in the track "Convergence"), which are the three individual instruments I could at least identify as real. The beats and tempos are all the result of some damn drum machine... A drum machine that sounds like a drum machine and therefor, a badly sounding drum part... This is not a horrible CD; It does offer some interesting moments of sweet music, but most of the CD will pass through unnoticed, like a background sound track that you put while working. Nothing will really stand out and have you stop working to enjoy a certain part... Not bad, but I won't kill anyone in order to put my hands on this one... This is an entirely instrumental affair...
S.B.
Web site!
E-mail!
2 out of 5

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STRACONY: "Love And Friendship" - 7" (Peace Punk Records)

This is a Japanese release of a Polish band, with English lyrics that are half personal/political concerns regarding the military, capitalism and religion. The first side is female/male vocals among a 'vintage' early Punk-wave that reminds me of some pioneering 80's Eastern-bloc bands who got their hands on some underground albums. These three tracks are a good example, however they faulter on flip two with a quick excursion into 'bland Reggae beat' and 'horns a plenty' on the last cut. It ruins the pace but the first side is a keeper.
T.G.
3 out of 5

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STRATOVARIUS: "Infinite" - CD (Nuclear Blast)

Finland's heroic Power Metal pentad has ended up on Nuclear Blast after spending several years at Noise Records. Despite a new label, the STRATOVARIUS concept hasn't been altered that much, or to be honest, not at all. The typical heroic Power Metal elements can be pointed out quite simply, which STRATOVARIUS is known for. Like on earlier STRATO albums, "Infinite" has speed of light oriented quickness and of course, damn well played tracks with the typical double bass drums and normally, a few mid tempo ones and one ballad song. I guess the main composer of STRATOVARIUS has realized that there is no use to change the good old formula of the musical concept, as every STRATO album has sold pretty damn well by now and all the tours done so far have gone totally great. There is no doubt that "Infinite" will be selling much more. But seriously, it might sound odd if STRATO started doing and writing some other type of stuff because they admittedly pick up a lot of musical influences and ideas from the classical music and the old Hard Rock and Heavy Metal heroes like RAINBOW by combining two different kinds of genres together and adding their own musical perspective and approach. Secondly, there are thousands of Power Metal fans willing to hear the traditional Metal like what STRATOVARIUS does. "Infinite" is a great Power Metal album anyway, but typical and safe. It is apparently clear with the output STRATOVARIUS hasn't brought anything new to the genre, but does it always have to bring something new if people, including myself, are fond of the heroic Power Heavy Metal!?? Besides, nowadays it is getting more and more difficult to make up something new and clever...
A.L.
Web site!
4 out of 5

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SUN RED SUN: "Sun Red Sun" - CD (Indie - Sun Red Sun Records/Al Romano Productions)

This is classic Heavy Metal with a few hints of Power Metal, featuring BLACK SABBATH ex-singer Ray Gillen (R.I.P.)... But mostly, what you'll get off this CD is plain old rough Rock'n'Roll/Heavy Metal with, I might add, a pretty damn good sound. The guitars are large and sound very crunchy and heavy, with a good sustain and powerful low tones! The riffing, like I said, is quite classic: The type of riffing that was regularly done in the eighties, all mixed with some even older sounding Rock'n'Roll riffs like DEEP PURPLE, RAINBOW and "you know who" used to do it, but all mixed with some more modern Power Metal riffing, making this a pretty actual sounding affair, even if they like to keep it classic. The bass plays a good role in the rhythm section, keeping the rhythms snappy and punchy. The drumming is high class; very tight and square, the playing isn't showing off but do display a good technical aspect. The playing is mostly powerful slow to mid pace, but we can even hear a few faster beats here and there, making the playing very powerful. The drums sound very good, clean and snappy! All of the parts get through clearly! The vocals are pretty classic too, with the good old way of singing with emotion and with a wide variety of range... He obviously proved himself back then, so I won't go about blabbering about his voice for nothing. A few parts sounds a little bit corny but those are pretty rare. The overall thing is top notch and I do enjoy the way the music and the vocals are arranged! Very cohesive and melodic. Definitely worth checking out! I'm not sure how long before Gillen's death this stuff was recorded, but I don't think it was very long before he passed away.
S.B.
P.O. Box 323, Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., 10522, U.S.A.
3½ out of 5

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SUN RED SUN: "Lost Tracks" - CD (Crook'D Records)

This is something pretty cool, heavy Hard Rock with some Metal thrown in here and there. It features John West on vocals (ARTENSION), Mike Starr on Bass (ALICE IN CHAINS), John Monte (MINDFUNK, M.O.D.), etc. All stars group again. It got some rockin' moment dude... Got the Blues honey?! Ok, enough stupidity... It's okay if you're into stuff like DEEP PURPLE, RAINBOW and the likes, with a 1990 sound and production. Purists, fans of the aforementioned bands will definitely dig West's vocal prowess... I can stand this once in a while. Not bad at all.
R.C.
3½ out of 5

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SYSTEMATIC DEATH: "For The Punx And Thrashers" - CD (JPC)

Some swell folks in Japan have put together a near-complete collection of EPs, a LP and compilation tracks by this much sought after practitioner of aggressive melodic strangulation with somewhat ghoulish vomit-vocals that made for a unique combination. This CD compiles their "Step" and "Flashback" EPs, their "Final Insider/Lucky Time" LP plus appearances on the "Virus", "Thrash 'Til Death", "My Meat's Your Poison" and "Hold Up Omnibus" compilations. The sound quality varies a bit and this rather rousing material holds up quite well today!
T.G.
3 out of 5

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Reviews from letters: Q - R - S - U

TARTAROS: "The Grand Psychotic Castle" - CD (Necropolis)

This is a re-issue of this mini-CD as a digipack and it includes two bonus tracks. TARTAROS is Charmand Grimlock's project. Charmand is better known as the touring keyboardist for EMPEROR. So what we have here is a drum-machine based, keyboard filled Black Metal that is surprisingly effective. Eventhough I suspect that the guitar parts are done with keyboards, they are so un-instrumental to the music that it doesn't matter. Most of the vocals are either Black Metal screams or chants. The layers of keyboards are very similar to EMPEROR's, although not as frantic. This is surprisingly good, even if it's not something I would recommend that much. I think it is the novelty of it that makes it interesting. Still something worth hearing.
S.T.
Web site!
3 out of 5

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TEN YARD FIGHT: "The Only Way" - CD (Equal Vision)

Six songs EP from this classic Hardcore band... Although not particularly bad, I really need more than that. There are so many good Metalcore bands out there now that a band like TEN YARD FIGHT just doesn't have enough to interest me. There are good old-school Hardcore songs but no more than that. Unless you are a fan or in big needs of Hardcore, I don't see why you'd like to have this. Oh yeah, before I forget: Guys, get some bottom ends on you guitars, you sound like GREEN DAY.
S.T.
Web site!
2 out of 5

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TERROR 2000: "Slaughterhouse Supremacy" - CD (Scarlet Rec.)

Hey! Check out these rolenames of guys of TERROR 2000 having become more wellknown in DARKANE and SOILWORK; Speed Strid - scream of terror/bass, Klas Ideberg - rhythm/lead stringtorturer, Nicke Sword - rhythm/lead stringtorturer, Henry Ranta - blowtorch battery. Don't you think those nicknames and roles have been heard, seen and used enough in the 80's? For example, the SEPULTURA guys used to have names like Igor Skullcrusher and Max Possessed?!? But "this is fucking Thrash armageddon from Sweden" according to their biography, which still continues TERROR 2000 is a perfect mix between KREATOR, AT THE GATES, JUDAS PRIEST and the Bay Area stuff of the 80's. Anything to add?!? Well, presumably not because comparisons stated above basically unveil quite a lot on what sort of stuff the Swedish retrothrashers (yes retro) do. TERROR 2000 ranks in the same field as several other Thrash, or let's say retro bands, by picking up the same Thrash Metal elements from the same bands, especially the German ones. It has been kind of astonishing how several Swedish new born Thrash outfits have discovered old bands and literally ripped them off quite openly: For example, GUILLOTINE and of course GEHENNAH and to be honest, there is developing or has already developed a real retro scene in Sweden. Of course, it is more than useless to say that TERROR 2000 brings nothing particularly new as their purpose is without any doubts to salute and make a tribute to the good old Thrash Metal scene of the 80's. In fact, as a Finn, I am getting a little bit worried that when Finnish bands will discover the Thrash Metal, they would start saluting it, because the Finnish Metal is mostly saturated by either B-class Black Metal or Willie Metal groups.
A.L.
3 out of 5

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TERROR SQUAD: "The Wild Stream Of Eternal Sin" - CD (World Chaos Production)

Did you ever thought: "What's the dividing line?". What separates good from bad, annoying from enjoyable or cool from corny? Well TERROR SQUAD sit right on this line with extreme ease. I am really wondering what's keeping me from destroying this record or saying that it is very good. Maybe because it is both. TERROR SQUAD are playing this very generic eighties Thrash in the vein of early SLAYER but with the energy of a Punk band. The music is fast and catchy, although extremely predictable. Some of the songs in there have just about the dumbest and funniest pieces of lyrics written; fortunately, it doesn't seem to be serious... or maybe not!? I just don't know. It is good but again really bad, a kind of bad version of WITCHERY without enough bottom end. At your own risks.
S.T.
Web site!
3 out of 5

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TESTAMENT: "The Gathering" - CD (Burnt Offerings/Spitfire)

This is just a spectacular record! The music is powerful, the line-up is exquisite and Chuck Billy is in full form! You can now run buy it at your local record store but if you want more info, read the following: Eric Peterson and Chuck have brought in James Murphy (OBITUARY, DEATH, DISINCARNATE...) on guitar, Steve DiGiorgio (DEATH, SADUS, CONTROL DENIED) on bass and Dave Lombardo (SLAYER, GRIP INC, PHANTOMAS) on drums to create one of the most impressive line-up in the history of Metal. Strangely enough, even with this many good players, nobody is showing off; they rather show their own talents by bringing the songs to new heights. And those songs are amongst the best they have ever written, combining all of the styles they have used during their career. Chuck Billy is using his different vocal styles, like his Death and more Power vocals to suit the songs the best. I really could recommend this record to every fan of past and present TESTAMENT and fans of good Heavy Metal. It doesn't get any better than this, I am telling you!
S.T.
Web site!
5 out of 5

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THE CROWN: "Hell Is Here" - CD (Metal Blade)

Hell yeah! If hell is here, then great! Formerly known as CROWN OF THORNS, THE CROWN rips through some very good Death, with a bit of Punk attitude. Very fast, they use simple, yet effective song structure to rip through their riffs with ferocity. A little bit like DELLAMORTE, who brought the later-day ENTOMBED sound to another level with attitude. Having some riffs that resembles NAGLFAR, they sometimes sound a bit Black Metal. Very juvenile lyrics give an "Anthem" feel to some of the songs, which isn't a bad thing. Very crisp sound is found throughout and the mix is of top quality. The performance of Janne Saarenpdt on drums is amazing. Cheese is for supper, and god do we love it!
S.T.
Web site!
5 out of 5

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THE MISFITS: "Famous Monsters" - CD (Roadrunner/Attic)

This MISFITS might have been a very influential band in their relative anonymity of the 70's but that certainly doesn't make them any good nowadays. Owing all their success to METALLICA and others, they came back in 1997 with the sole goal of making money, which they did. "Famous Monsters" is the logical following to "American Psycho", as it is as bad musically. Trying to be heavier than they really are, they end up sounding silly. They just sound like a bad mix between NOFX and BAD RELIGION. THE MISFITS are like a 50's B-movie (from which they took their image anyway): It's funny once but gets old very quickly. Please don't buy, unless you are masochist.
S.T.
Web site!
Web site!
0 out of 5

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THYRANE: "Symphonies Of Infernality" - CD (Woodcut Records)

I reckon that bands like THYRANE want to be downright evil, bad and ugly. Maybe even snoopy, elegant and classy. But blasphemous, rancious and satanically beautiful, they are too. Like proving they're the Finnish black Messiahs of first elite, THYRANE's long-awaited debut full-length "Symphonies Of Infernality" is made of effervescent ostensive harmonies of freshness and favorable dark arts, which is built up on a very much keyboard-laden heritage that made bands like EMPEROR and DIMMU BORGIR once so damn popular worldwide. The use of keyboards for highly technical symphonic Black Metal is what the blokes of THYRANE do more than very well. It's a definite plus as long as it works out smoothly and painlessly as part of a whole. Unfortunately, that's where THYRANE's main problem lies; Keyboards are not meant to be a nerve centre of this type of music! The overall feeling I got out of this troop's blackish effort of crushing all that's holy, was like the recording for "Symphonies..." went on, more or less, keyboard-for-keyboard's sake kind of thing. I know I'm probably an ultimate asshole - even totally wrong by saying this but the keyboards here have this dangerous tendency to sound just a little bit clumsy, or even unprofessional here and there on the album. When it goes to less key-stressed parts, then it gets better. As for more positive notes, the rest of the music has been spelled out in a rich understanding of what "suomalainen musta metalli" should all be about. Venomous, twisted, full of fire and icicles and making all the Elder Gods of the ancient Finnish history fall on their knees, both in pain and pleasure. Within your own private black magic rituals, the maximum "pain vs. pleasure" illumination is guarantied under the guidance of satanist, Black Atmospheric Madness and "Symphony Of Infernality" - Mr. Blastmor makes you feel (un-)confortable through the rest of their carbon black witches' cauldron...
L.L.
4 out of 5

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TO/DIE/FOR: "All Eternity" - CD (Spinefarm)

You're fucking prostitutes! You're giving it away way too much! Music like a sweet pussy; soft, warm, tender, deep down there fertilizing, bringing out new refreshing life - and in the end, very much adult-like indeed! This band started off under the MARY-ANN moniker and now, TO/DIE/FOR are a perfect mixture of some Metal, some straight jamming Rock'n'Roll and they certainly feel comfortable breathing demons in their enormous Gothic castle, playing the "Lords of Goth" roles as if it were going out of fashion. Note that there's a positive tone in my voice here for what I just said... As it's obvious with many Finnish hard rocking bands these days, melancholy is always doing guest appearances on albums when referring to things such as "melodic" or "sorrowful" or even "depressing"... "All Eternity" has got it all, and with huge doses from each of those! This is a true Gothic Rock/Metal manifestation for all good things in the type of music where such uncrowded heroes as LORDS OF THE NEW CHURCH, TYPE O NEGATIVE, Finland's HIM and SENTENCED, are all so good and convincing at: Ignoring all the trends and doing music which comes out naturally from them and not freaking out whether they could succeed or not. It's always music that counts and TO/DIE/FOR maybe do not consider themselves genius, but they have well adopted the idea anyway. It's all there in a very beautiful, well-executed package... "Farewell", "Live In You", "Our Candle Melts Away", "Dripping Down Red", etc... and love never dies and pain never ends, we all know that now.
L.L.
4½ out of 5

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TOTALITAR: "Klass Inte Ras" - 7" (Prank Records)

Yeaaarrrggghhh!!!.. These virulent and vicious vets put forth some burning house Hard-Punk combustion with the savage, guttural vocals of Poffen, in a Swedish language. Good going because I'd rather non-U.S. bands resist the urge to "Americanize" themselves. There are English explanations of songs topics. Every member is playing in an amok state!... Rush... Speed! The guitar leads actually complement the speedy structures and I heard that they've been blasting away since the 80's. If this is true, then they've lost none of the power! I listened to this about four or five times, so this is totally ravenous. Some of these are on red wax and it's another great record from Prank!
T.G.
3½ out of 5

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TRANSPORT LEAGUE: "Satanic Panic" - CD (Pavement)

Groovy... Groovy babe! Groovier than this cannot get there by no chance! TRANSPORT LEAGUE's third album in order, "Satanic Panic", has no fillers at all! Every song stands alone with big muscles of stone-hard, straight forward Hardcore/Metal combinations, having a magical grip over its listener to remind us all something about catchiness and its vitality in music. Music that's been made to be enjoyed with bigger doses at the same time. Music that puts your neck moving and keeps your fingertips busy for a great while. Music that has been made for a non-stop ride in your massive Sony-system. "Hell Predicted", "Plague Ship", "Men Sized Drain", "Tar", etc. - actually, I could pick up any track out of this very masculine-filled, powerfully punishing album and say: Sway your hips and squeeze your tits, babe! Balls to the wall, babe... Party on! Bril-fuckin'-liant!!
L.L.
4½ out of 5

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TRIAL: "Are These Our Lives" - CD (Equal Vision)

Hardcore-Metal and some pretty good one I must say by this band TRIAL. Mostly high velocity, the songs all contain slower parts that are catchy as hell. Combine that with the aggressive vocals and powerful riffs and you have a very good Hardcore record. Nothing too original is presented here as it has been done numerous times in the past but it is well done and honest. I wouldn't want to compare this to Metalcore leaders but it is still an enjoyable listen. Pretty good.
S.T.
Web site!
3 out of 5

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TRIANGLE: "Square The Circle" - CD (Zizania Entertainment Group)

This band plays a brand of very melodic Prog Rock that isn't anything like most of the Prog acts that are usually being reviewed in these pages. What I mean is that this band's music is a lot more melodic than most Progs acts I usually listen to and does not display the crazy jamming that I like about Progressive music. In fact, if it weren't for the few unorthodox parts here and there, I wouldn't even call this music Progressive. There are parts that could probably make it to radio, but the songs still have some elements that makes this music non-radio material, such as the length for the songs and some heavier guitar work here and there. But most of it is very melodic, quiet and emotional. Like I said, the guitars do bring a few heavier elements, sounding more like the latest stuff from PINK FLOYD. The display of talent is quite obvious and some of the atmospheric solos are pretty cool. The synthesizers play a major part in this music, being present everywhere as a backdrop sound and also adding some elements of melodies. The bass plays a good role in both the rhythmic section and also adding some complementary melodies to the guitars. The drumming isn't an exercise in technicality, but the talent and intricacy of the playing is very obvious. I guess the drummer kept his playing a bit "cleaner" for the sake of this band's sound and style. The drums sound good and snappy, with clear impact on all of its parts. The singer is pretty good and has a voice that fits this genre well, singing in a good mid-range with just a small touch of sadness in his tone. This is not an album that will work well for amateur of brutal music, but it might interest the more open-minded Metal fans out there! I think it's a pretty decent album!
S.B.
E-mail!
Web site!
3 out of 5

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TURMOIL: "The Process Of..." - CD (Century Media)

TURMOIL is back with their Metalcore and a bit late, I guess. When their first full length came out a few years ago, the Metalcore movement was beginning to strengthen. Now, four years later, the movement is well established and its leader have taken their place, that one considerable. Bands like CONVERGE, CONGRESS, ZAO and others are much better than TURMOIL, even if they play within the same parameters. "The Process Of.." is a decent album, don't get me wrong; it is even better than a lot of stuff out there, but it is not up to the standards that the previously mentioned bands and others have established. It is just a good album from a band that should have grown more than they did since the last full length. Having its fair share of good songs, there is that little spark that would make it great which is missing. I guess I am a bit too demanding and that album should please most fans of Metal and Hardcore.
S.T.
Web site!
3 out of 5

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Reviews from letters: Q - R - S - T

UR FUNKTION/SVART SNO: "Bellyache And Acideyes" - CD (Grand Theft Audio)

First, hats and bandanas off to Brian of Grand Theft Audio for putting this out! Finally, a Swedish representation among his other releases of overseas stuff. This is classic foreign Puke Rock that came out during the Cold War crisis-manufacture of the 80's. Although there are two bands on this disc, some members of UR FUNKTION went on to the incomparable SVART SNO ("Black Snow" in English). UR FUNKTION were in the first wave of savage, bloodthirsty Puke Thrash with those unmistakable guttural Swedish vocals with land mine drums and guitar disorder! Their eight song demo is totally rabid! Next is SVART SNO with a collection of early EPs and compilation/unreleased tracks. I'd have to say that it wasn't until track number twelve on the CD when their assault went up a notch. Definitely a memorable listen when they develop their style with high-speed destruction and thought-inducing rhythms that still won't rest! They had an urgency and political awareness that seemed to be the order of the day among non-U.S. bands who vented their frustration with society, the government and authority. This is a real treat! It also includes a sixteen pages booklet.
T.G.
4 out of 5

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UTOPIE: "Instinct For Existence" - CD (Bizarre Leprous Production/DoSB Records)

Extreme Grind is the deal here! It's been a while since I've heard a band that so unmistakably plunged in the purist Grindcore sound! The guitars sound a bit like old CARCASS albums: Very low tuning with extremely heavy large guitar attacks supported by a very present bass that adds a lot to the low tones of the guitars. The riffing is very simplistic, almost Hardcore in nature, mixed with the heaviness and power of Metal riffing... Like I said, this reminds me pretty much of the old CARCASS sound. The drumming is mostly decent but some parts are not very tight or precise... But for the most part, the playing is decent. The drums sound a bit flat and low in the mix but not that bad. The drum parts remain pretty clear, especially in the slower parts. In the faster parts though, the drums can get a bit lost in the mix. Now the vocals have to be the absolute low point of this recording; We are talking absolute chaos here. It is the usual extreme (I mean EXTREME) low grind growls... But it is all full of distortion and effects, making the vocals totally jam-packed in one little tiny ball of brutal growls. It is completed with a few higher pitched screams. There is not a single place on this recording where you can make out even just one word... It simply goes like: GRRGRRGRRGRRGRR!!ARGHGRRGRRGRRGRRR... You know what I mean! Anyway, this is pretty decent Death Grind with lots of tempo changes and stuff, but the whole thing is well within pre-established parameters of the genre... Nothing new will be heard in there. Check it out if you are a fan of Grindcore! You will certainly find their brand of musical mutilation to your liking!
S.B.
E-mail!
E-mail!
3 out of 5

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