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The Great Deceiver - A Venom Well Designed (Peaceville)
Tomas Lindberg is the Phil Anselno of Scandinavian metal. Not only was he the former vocalist of legendary At The Gates, he now fronts such extreme metal acts as Lock Up, Skitsystem, The Crown and now, The Great Deceiver.
Describing TGD as "the dark hardcore cousin of At The Gates", Lindberg is quite correct - this is not an immediate listen. Mix together Neurosis, Sabbath and lots and lots of Voivod at their most psychedelic and you have an idea where they're coming from. Where Lock Up and ATG zip along, razorblades in hand, cutting everyone within range, TGD squirm, twist, practically slither from your speakers. Witness the sinister 'Enter the Martyrs', with a slow-pounding rhythm riding on an eerily melodic crest. Elsewhere, 'The Blade' teases you with a haunting melody, holding out one hand to welcome you yet hiding an axe in the other to smack you in the head with.
My one gripe is that, after a while, each track does tend to sound samey, giving the album a 'one song' feeling to it, but that said, given time (and plenty of it, judging by Mr Lindberg's other commitments) The Great Deceiver could deliver an album worthy of classic status.

Ken Blackmore

Arch Enemy - Wages of sin (Sanctuary Records)
If you turn to page 9 of your CD booklet, children, you will see a photo of a pretty young blonde female called Angela. Doesn't she look sweet? Like butter wouldn't melt in her mouth? Now, put the brand new album from Sweden's finest into your stereo and press 'play'. Hear that noisy racket from the vocalist? That's Angela, that is.
Album number 4 sees the departure of original vocalist Johan Liiva from the folds of one of the tightest, classiest metal acts around, and the debut of Miss Angela Gossow. She growls, grunts and screams like the best of 'em, and I dare say that if you heard "Wages of sin" without knowing of Angela's vocals, you could never tell she was female.
However, her impact on the rest of the band is nothing but positive, as they have released their strongest material to date. 'Don't bury their dead' is one of the greatest metal tracks I've heard in a long time, there's some amazing riffs stomping throughout, and the lead work (yes, guitar solos, remember them?) of Michael and Christopher Amott in this song, not to mention the whole album, is nothing but stunning. There's even an old-style instrumental one used to hear off '80s thrash metal records in the shape of 'Snow Bound', which leads into the cracking 'Shadows and Dust'.
The production is high-class on "Wages of sin", knob-twiddling duties preformed by one Fredrik Nordstrom and Michael Amott, and mixed by the renowned Andy Sneap, he from UK thrashers Sabbat now turned metal producer extraordinaire. And, with this release, you also get a bonus CD of rare and unreleased tracks, a cover of 'Starbreaker' by Judas Priest and 'Aces High' by Iron Maiden amongst them.
If you've never heard anything from Arch Enemy and are pretty much sick and tired of the nu-metal crap, you could do a lot worse than check these guys out. Solid, high class metal played with conviction and distinction - not many bands out there one can say that about.

Ken Blackmore

NOFX - 45 or 46 songs that weren't good enough to go on our other records (fat wreck chords)
NOFX need no introduction. What you have here is what the title says, odds and ends, songs used for punk compilation records, unreleased rarities, cover versions and hard-to-find tracks from the living legends spanning their lengthy career.
There's a wealth of material here, some of it you'll have if you're a NOFX completist (like myself). Wish they had had done this earlier, though. Would have saved me a fortune forking out on crappy records I didn't want just to hear one NOFX song. Bastards.

Ken Blackmore

Goldfinger - Open your eyes (Mojo/Jive)
Punk/reggae/vegan defenders Goldfinger just get better and better, don't they? Since releasing their self-titled debut back in 1996, they have become a major player on the music scene, and deservedly so. Vocalist/guitarist John Feldman is such a talented songwriter. With songs such as 'Decision', 'Tell me', the beautiful 'January' and the title track itself fame and fortune should be banging on their door any day now. Yet I am a sinner, folks. I am a meat-eater. I have nay a clue what meat consumption is doing to my body, that those in power are lying to me and that they're now trying to tell me that hamburgers DON'T grow in hamburger patches and that they DON'T love to be eaten!
The whole concept of 'Open your eyes' is to preach to you the evils of meat eating. Go vegan! They command you. Sorry, fellas, but no. I like my sausages, my chicken, and my steak smothered in onions and gravy. That's not to say I don't respect your decision not to eat meat. I know vegetarians and they have adjusted to society quite nicely. It's just when I buy a MUSIC CD, I expect to hear and enjoy MUSIC, not to be lectured to about my eating habits.
Still laughed my ass off at 'FTN' (Fuck Ted Nugent) though, with the classic line 'Fuck Jennifer Lopez/fur-wearing fucking twat/likes to eat dead cows/she thinks it's cool/to wear eye lashes of dead foxes/'cause she thinks it hides the pounds'. Who said vegans don't have a sense of humour?

Ken Blackmore

Zimmer's Hole - Legion of flames (Virusworx)
Heavy metal has been accused in the past of taking itself far too seriously, and though fans and musicians of the genre may argue this point, others not familiar with the scene need only look to Norway and its grim-faced black metal bands for proof.
So rejoice, for 'tis second album from Canada's Zimmer's Hole, and what a refreshing breath of Satan's wind it is too! More in the vain of Spinal Tap than SOD, this Strapping Young Lad pet project takes the piss out of everything metal without insulting the metalhead listener. When they sing about 'The Hole is the law', or 'Death to the dodgers of soap' or the eye opening 'Satan is a gay porno star', you know that they do a sense of humour, albeit in the gutter.
For starts, it's brilliantly produced, knob twiddling courtesy of Devin Townsend, and the musicianship is excellent - ZH can play any form of Metal, be it soft rock ('Sodomanaz') to thrash, (the Sacrifice inspired 'Re-Anaconda') and it works so well. Why does it work so well? Well, that's because first and foremost the band LOVE metal, they live and breathe it. They applaud countless metal bands on their 'thanks list', from Slayer, Dark Angel, Iron maiden, Alice Cooper, Thin Lizzy to Morbid Angel, Nasty Savage and Kiss. There are recognisable riffs from classic metal songs all over this album, not so much stolen but... borrowed. How you will laugh when they open 'Evil Robots' with the riff to 'Master of Puppets', and fall off your bar stool as the words 'Napster, Napster/where's the cash that I've been after?' are said with such tongue-in-cheek cynicism.
Album closer 'The death of the resurrection of the death of metal' is a brilliant homage to everything metal, even ending the song with a pleasing rendition of 'Hell awaits', obligatory backward vocals included. If you're a Metal fan then I whole-heartedly recommend you get this, it deserves a place in your music collection. And as for the hidden tracks, I'll let you discover them yourself...

Ken Blackmore

Otep - Sevas Tra (Capitol)
Now this is nuts. Otep is a US foursome about whom you are gonna hear a hell of a lot in the next couple of years. Apparently the organisers of the Ozzfest were so impressed with Otep that they took them on tour, even though they yet to secure a record deal. And the reason for this acclaim lays in the presence of the formidable Otep Shamaya, a ferociously vicious, fucked-up little lady who has MAJOR issues ( America) if her lyrics/poetry are anything to go by. I know nothing of her history, but if her lyrics are a reflection of her life to date one should take your hat off and open the door for her if you're male and happen to be in her company.
'Tortured', is an eerie, creepy sneaking-around-when-you-should-be-at-home-in-bed intro, which leads straight into the nasty 'Blood Pigs', and the stage is now set for Otep's venting of bile and venom onto an unsuspecting world. 'Menocide' is just that, feminism with a knife, as Otep screams "REMEMBER!!! FEE-MALE CIRCUMCISIONS! BURNING! LIKE SALEM WITCHES! NEVER AGAIN! DIE! DIE! CONCUBINE!" 'My confession' quietly, deceivingly builds to a maelstrom of violence, the little-girl-lost hiding in the shadows, her back against the wall, screaming for revenge.
'Thoths' is a chilling, Neurosis-style slow-burner, which crashes into 'Fillthee', a groove based scourge of a track. But it's 'Jonestown Tea' that is the album's highlight/low point, depending on what mood you're in. Absolutely terrifying, if this doesn't make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, I don't know what will. Dealing with the horrific crime of child abuse, Otep literally weeps her emotions out here, as the listener you are awkwardly compelled to hear such a confession, a heart breaking outpour of emotion. It is not a track you will want to hear again and again.
My one gripe is track 3, the rap cack 'T.R.I.C', this hip-gangsta wannabe out of place on an album this raw and soul bearing. Musically they come across as the little sister of Slipknot, which, while I'm sure they won't mind that comparison, I dare say in time they will have captured their own sound and style.
Jonathan Davis, Corey Taylor... gentlemen, I give you Otep Shamaya.

Ken Blackmore

W.A.S.P. - Dying for the world (Metal-is)
There's one hell of a stigma going with the name W.A.S.P. and it's proven impossible to shake. Blackie Lawless, the ringleader of this sorry band of misfits, is still firmly rooted in the 1980s and has seemed content to, over the past few years at least, release albums of questionable quality to an ever decreasing fan base. Their latest effort, "Dying for the world", was inspired by troops who fought in the Gulf War and was written, with September 11th in mind, for soldiers who will be going into battle. Essentially, according to Blackie himself, this is an album to "go kill people by". No, really.
Surprisingly then, it opens quite impressively with the sharp riff/intro hook sliding into a great chorus of 'Shadow man'. It's a shame then that the other nine songs aren't even worth mentioning, a shame for me that is, because I HAD to listen to them. If 'Shadow man' gets released as a single, then check it out, if not, don't worry too much. It may be a good song, but it's not worth handing over twenty odd euro for, because that's what this album is, one song and nine b-sides. Something to be thankful for at least is that the cock-rock trappings of old seem to be gone, but, with badly written songs like 'Stone cold killers' and 'Black bone torso' dominating this CD, the appeal to new fans is just nonexistent. There may still be some life left in this stinger, but it's far from lethal and fading fast.

Ken McGrath

.Calibre - Killthelogo (WEA)
Faith No More no doubt played an important role in this band's musical upbringing. Faith No More and Rage Against The Machine. .Calibre wear their influences like a badge and it works for them, for a while at least, the opening clutch of razor-sharp songs leading into a slightly dull latter half. A good effort, but with definite room for improvement.
Opener 'E.L.I.T.E.', with its powerful refrain of 'the breath of a hurricane', is a head-rush of the best kind, while 'Dialogue' is a ingenuous slab of melodic hardcore. At times, however, the RATM influence can be too predictable and obvious, especially on 'Karma' where the raps and drum breaks may as well have been lifted straight off Rage's debut. A little imagination can go a long way, it's too bad they haven't realised it yet.
Frontman Daniel Mies is an impressive vocalist with an arsenal of hardcore growls and quick-fire raps. The lyrics stick to the Rage influence, being political and street-wise but without ever being overpowering. "If these shackles are routine then prison is surrender" being one of the more vivid points being pushed across. 'Killthelogo' is a good album but because it never quite reaches the levels it threatens to you're left feeling slightly disappointed when it finishes.

Ken McGrath

Discharge - Discharge (Sanctuary)
To say Discharge are as devastating as a ten elephant stampede is no exaggeration. Formed over twenty years ago and ten years since their last release, it's fair to ask if Discharge are still relevant in this day and age, and the answer is simply yes. As long as aggressive, powerful metal is needed and relevant then Discharge will remain relevant.
There's no new ground being broken, but the fact that it's so aurally crushing in its hardcore purity makes it essential listening. The lyrics and vocal delivery are as ravaging as the musical accompaniment, which could easily be early Slayer and early Sepultura beating the shit out of each other. If you want eleven short, sharp stabs in the ear then look no further.

Ken McGrath

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