Monday, July 28, 2003

Review: Superthrive - 2-Song Sampler (2003)

Superthrive [ MySpace ]
2-Song Sampler

Really not even a demo, the two-song sampler disc I received from Superthrive mainwoman Sue Karlik is a prelude to the demo that the band is currently recording in studio. A significant amount of interest in this Jersey City band was sparked at both the local and national levels after the modest success of their debut album Seven Songs For Sinners and the follow-up live album Live At CBGB's, prompting well-known producer and guitarist Chris Goss (Kyuss, Masters Of Reality, Queens Of The Stone Age) to express his desire to work with the band on a future album.

In the meantime, Superthrive has been floating this 2-song teaser to tide us over until the final touches of their demo are complete. Comprised of "Stitches" and "Stratofortress", the disc heralds an ever-so-slight departure from the sound prevalent throughout their earlier albums. Where Seven Songs For Sinners and Live At CBGB's featured primarily fuzzy guitars, the songs offered here have a more garage rock sound akin to The White Stripes or The Used. Superthrive successfully incorporates these more "alternative" elements into their heavy core sound, however, due in no small part to Sue's flashy licks and confident leads. The rhythm section of Raku (drums) and Fernando Rosario, Jr. (bass) delivers a complex yet tight groove, and singer Matt is simply overpowering with his raw and emotive style.

The potential Superthrive has displayed thus far is exciting, to say the least. Their outstanding work ethic and industrious self-promotion has the band poised for a much-deserved breakthrough.

Track Listing
1 Stitches
2 Stratofortress

Saturday, July 19, 2003

Review: Wycked Synn - The Vision (2003)

Wycked Synn [ MySpace ]
The Vision
Chavis Records

For fans of melodic metal, the mid-'80s were the Golden Age of the genre. Bands such as Dokken, Mötley Crüe, Cinderella, and Ratt were selling out arenas with their guitar-driven harmonies and high-octane vocals. Wycked Synn has reached back in time to record an album that relives the sound of days gone by while incorporating modern power metal elements to create music that is both familiar and fresh.

Founding member Ken Orth is a guitar virtuoso with more than 15 years experience in the heavy metal world. It is clearly evident that his roots are firmly planted in the George Lynch school of shred, as The Vision is packed with blistering solos and tricky rhythms reminiscent of Lynch himself. Ken's thorough understanding of the melodic metal genre is clear, taking into consideration the fact that he tracked all of the instruments himself.

The Vision is a loose concept album that follows a man's suffering as he faces the consequences of making bad decisions in life. Gary Grant, who recorded the vocals after all of the instruments had already been tracked, delivers the lyrics with gripping emotion and remarkable range. Sounding at times like Dave King of Fastway and very early Vince Neil, Grant certainly has a sound all his own but perfectly at home in the style of metal produced by Wycked Synn. The first song to stand out is the title track. The driving riffs reminded me of Night Songs-era Cinderella, yet Ken pours in his creativity by incorporating furious power metal shredding and elegant keyboards. Next up is "Let It Rain", a strong power ballad featuring a duet with an unknown female singer who has a voice similar to Lita Ford. Since I received a promo copy with no liner notes, I can't say exactly who the voice belongs to but hopefully the full album will shed some light on the subject. In the tradition of Yngwie, "K.M.A." is an instrumental tune showcasing Orth's considerable skill with the six-string. Whereas some guitar "heroes" seem to lose their listeners in these situations, Ken's soaring and dipping leads mesh perfectly with the rest of the instrumentation. "In My Mind" is one of the heaviest tracks on the album, with forceful riffs and pummeling double-bass.

All-in-all The Vision is a solid album of melodic metal done '80s style. The production is excellent and there isn't a song on the album that I'd consider to be filler. Some can argue that this style of metal is dated, but as evidenced by the multitude of "reunion" tours that have criss-crossed the country in the past couple of years I would say there is definitely a market for it - especially an album as fresh and flawless as The Vision.

Track Listing
1 Into The Darkness
2 Tell The Tale
3 The Vision
4 Let It Rain
5 If You Said Goodbye
6 Evil Ways
7 K.M.A.
8 Til The End
9 In My Mind
10 Unchosen Path
11 The Savior

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Thursday, July 17, 2003

Review: Type O Negative - Life Is Killing Me (2003)

Type O Negative [ Website | MySpace ]
Life Is Killing Me

It's been 4 years since Type O Negative has delivered a full-length studio album. I was very eagerly anticipating the release of Life Is Killing Me as it was supposed to herald a departure from the bleak dirges of World Coming Down and a return to the Bloody Kisses / October Rust sound that fans of Goth Metal can't get enough of. The album arrived and I, almost reverently, slide it into my CD player - to find disappointment. Where was "Christian Woman"? Where was "Be My Druidess"? Where was the return to the sound that I had been longing for? Then I played the album again and the subtleties became less subtle. Life Is Killing Me is not a clone of Type O's most successful albums but an even further refinement of the bands unique Goth Metal style, taking the best elements of those aforementioned albums and combining them to create a disc which delivers that recovery from World Coming Down that I had so hoped for.

Since Bloody Kisses, Type O has traditionally led off each album with some sort of brief aural jape. Life Is Killing Me strays only slightly from the traditional with "Thir13teen", a bit of music from "The Munsters" TV show played as only Type O could. Right on the heels of this intro is "I Don't Wanna Be Me", a song that can best be described as pop-punk of the sort currently fashionable on America's "alternative" radio - but incorporating all of the standard Type O influences such as the lush keyboards of Josh Silver and the ultra-fuzzy down-tuned guitar of Kenny Hickey. This song is the most accessible of the album and a likely candidate for radio airplay. "Less Than Zero" draws heavily on late-60's Beatles psychedelia, incorporating instruments such as the sitar and tambura into the mix. A groovy little riff introduces us to "Todd's Ship Gods (Above All Things)", a candid glimpse into mainman Peter Steele's relationship with his father. This song is an excellent example of the overall mood of Life Is Killing Me - catchy riffs and memorable choruses masking dark, somber lyrics producing feelings of hopeful despair and joyous sorrow. One of the key elements to Steele's writing is his sarcastic and most often in-your-face sense of humor. "I Like Goils" is his tongue-in-cheek response to the occasional interest shown him by members of the homosexual community. Here again Type O display a very punky sound without compromising their core Goth style. Former Type O skin-pounder Sal Abruscato returns to provide backing vocals on this track. Steele demonstrates his talent with the bass on "...A Dish Best Served Coldly", a song which he describes as a revenge anthem and one which fits in with the bands more doomy ambiance. The title track, a very disdainful look at the greed and sense of detachment that pervades the medical care industry in America, is classic Type O with unconventional and complex song structures built upon Josh's lush keyboards and Steele's multifaceted baritone. Where "Todd's Ship Gods" dealt with Steele's relationship with his father, "Nettie" is a somber tribute to his mother's life and, ultimately, her struggle with impending mortality. Steele digs to the deepest register of his powerful voice yet at times reaches back up to his melodic mid-range delivery, enveloping the listener in "real" emotion. Certainly the most emotionally moving track on the album. "Electrocute" is a very popish Goth-rock tune combining more Beatles-style psychedelia with Silver's elegant keys and Steele's sing-along choruses. Lyrically, Steele laments about the lost love of a girl from Coney Island - sound familiar? Another Type O tradition has been the inclusion of one cover song on each album since Bloody Kisses. On Life Is Killing Me, we're treated to the bands rendition of "Hedwig's Angry Inch". Not really up to par with "Cinnamon Girl" or "Summer Breeze", the Drab Four's version is still quite amusing and fitting, given their slightly skewed sense of humor. Wrapping up the album is "The Dream Is Dead", a plodding yet melodic grieving over love gone sour.

For fans of Type O Negative, purchasing Life Is Killing Me is a must as this is clearly their best album since October Rust. Those not already familiar with the bands dark, cynical attitude and truly unique style of Goth metal may want to start with the Bloody Kisses and October Rust albums before being able to fully appreciate the intricacies of their latest opus.

Track Listing
1 Thir13teen
2 I Don't Wanna Be Me
3 Less Than Zero
4 Todd's Ship Gods (Above All Things)
5 I Like Goils
6 ...A Dish Best Served Coldly
7 How Could She?
8 Life Is Killing Me
9 Nettie
10 (We Were ) Electrocute
11 IYDKMIGTHTKY (Gimme That)
12 Angry Inch
13 Anesthesia
14 Drunk In Paris
15 The Dream Is Dead

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Tuesday, July 8, 2003

Review: Sons Of Poseidon - Live By The Sword (2001)

Sons Of Poseidon [ Website | MySpace ]
Live By The Sword

Sons Of Poseidon  is a band that is a classic case of why not to judge a book by its cover. The album cover art (which is outstanding), the name of the album, and even the band name all scream Power Metal that drips with fantasy and mythological themes. Buying into that assumption would be a serious mistake, as these three guys from North Dakota dish out a seriously heavy chunk of ass-kicking thrash sure to get your fist pumping and your head banging. Their press kit doesn't go into much detail about the bands history, but they certainly have begun to establish themselves in the upper echelons of the underground. The bands music has been featured on several extreme sports shows, including ESPN's X-Games and MTV.

Live By The Sword leaps furiously from the speakers with the aggressive opening to "Expiration Date". Even at this early stage of the album, Carter Evenson's raw vocals and wild leads really define the sound of Sons Of Poseidon as a brilliant mixture of old school thrash and modern metal hostility. Comparisons to late-period Testament would not be inappropriate, but S.O.P. manage to keep a constant influx of modern metal vocal style and classic metal riffing and soloing to keep the album fresh and enjoyable. The second track on the album, "Success Through Violence", slows the pace down a bit with chugging riffs and simple yet memorable hooks. My favorite song on the disc, "Kill Shop", drives the tempo up yet again. Carter delivers some superb riffs that show classic AC/DC and Iron Maiden influences, and his solo sounds straight out metal's glory days.

Overall Live By The Sword is a very tight blend of modern and classic thrash elements, resulting in a memorable listening experience. While Carter's vocals and axework obviously stand out, bassist Hat and skinman Dave Johnson are noticeably masters of their craft, providing an unyielding foundation for Carter's unrestrained leads and roller-coaster solos. Sons Of Poseidon are poised to be America's answer to the multitude of Korn and Limp Bizkit clones polluting the radio waves.

Track Listing
1 Eexpiration Date
2 Success Through Violence
3 Kill Shop
4 Sacrifice
5 Mercy
6 Resist
7 1-Man
8 You Won't See Me
9 Suicide Ride
10 Pil Sung

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