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Distorted reviews - 13/04/03.

Eviscerate AD & Broken Oath - What lies ahead (Unity Worldwide)
This split ten-tracker comes from two young British (I think) hardcore bands. First up are the bruisers from Eviscerate AD and, while they are a tight outfit, they are just lacking in imagination, except in the samples department. The CD opens to the sounds of Pulp Fiction's Vince Vega blowing Marvin's head off in the car, accidentally of course. This then lurches straight into what can only be called a pure Sepultura rip-off. The bulk of 'Bring it back' is made up of the post-solo breakdown riff from 'Dead embryonic cells'. A nice one to steal if you can get away with it, but here it is less recycling and more outright thievery. The same idea occurs again in 'Back down', it's just from a different song. Eviscerate AD would be a good band if they kept Sepultura as an influence rather than a blueprint.
Now on to Broken Oath; a very generic, very shouty hardcore act and much more traditional than Eviscerate AD. Except for one unique selling point that is - they boast a female singer in the form of the diminutive Lee. It puts a nice twist on their otherwise plain sound since she has a touch of Angela Gossow (Arch Enemy) in vocal delivery. The thing with Broken Oath however is that they have no hooks and no moments of genius. Granted, they can play a break down that would reduce your mother tears and, somehow, they give off the impression of being a good live band. As it stands, neither of these bands is as exciting as, say, Labrat or Stampin' Ground. They are good in terms of being your local HC outfit/regular support band to the big boys, but it will be a while before they step it up to the next level, if they ever do.

Ken McGrath

Spiritual Meaning - Lurker in the dark (email)
According to the press release, Spiritual Meaning "are a heavy metal band that plays whatever they feel, whether it is power, doom, thrash, speed or progressive metal". Pity then that you can't hear it since this six-track EP thingy is so horribly underproduced. From what I can make out, SM are big fans of early Metallica and Megadeth, and they also like a little bit of Iron Maiden. Really, though, this is bad, bad, bad. The vocals are about as appealing as a pool of vomit outside Supermac's on a Saturday night. Man, you can't sing! Give it up. The band lurches through the motions of attempting to play hauntingly heavy music and it's rotten. Please die. Please. I'm so eager to stop this damn CD that I couldn't even be bothered thinking up some good insults.

Ken McGrath

Hard-Ons - Very exciting (Bad Taste)
It's difficult to form a proper opinion of the Hard-Ons since only two tracks from 'Very Exciting' are on this sampler. The first one, 'Sunny' is just that. Bright and breezy pop-punk that you know, on about the third listen, is really going to get on your tits. 'Scared of it all' is slightly darker, with an '80s feel to it and a nice chunky chorus. A Hard-On that you could almost sink your teeth into. It's cheesy, it's cheery. Its guitars pump along at a nice pace and it's got a shouty bit in the middle. Fans of The Ramones might like this. Dave Grohl is apparently a big fan, as is Henry Rollins who recorded a cover of AC/DC's 'Let there be rock' with them. Go figure.

Ken McGrath

Bert Switzer - 1977-2002 (CD Baby)
Vomit, vomit, vomit, vomit, vomit, vomit, vomit, vomit. This is shit. No songs, no substance, nothing. It opens with what sounds like a drum kit in a washing machine trying to tune up, then Bert "Bastard" Switzer and a young companion proceed to murder 'Crazy Train'. This isn't music. Call it avant-garde if you want, but do it someplace far away from me or I will break your knees. Now fuck off and get a job. Stop wasting my time and let me tell the people about some proper bands.

Ken McGrath

Gluecifier - Automatic thrill (SPV/Steamhammer)
Yes, this is me punching the air ecstatically! Finally some good, proper rock music. Balls to the wall big riffs, pounding drums, head-demolishing bass lines and vocals so big you could park your JCB on them. I'm not sure if rock music needs saving right now, but whether it does or not Gluecifier are here to shake things up. Think Motorhead, AC/DC, Fu Manchu and Monster Magnet. You want this album. Go buy it. Now onto the second song. Jesus, it gets even better. You are going to like these boys, believe me. Woo hoo, watch them go. If these Oslo based rock-saviours don't have electricity flowing through their veins in place of blood, I'll be sorely disappointed. 'Automatic Thrill' is a strong contender for album of the year. It'll have to be a very good year if this gets pushed out of the top ten. Stop reading right now and go buy this album. You owe it to your ears.

Ken McGrath

Browbeat - Audioviolence (Casket/Corpo Records)
My first impression was that this is how Mushroomhead must wish they sounded. Hardcore elements rubbing shoulders with scratchy guitars, semi-rapped vocals and cavernous choruses. It all begins so good on 'Till death', which kicks things off, just after the sampled introduction. A strong start and one which the band loses pace with about halfway though. 'Hater' has an off-time chorus that makes the song tilt slightly and ends with a nice bouncing riff breakdown, which will be familiar to fans of Soulfly. While there seem to be a lot of different genres kicking about in here the hardcore element is what shows itself the strongest, but nu-metal rears its ugly, dying head later. Shying away from the use of mixed growled and clear vocals, Browbeat just give it the old fashioned harsh vocal, with a bit of rapping, approach. There are moments when it does have a Jonathon Davis style though, especially on the highly charged 'Face my rage'. Parts of which are very nu-metal. The aforementioned 'Face my rage' wouldn't sound out of place as one of the better songs on Korn's 'Untouchables'. 'Pure smile' has a guitar sound that could have been lifted straight from the 'Follow the leader' master tapes. The rap element takes a much more prominent stance as the album progresses and Browbeat, who began so promisingly, turn into a mish-mash of so many other groups. The Soulfly reference resurfaces during 'Blind revenge', although it's a good copy, marked out by it's varying vocals and chunky, bounce to squeak riff. I don't know though. It's all too familiar. Browbeat seem to be taking a very safe approach, but as a third generation nu-metal band, they aren't going to last very long unless they do a major overhaul and ditch the shitter aspects. I hate to say it, but at times I wished I was listening to Ill Nino. Pretty sickening, I know.

Ken McGrath

Further Seems Forever - How to start a fire (Sorepoint Records)
"How to start a fire" is generously laden with melodic hooks, yet it's all been heard before. The songs are good, but they are not new. Funeral For A Friend, Finch and even Matchbook Romance all play this better. That's not saying that FSF are a bad band, it's just, they are not a great band. Fans of melodic, emotional rock will like them, but few else. The title track can't hold a candle to F4AF's 'Escape artists never die', let alone burn it down, while 'The Sound' is a very below-par tune. It is very poppy and lacking in substance. The brooding, melancholic 'A Blank page empire' is Turn at their lightest and 'I am' may as well have Incubus written all over it. The day I meet someone who tells me that Further Seems Forever is their favourite band, I will be shocked.

Ken McGrath

The Murder Of Rosa Luxembourg - Everyone's in love and flowers pick themselves (Undergroove)
Now this is interesting stuff. Avant-garde modern rock, very like that played by Ireland's The Evangelists, infused with elements of Sonic Youth and Primus. All for good measure. The squeaking, screaming vocals are infused with plinking, hyperactive guitars and rumbling bass lines. The sort of music that you could take bad drugs to, knowing that you shouldn't. This is lunatic, but what else could be better. Oh yeah, it's a concept album too. It deals with the last days of a man named Victor, who has a giant cat and giant dog battling it out for his soul. You need to hear this to believe it. Adventurous art rock that will take more than the casual listener by surprise.

Ken McGrath
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Funeral For A Friend - Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation (Infectious)
Signed while recording their debut demo and before they had every stepped onto a stage, Funeral For A Friend's rise to critical acclaim has spread quickly through the underground, placing a lot of pressure on their young shoulders. Only one band this year has received more media hype than they have and there are no prizes for guessing that band is The Darkness. Thankfully, then, their full-length debut "Casually dressed and deep in conversation" lives up to all expectations. Bursting through the gates with the superb loud to soft dynamic of 'Rookie of the year' straight through to closing track 'Novella', FFAF hit every right note possible, making what can only be described as a glorious noise. Hardcore crunches and growled vocals are seeped in alongside fantastic vocal melodies and lyrics that read like poetry. Switching from full-on riff driven rock to calmer, more sensitive waters, FFAF have somehow come up with a golden formula that is missing from so many other post-hardcore/emo/screamo type bands. Easily one of the strongest debuts to be released this or any other year.

Ken McGrath

The 8th Day - Ascension (Independent Release) Kildare's The 8th Day are a group that will be familiar to many on the Irish metal scene and rightly so. As a whole "Ascension" is well produced and nicely packaged but the real charm begins when you stick that shiny disc into you CD player and 'Rise Against' screams from your speakers. The definite show stealer here its massive crunching, staccato guitar line lays down the law, while surprisingly clear vocals scream at you over the top. Close your eyes and you can picture vocalist Fran Geoghegan bent double at the front of a stage somewhere pouring his soul into every utterance. The end passage, when the song shifts into half time, is fantastic. The scatter shot attack of 'It's your turn', spins from a sliding, clean riff to a wall shattering distorted behemoth. Raging drums and from the pit of my stomach vocals power it on. Sadly the bass line is buried in the mix. 'Blood of the new earth' and 'Open eyes' however are no less impacting, fitting themselves on nicely, like an early Machine Head punch. 'As it withers from within' is just as good. A finely crafted, no frills metal masterpiece that most bands would sell their BC Rich Warlocks for. The 8th Day you see excel at writing no nonsense Heavy Metal that wants to hurt you. Too bad then that they've decided to call it a day. When are people going to stop looking for the next interesting thing to happen on mainland Europe or in America and start paying attention to our own home-grown talent. They'll be missed.

Ken McGrath

Darkthrone - Soulside journey (Peaceville)
One of the most influential metal bands, their entire back catalogue has been repackaged and re-issued by those kind people at Peaceville. Unfamiliar with Darkthrone, but eager to get interested? Then why not start at the best place, the beginning. "Soulside journey" is a death metal standard-bearer still to this day, over a decade after its release. Opener 'Cromlech' is an intense slab of darkness. Powerful drumming, crisp buzzsaw guitars and growled echoing vocals run rampage, like demons chasing virgins through Northern woods. The title track is like racing through hell - guitars switch from high-speed twisting riffs to slow, ringing, staggered notes and on to chugging metal. Fenriz's drumming here is particularly impressive, with more fills in under five minutes than a petrol station has in an entire day. The instrumental 'Accumulation of generalisation' is much starker in comparison, while closer 'Eon' is huge in its execution and scope, but it is the fantastic 'Grave with a view' that is the real nail in the skull. Bleak and utterly ravaged sounding, yet with surprisingly clear vocals, it is a chugging monster of a song. Once again utilising the spiralling riffs, that shift suddenly to the slower sustained notes guitar interplay used on 'Comlech', then launching into a jagged solo, this is Darkthrone at their finest. They may have drifted off into the world of black metal soon afterwards, but this is as fine and lethal a dose of death metal as you are going to find anywhere.

Ken McGrath

Arch Enemy - Anthems Of Rebellion (Century Media)
And this is what metal in 2003 looks and sounds like. Metallica piss you off completely with their poorly produced "St. Anger" comeback? Tired of looking for something monumental to come along and blow you away? Then look no further. Arch Enemy, with the stunning Angela Gossow now welded firmly into place, have recorded 12 of the best metal songs ever. "Anthems of rebellion" could not be better titled. All these songs make you want to raise your fist in the air, shout abuse at your boss and throw yourself around in a crazy mosh pit. All while being intelligent, coherent and superbly written. Intro 'Tear down the walls' slides majestically into the razor-sharp riffs and pounding drumming of 'Silent wars'. If this doesn't blow you away, there's no hope for you my friend. The searing lead guitar comes straining from the speakers, almost as if it's begging to be held back, then the growls kick back in. Angela Gossow's vocals here are fantastic. Growled and rasping, it's proof that the girls can play just as roughly as the boys.
"Dead eyes see no future", "Leader of the rats", "Despicable heroes". Pick any song, there're all unstoppable. To think that Arch Enemy were once considered only a side-project is now unimaginable. Powerful, fantastically written and brilliantly produced; this band deserve every shred of success they get. Of course, you're going to get some spanners in the back announcing to anyone who'll listen that they've sold out, but take no notice of that shit. Bands need to grow and progress and when they sound as great as these guys do, there's nothing that can be said that can detract from the music. Don't believe me? Slap on track two 'We will rise', which could possibly one of the best songs ever written. It's an anthem here; live, it's going to blow you away. Kicking off with no warning, guitars fly from speaker to speaker, the drums push you back, the bass rumbles solidly and then the vocals start. Stunningly delivered, Angela sounds like she's possessed, while somehow remaining strangely coherent. Then the chorus arrives, firing on all cylinders. Huge is not a word big enough to describe it. Infectious and powerful enough to lodge itself in your head, while simultaneously remaining heavy as fuck. The metal gauntlet has been thrown down and Arch Enemy are ready to take on all comers.

Ken McGrath

Poison The Well - You come before you (Atlantic)
Post-hardcore too soft for you, then get this. This is emo gone thrash. Poison The Well have released what has got to be one of the best albums of the year. Driving, stomping drums lay waste to your speakers, herded along by subtle to crushing guitars. The bass rumble from the opening track alone has probably caused earthquakes. Lyrically brilliant, the vocals switch from emotional and soothing to aggressive and crazy-eyed unexpectedly. That's just track one, 'Ghostchant'! Track two, 'Loved ones (excerpts from speeches of how good you were and will never be again)' is even better. Opening like a rage in a lunatic asylum vocalist, Jeffrey screams "are you even excited to see your baby boy?" before trading it in for some actual proper singing. The descent back into distortion is steep and sudden. Fuck, after listening to this album for about five minutes, you'd swear that you had heard at least six different bands. While that can be a bad thing, Poison The Well do it excellently. This is metal for emo kids, actually, fuck that, this is metal for everyone. Imagine, if you can, Finch or Funeral For A Friend turned up to ten, with all the sweet little bits taken out and Max Cavelera up front. Between these guys and Arch Enemy, metal has never sounded so good and so strong. "You come..." is twelve tracks of highly intense music played perfectly and blending just the right amount of melody in for contrast. Poison The Well is a band you have to hear. Please, do yourself a favour and buy this album. You owe it to yourself.

Ken McGrath

The Beautiful Mistake - EP (Sidecho Records)
After releasing one of last year's best albums in the shape of "Light a match for I deserve to burn", The Beautiful Mistake have seen fit to re-release the EP that preceded it. A five-track collection, only one of which, the wonderful 'For a friend', worked its way onto the album. An interesting little piece that fans they picked up in the past year will want to own, but of little interest to anyone else. The songs are raw, underproduced and not as forceful as those on "Light a match...". If you are looking for someplace to start with TBM, then this is not it. 'Suicide eyes' and 'December', while good, are merely just that. They are lacking the kick that made songs such as 'On building' and 'Circular parade' so outstanding. TBM is a band that is, now, a step ahead of the post-hardcore pack. This EP shows them finding their feet, but they have already outgrown those shoes. Hold this against "Light a match..." and it is overwhelming how much the band has matured as songwriters and musicians. This EP is "Pablo Honey" to their "The Bends" that followed.

Ken McGrath

One Minute Silence - One lie fits all (Taste Media)
Never the most consistent of bands when it comes to recorded material, OMS shine in a live setting. If they had managed to capture even an ounce of that energy, then their third album would have maybe been something more than poor. Opening with their trademark caustic guitar, acid-tongued raps and pumping bass lines, 'Fistful of nothing' threatens to be the best song OMS have ever written. Like 'Fish out of water' from their last album, it's got a quiet little verse that bursts into a spiralling chorus, complete with bouncing bass notes. Sadly, after that immediate onslaught, "One lie fits all" takes a tragic turn for the worse. 'Revolution', like 'We Bounce', is typical OMS, but it's lacking in any sort of push. Two songs that could level jungles live, but struggling against the confines of a restricting production here. 'The way back' is horribly boring and 'You so much as move' is less of a threat than a whimper. 'Into our own' has a catchy, bouncing chorus and 'The hill is a hole' is like political poetry with a delicate musical backdrop, but it's too little too late. One Minute Silence, like Machinehead, still manage to demolish venues live. Producer John Leckie may have labelled "One Lie..." as "the best ever", but, in all honesty, it is a poor follow-up to the excellent "Buy now, saved later". There is just far too much dead weight holding down the good songs.

Ken McGrath

Matchbook Romance - West For Wishing (Epitaph)
The debut EP from Matchbook Romance couldn't come at a better time musically. The post-hardcore/emo wave has almost reached its initial crest. It won't be long now before the fake bands come along and steal the sound, watering it down and selling it by the lorry load to unsuspecting kids whose Linkin Park hoodies are starting to get a little frayed and dull. The last thing you want to be is a band that comes along after the scene has broken through the crust of the underground and you get labelled as a band-wagon jumper. Luckily for them, Matchbook Romance appear to have some of the musical muscle needed to shrug off the detractors. Unfortunately, they don't have the strength yet to push their way clear of all criticism and join those at the front of the pack. While tracks such as 'The Greatest fall (of all time)' and 'Hollywood & vine' are well written and powerful in the standard clear vocal/loud vocal interplay, with a little punky guitar in the back, they have little to distinguish them from the rest of the bunch. That said '14 balloons' is so short and infectious you have to play it over and over, just to let the full effect wash over you. At the moment, Matchbook Romance aren't going to leap out and convert just any passer-by, but with a little musical maturity they just might learn to. A band worth keeping a watchful eye on.

Ken McGrath

Mushroomhead - XIII (Universal Records)
When they first threatened to burst out of the underground, they were compared to Slipknot. Why, because they wore masks and make-up to disguise their identities. Like Slipknot, they claimed this was because they wanted people to focus on the content over the image. Really, though, all comparisons to Slipknot were unfounded. Mushroomhead are nowhere near as heavy as the 'Knot. If they should be compared to anyone else, that band should be Faith No More. In fact, Mushroomhead couldn't sound more like Faith No More if wanted to. They have the exact same guitar sound, the same vocal style and have lifted FNM's keyboard approach so exactly, they should be done for plagiarism. This is where the comparisons end. Mushroomhead's songs are not a patch on the groundbreaking and hugely influential material that FNM released. While the previous album had songs like 'Soltaire unravelling' that could at least spark an interest, "XIII" has nothing. The whole way through, you could actually be forgiven for thinking you are listening to a collection of outtakes from FNM's 'The Real Thing'. Even at their best, like on 'Nowhere to go', they are merely treading ground previously pissed, shit and vomited on by Mike Patton in FNM and Tomahawk. Sadly, Mushroomhead have nothing original to offer listeners. This is an album no-one need own. I do like their name though.

Ken McGrath

7th Nemesis/Punishment - Chronicles of A Sickness (Skull Fucked Productions)
Fancy some high-speed death metal? Then come take a look at 7th Nemesis from France. Blast beats, growled vocals and buzz saw guitars are the name of the game here. It's not groundbreaking stuff, but it's far from terrible. Nifty little time changes and spinning riffs explode all over the place throughout 'Consuration of blades (Semper eadem)', before gliding into a choppy section just under two minutes in, that would do Slayer proud. Bizarrely 'Blood drops in heaven' begins by tearing up the blueprint. It opens quietly, with a gentle guitar melody devoid of all distortion and with crisp drumming. The vocals are clean, a sense of Pete Steele and Mike Patton coming through. When you expect the song to explode, it doesn't, instead throwing up some Spanish sounding scales, then it erupts. Sporadic at first, then full on, the sort of thing that Opeth and Katatonia fans will appreciate. A nice way to round things off. Younger and newer metal fans who are intrigued by what bands like Chimaira are doing, but want something just that tiny bit rougher then 7th Nemesis should prove worth rooting out.
Punishment are more of a mid-paced death metal behemoth. Their first track, 'Godsick', is strange. What first hit me was the vocals, they sound like a dog barking way off in the distance. No very good I know. But that's not it, there was something gnawing at me, then I realised. They sound just like this bootleg live CD I have of Sepultura playing at the Pink Pop Festival, Holland in 1996. Well not exactly like them. It's more as if Sepultura (with Max at the helm of course) were jamming songs from 'Arise' and 'Chaos AD' in an old rusty shed at the bottom of your garden. While this is no bad thing, it can be a bit distracting. It doesn't all sound like this and actually, as their songs progress, they get better. 'The Enemies behind' has some nice pure death metal moments, but again, it's the vocals that detract. Again, though, there's a moment in the chorus when I'd swear I'm listening to someone else, but can't for the life of me think who it is. Punishment do what they do and they do it well, I just get the feeling that some of what they do has been fleeced off other bands. At the end of the day, I have to admit that they are an intriguing and interesting band and their six songs are worth the price of the CD alone. Just don't forget about 7th Nemesis.

Ken McGrath

Byatis - In Dark Abysses of Memory (Skull Fucked Productions)
French label Skull Fucked has long been the source of great European metal so extreme and so underground, you'd need a divining rod and a JCB to find a lot of it. One of those such bands is Byatis, purveyors of brutal, death metal, but with enough elements of grind and prog thrown in to keep it interesting. Opener 'Glorification of life' does little to whet the appetite though, being merely standard grindcore, albeit with some widdley bits that could probably be classed as prog. Following on from this comes "The empire is..." and well, it's a damn fine mix of twisting lead guitars, sewn through with interesting drum fills and "help, I'm trapped in a cellar and I'm going to eat your face" type growls. A buzzing insanity that shoves at the confines of grind while firing in a few death metal influences. Some Arch Enemy-style guitar mutes dominate the middle section before jumping into an erratic lead, which comes along like a distant Slayer solo.
'Waiting' is another high-speed romp through memories dark abysses, but somehow I feel like I've heard it all before. It's left to the Nornes trilogy ('Urd', 'Verandi' and 'Skuld') then to save the day and they actually do. 'Urd' flails around wildly, grabbing influence from every side, yet it never loses sight of the main objective. Crazy, fast guitars and screeching notes vie for space beside rock steady drumming that switches time signatures, then stops and starts maniacally, as if wondering what the hell it's trying to do, then remembering and ploughing off out into the street. 'Verandi' is more formulaic, but that doesn't hold it back from wanting to stomp on your face, while 'Skuld' pretends to be refined, but can't help itself from bursting into ridiculous death metal passages every now and then. Not an essential album then, but, hey, if you've got a few euros to spend and want some extreme metal you could do a lot worse.

Ken McGrath

Calm Insanity - Calm Insanity (Casket Music)
It opens with some Aphex Twin type blips and swirls, like R2-D2 tying to tune in to an Gabba DJ's set and then over the next nine songs fails to take off properly. There are a few good ideas mixed in here, but they are as of yet not fully formed. Stop start riffing, with dance influences buried somewhere just under the surface and angry, punch you in the face vocals is the order of the day here. In fact, they sound not very dissimilar to Ireland's own Superskin. That is most likely enough to turn most people off, but there also appear to be elements of One Minute Silence, Clawfinger and Coal Chamber in there too. Calm Insanity don't appear to be plagiarising though, it's more as if they are playing the magpie. 'My disease' is a poor song, built on a simple single riff structure, while 'Though a child's eye' repeats the same unfortunate wavy pattern over and over, breaking into a nice metal section, then retreating again. It makes the song almost unbearable to listen to. 'Never gave', in the hands of a more musically mature band, would be quite good. Here it threatens greatness, but is too devoid of strength to reach the level it could. All in all, a very lacklustre collection. Time could yet prove me wrong, but at the moment these boys are more calm than insane.

Ken McGrath

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