Distorted reviews - 03/02/03.
Maxmillion - Maxmillion (Retribute)
Fusing sludge, doom and thrash to great effect, Maxmillion are the noise of a world falling apart. Sitting someplace in the cracks between Rabies Caste, Will Haven and Dillinger Escape Plan, subtle they sure ain't. 'Waste of relations' is a barrage of solid, crushing metal, while the excellently titled, 'The angel that fell through the earth' shows the band isn't afraid to slide off on tangents. Constructed over a slow, hulking riff, the volume buzzes in and out between verses, lending the chorus the room it needs to strive for that extra push - heavier than heavy. Then there's 'Designed by the vultures', quite possibly the albums stand out track, brooding yet majestic, armed as it is with a kicking verse and suitably disorientating pre-chorus, build-up. 'Pure black' is in stark contrast, layered around a Deftones-esque melody and a soft, clean vocal before the chorus slips gently into Will Haven territory. It was on the album's fifth track, 'Dilated eyes' that it finally hit me. Despite all the aggression and anger pouring in droves from this CD, Maxmillion have something more about them; almost an accessible quality. These aren't random acts of chaos and destruction committed to tape; no, this is something far more focused and intelligent. Not intelligent in the way Tool is, but similar. It's so satisfying to hear a band put so much work into an album like this. In a genre that is often criticised for being stagnant and willing to recreate the same old over and over, Maxmillion really stand out.
Luxt - American Beast (Blackliner)
Luxt are lining themselves up to be the next big thing to happen Stateside in 2003. With over 400 live shows behind them and having supported System Of A Down, Rammstein and loads of other high profile acts, it's no surprise then that "American Beast" is a big album, chock full of melody and distortion. Nu-metal is dying on its feet at the moment and I wouldn't be surprised if many of its (former) fans jump ship and embrace Luxt. Soundwise it appears Godsmack are a big influence, but their mix of loud and soft dynamics, harsh guitars and lush vocals hark back to hardcore bands like Life Of Agony. 'Suck it down', with its sexual lyrics, is a slow grower, but the female voice immediately grabs you and says "this is something different". The down-tuned riffage and palm-muted, almost grinding, moments add a hypnotic touch.
'Mary Megaladon' is a racey, Gothic-tinged little beauty with an explosive chorus. Anna Christine's vocals maintain a steady calm above the madness, which, thanks to some excellent production, keeps getting bigger, louder and faster. The best track though is 'Life is pain', granted it uses many of the elements of nu-metal, especially the angst-ridden lyrics, but, then again, Luxt are not professing to be nihilistic in their approach to music. They're merely building on what came before them. The heavily distorted guitars are shoved to the fore and the start/stop pattern in the verse only makes the slide into a huge pulsating chorus seem even larger. Full of great rock songs, yet poppy enough to make it onto the radio and appeal to the mainstream kids, with "American Beast", Luxt are onto a winner. I'd keep an eye out for them in the near future; with music fans looking around for a new scene to dig their teeth into, Luxt could quite possibly be huge.
Your Enemies Friends - The Wiretap EP (Buddyhead)
Wow, this fucking rocks. Where have this band been hiding all my life? Your Enemies Friends sound like The Pixies being beaten up by The Icarus Line, while Atari Teenage Riot and Faith No More throw abuse at the onlookers. Storming open with 'A life without a heart' kicking like a bull with his balls caught in a rusty gate, YEF are relentless. 'A life...' rides along on a riff so sleazy and dirty, it would be happily at home on Therapy?'s 'Infernal Love'. Add to the mix the grace of lyrics such as "We dragged the lake/the bodies shaking to pieces/you cannot forget/are you awake?", and you know you're going home in a body-bag. 'Repose' is even more twisted in its delivery, like a fist full of barbed wire. Deranged genius.
Aggression and chaos are linked together perfectly with brief moments of clarity that sound like half-remembered dreams. Producer Alex Newport (The Icarus Line/Sepultura) must have had his work cut out for him capturing this on tape, but he did an excellent job. The title track is totally fucked-up and mind-warping. It barely holds itself together; this is the aural equivalent of a car crash. Strangely enough then, the closing song brings Ash to mind, with its whispered, angelic vocals and off kilter guitar/keyboard interplay. A moment of calm at the end or simply a nostalgic look back at life in an apocalyptic hell-hole? Whatever it is it, doesn't matter. My advice, if you listen to only one new band this year, then make it YEF. Work is expected to be finished up shortly on their full-length follow-up, which Steve Albini (Nirvana/Jesus Lizard) is producing, and, with an a tour of the UK planned, get a piece of Your Enemies Friends now. You'll hate yourself if you miss out now. Essential listening.
Somnus - Through creation's end (Root of All Evil)
Somnus are purveyors of darkness and desolate musical imagery; they are the makers of haunting, dark metal. Yes it does bear all the trappings of European Goth metal, but it blends it the technical wizardry of prog rock. It may seem like there's nothing new going on in Somnus's world, but they're doing a lot more than rehash old ideas. Never afraid to be atmospheric when the mood takes them, and never heavy just for the sake of it, this is a well-composed album. Tracks like 'The gate of wolves' and 'Warlocks feast' build on the ruins of the old, whereas 'Creations end' is proof that the band are not willing or eager to be painted into a corner. An interesting release.
Rakit - Rakit (Jag Rak)
As a huge Nine Inch Nails fan, I am sickened. Such blatant thievery should be rewarded with a long stint in Ireland's main prison, The 'Joy, for Mr Rakit. I mean, it's great to have people that you admire, but, come on, please, get a mind of your own. The droning vocals and poor beats do nothing to make this even slightly interesting. As for the songs, well... any time Rakit (yes, it's one man, an VERY anguished young man) does hit on something halfway to good, he goes to great lengths to ruin it, in the most horrible, medieval ways possible. 'M.I.A.B.' would be great if it wasn't for the appalling lyrics. Musically, it's slow and dreamy, but lyrically Rakit has taken the Fred Durst route. Hmmmm, let me see how many times I can say the word 'fuck' in one song. Just because you're angry, it doesn't mean you can afford to be unimaginative. If this an attempt to be his 'Something I can never have', then it's a colossal failure. As for the rest of it, apart from the semi-good 'Lethargic' and the kind of decent, in a Marilyn Manson rip-off kind of a way, 'Hate', there's nothing worth even mentioning. Now all I need to do is find a way to rid myself of this horrible, horrible CD.
The Beatsteaks - The Wohnzimmer EP (Epitaph)
Germany's finest punks, The Beatsteaks, have made a great start to the New Year with this stunning collection of cover versions. Featuring songs by Cheap Trick, The Cure, The Clash, Nine Inch Nails and Steve Miller Band, it's certainly a strange old mix. A resounding 'Hello there', on which vocalist Arnim Teutoborg-Weiss sounds like Dave Grohl with a sore throat, opens proceedings nicely before becoming 'I fought the law'. Recorded prior to the tragic death of Joe Strummer, it stands as a fitting tribute. Catchy as fuck, with a massive chorus and intelligent lyrics, this is what punk is all about. This is a song you just have to listen to over and over again. Addictive? Yes! 'Just like heaven' is musically perfect and it's only when you hear The Beatsteaks playing it that you realise just how much their sound was influenced by The Cure. Unfortunately Arnim's voice on 'Wish' isn't a patch on the original; that said, though, it's still a great version of the classic NIN song. The drums power the song forward, shifting from verse to chorus seamlessly. Despite sticking very closely to the original they still manage to make it sound their own. A stunning tribute to their heroes. Come on everyone, "I fought the law and the law won".
Good Charlotte - The young and the hopeless (Epic)
Their single, 'Lifestyles of the rich and famous', has been all over MTV as of late and they're being hyped up to be 2003's biggest band. They are of course Washington DC's Good Charlotte. Founded by twin bothers Joel (vocals) and Benji (guitars) Madden, they're attempting to take punk to a whole new level. Yes, it's already been brought to the masses, but these boys have tinged the traditional punk approach with industrial and gothic influences. Opener 'A new beginning', a tinkly piano-led instrumental that brings to mind Tim Burton's 'The night before Christmas', is a sure fire sign that this isn't going to be your typical three-chord attack. 'Lifestyles of the rich and famous' may use the same drum pattern as Iggy Pop's 'Lust for life', but what harm. It's still a catchy, brash commentary on celebrity life and self-pity, a harsh critique of American culture.
'Girls and boys' is a sarcasm-laden attack on relationships built on money and materialism. Culminating in a huge chorus where Joel sings "Girls don't like boys/Girls like cars and money/Boys will laugh at girls when they're not funny". The Madden boys are the product of a broken home and this comes out in their music and lyrics with at least half the songs mentioning their father. Yes, it's been done before and I'm sure a lot of people are sick of the anguished and pained approach, but here it's never forced or contrived. 'The story of my old man' is their story in music, critical lyrics and a spitting vocal, backed by a fast beat and razor-edged guitars. On 'Emotionless', Joel opens up his heart to his father, a man who walked out on him on Christmas Eve. "You broke my mother's heart/you broke your children for life... I remember the days you were a hero in my eyes/but those are just a long lost memory of mine." Angry teenage sentiments without focus these are not, this is well thought-out and well written. With an acoustic backdrop it shows a mature approach to song-writing that this genre sorely lacks.
It's not all about broken homes ('Emotionless'), suicide ('Hold on') and youth anger ('The anthem') thankfully; the macabre 'My bloody valentine' is the album's centrepiece. A story of jealousy and murder, in which Joel kills the boyfriend of a girl he loves. Musically haunting, a dripping, heavy bass and cutthroat guitars spin madly. It shows a side of Good Charlotte that, if expanded and taken further, could turn them into one of the most interesting punk bands in a long time. This song is hopefully what AFI's new album will sound like and should be the litmus test against which all future releases will be judged. Outstanding and unashamedly transgressing boundaries. I will admit I did approach this album with a level of caution, but there was no need for it. Jump on the bandwagon now because this year is going to be an exciting time for these DC punks.
The Haunted - One Kill Wonder (Earache)
Well, what have we got here? The new album from The Haunted? 'What's it like?' you're no doubt begging to know. Well, let me tell you. It's fucking excellent! Spread over eleven tracks "One kill wonder" is definitely going to be one of the most essential, heavy albums of 2003. If you're a fan of Slayer or Dark Tranquillity in the slightest, then you need to hear this. 'Godpuppet' kicks in with a riff that could level Godzilla at a hundred paces. The drumming is rapid fire from the off, switching from regular to double time on a penny (cent, sorry) and, unlike so many other extreme bands, you can make out the lyrics. The Voice is not just an instrument to be used to back up the crunching guitars. 'Shadow world' is another stunning song, the riff metamorphosing from verse to chorus and back again. So crisply produced that not a note is lost, Marco Aro's voice lending the song that distinctive edge, before the solo leads it off perfectly. The sound of marching jackboots starts off 'D.O.A.' before being interrupted unexpectedly by a powerful staccato riff. The drumming is pounding and constant, yet it's got a chorus the size of Poland. A massive display of power and intensity, off-set by a crushing solo. This songs shifts subtly with the main riff, appearing in fractions to tie it together. The modern face of thrash still nods towards the old though, especially on 'Demon eyes', the title track and 'Urban predator'. The masters have returned to reclaim their throne.
Unleashed - Hell's Unleashed (Century Media)
Sweden's Unleashed have unfairly been stuck in Entombed's shadow for far too long now, having both released their debut albums around the same time in the early '90's ("Left hand path" & "Where no life dwells" respectively). And where both acts were heads-down death metal to begin with, they now sound nothing like their early albums. Entombed defined the term "rot n' roll" with their "Wolverine Blues" EP, and with 2002's 'Hell's unleashed', it sees Unleashed embracing traditional heavy metal and sounding all the better for it.
Take opener 'Don't want to be born' for example, a riff-infested slow-burner that chugs and jugs all over the place, with a chorus that bounces around the inside of your skull long after you've heard it. In fact, there's a hell of a lot of melody and downright catchiness in HU, you'd be forgiven for thinking you stumbled across the death metal album Maiden never made. 'Fly raven fly', 'We'll come for you', 'Triggerman' and the tongue-in-cheek 'Joy in the sun', there are some real metal gems here that deserve to be heard by a wider audience. And 'Demoneater' (sing 9 times for full effect) is a metal anthem classic; you can picture hoards of Metalheads across the world singing this, devil-horns raised, drunk in metal unison. (Any other way?) Yes, do get this - no matter if your preference is heavy, thrash or death metal, there's something in this amazing album for everyone.
Impaled - Mondo Medicale (Death Vomit/Necropolis)
Carcass lives! Well, that's the impression you'll get when you listen to the latest album from US deathsters Impaled, for this sounds so uncannily like the UK gore hounds that you'll wonder if they split up at all. Now normally, I have no time for bands that play and sound exactly like another band (Severe Torture, for example), but on first listen to "MM", you can't help but be blown away by the sheer quality and professionalism on offer here. A lot of that has got to be credited with the incredible production, courtesy of new guitarist Andrew LaBarre (with additional help from the rest of the band, Sean McGrath, Raul Varela and Ross Sewage, who made the tea, I guess.) Sometimes it does help an extreme metal band if you can hear what they're playing.
For those who are unfortunate not to have heard Carcass when they ruled the waves and are wondering what Impaled sound like, think sporadic blast beats, a heavy groove touching on grindcore, and dual vocals on the ghastly side. Add to that lyrics that read like a medical journal - "A strain of Yersinia Pestis we've created/to our whim bacterial genomes we've mutated" from 'Dead inside' - and you've more or less got the general idea. It'll be interesting to see whether Impaled's Carcass-formula will go over well with the kids today some 14 years since the release of the classic "Symphonies of Sickness". I can't see it somehow, but as a trip down (memorial) lane, Impaled add a breath of foul air to a sound that nearly dominated the early '90's.
Malevolent Creation - The Will To Kill (Nuclear Blast/Artic)
Malevolent Creation is one of the lesser-known pioneers of Florida death metal, having released their seminal debut "The 10 Commandments" back in 1991 along with such classics as "Cause of death", "Butchered at birth" and "Effigy of the forgotten". The Premiership always alluded them, however, and after earning their stripes in the metal trenches and going through the usual band member changes crap that plagues most bands, it's all about to change with this, "The Will to kill", their strongest, most brutal album to date.
Don't believe me? Play opener and title track 'The will to kill'. Hear that? That's the sound of violence, of a band with both guns cocked and pointed threateningly in your face. The recent addition of Hateplow vocalist Kyle Symons has given MC a new lease of death, injecting a ravenous hunger into the 5 piece - these guys (mean, ugly bastards each and every one) are not fucking around. Pick any track - 'Rebirth of terror', 'All that remains', the incredible 'Divide and conquer', this is serious, heavyweight material from a band that was there at the beginning, saw/drank/snorted/fucked it all, out-lived most and who's showing no sign of quitting yet. With the likes of Nile, Vader, Immolation, Hate Eternal, Cannibal Corpse and Malevolent Creation to name but a few, is it any wonder kids are turning to death metal in their droves?
Various - Rise Above (24 Black Flag songs to benefit the West Memphis Three) (Sanctuary)
Those of you who do not know the case of the West Memphis 3 should go immediately to www.wm3.org It makes for harrowing reading that three teenagers, Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin, who 'dressed differently and listened to satanic music' (i.e. wore Metallica t-shirts and listened to metal) were tried and convicted for the horrific murder of three young boys, even though there was absolutely no evidence to support the charges. The way in which the Memphis cops made a balls of and then manipulated the case in their favour will have you gnashing your teeth in frustration. Henry Rollins, he of legendary Black Flag and Rollins Band, has gathered a group of today's alternative singers from across the board and compiled this benefit CD to aid the case of the WM3. And it's damn cool too. With 75% of the Rollins Band on board to record the music, it was just a matter of calling up your favourite singers to enter the studio and yell their lungs out.
The list reads like a metal/punk who's who. Keith Morris of Circle Jerks, Iggy Pop, Neil Fallon of Clutch, Corey Taylor of Slipknot, Nick Oliveri of QOTSA, Ice T, Mike Patton, Tom Araya, Lemmy, guys from Rancid... if it wasn't for the unfortunate circumstances that brought these individuals together this release would be a cause for celebration.
You owe it to yourself to get this record.
Asesino - Corridos De Muerte (Kool Arrow)
Remember watching as a kid those Clint Eastwood 'Fistful of Dollars' movies, and recoiling at those smelly, greasy, black-tooth, evil pig-fucking Mexicans? Well, the fear is real, boys and girls, prepare for Jarcor (hardcore) Mexican murder metal, in all its rancid glory. Rumoured to consist of top Mexican assassins, Asesino are a murderous three-piece hell bent on assaulting today's futile music scene, with demonic tales of sex, murder, and life in Mexican prisons. With Asesino on guitar, Grenudo on drums and newest addition Maldito X (probably escaped hanging from a tree somewhere) on bass and vocals, these are not the singing Three Amigos you could trust your 16-year-old daughter and stash of Tequila with.
In reality, this is probably Dino from Fear Factory and some other guys from Napalm Death (I'm not quite sure, tho') and it's a blistering release all the same. Sung entirely in Spanish, with Spanish song-titles and lyrics, musically it sounds very similar to the bands mentioned above, which is no surprise as it was Dino who was the brain-child behind Brujeria, the Mexican band of cutthroats and murderers that started this whole Mexican murder metal cult. Stand out tracks? 'Luchador violador', 'Chota sucia' and 'Sequestro nuestro', with its ghostly intro and outro. Pick any one, in fact, all fast, all heavy, all … Spanish. Oh, this is the first release out of thirteen, conceived by Sr Brujo, invoked by El Demoniaco (don't ask.) If they're all as good as Asesino it should make for an interesting collection. By Carumba!
Rwake - Hell Is A Door To The Sun (Retribute)
This album would be one scary, fucked-up listening experience IF there weren't already a band called Neurosis. In fact, Rwake are so Neurosis, they almost out-Neurosis the legendary US noise-nuts themselves. Sludge, doom, gloom, noise, samples, wailing screams for vocals, yes, you've heard it all before from Neurosis' back catalogue such as 'Through silver in blood' and especially the earlier 'Enemy of the sun'. That said, it's not bad, in a depressing kinda way, and any band that has the line "Don't give a fuck about Jesus/I'm too busy getting high" ('The Stoner tree') is alright in my book. If Rwake are to thrive in the world of extreme music, then they would be wise to build and expand on their own sound instead of someone else's, perhaps then they will release something truly horrifying.
Bloodrose - Into Oblivion (Retribute)
Black metal is not my first preference when it comes to metal, although (right-wing idiots aside), I have a lot of respect for the scene. However, as a reviewer I am not that qualified to recommend either of these releases, as I'm not up to speed with black metal in general - Bathory lost me around 'Hammerheart', for fuck's sakes! From Finland come Bloodrose, a melodic black metal band in the vein of Dimmu Borgir rather than the Marduk end of things, and I suppose it's pretty much OK. I mean, the opening riff to 'Forgotten Chapter of Time' ain't bad, AND it even includes an Iron Maiden moment, but the rest really does nothing for me. One for those who enjoy machinegun drumming, swirling keyboards, the odd quiet moment and the traditional Vampire screeching, then…
Teratism - Invocatum Furae Diabolis (Root of All Evil)
Teratism, from the US, is a tad darker, in fact lyrically and image-wise, they make Bloodrose look like Dio, but the terrible production on "IFD" lets the whole package down. This is brutal, tuneless, Satanic black metal, complete with 'Black Sabbath' rain-in-the-graveyard outro. Personally I think it sounds like trying to tune in an old wireless radio, but as I've stated above, what do I know?
Beaten Back To The Pure - Last Refuge Of The Sons Of Bitches (Retribute)
If Clutch ever smoked bad crack and went on a killing spree then this is how they'd sound. Take pinches of sludge, noise and good ole Southern ("Deliverance") hospitality, put in a urine-soaked sack, beat with the EyeHateGod stick and dump into a river of whiskey and blood and you have the bastard noise that is BBTTP. Led by one Ben ("Boss") Hogg "Last refuge..." is a nasty piece of work created by a nasty bunch of sumbitches, but with a repetitive charm you'll go back to again and again. Check out the sludge-ridden downer that is 'Syphilis' - is the perfect song to cut your wrists to or what? Elsewhere you have the up-tempo, but no less suicidal, 'Shards of mason jars', a Southern Comfort-induced instrumental - 'Carry me back to Old Virginny' - while 'Paleface' starts off innocently enough before launching into this massive riff, and I have to mention the amazing drumming of Chuck "Dismember" Ember (or 'Seal clubbing', as it has on the back of the CD), the guy is literally all over the album, in the sloppiest yet incredibly precision-tight playing I've heard since Chris Witchunter first drummed for Sodom. This is good stuff, and well worth a listen.