Monday, May 30, 2011

Video: Sabaton - Screaming Eagles

Swedish power metal outfit Sabaton has posted a video for "Screaming Eagles". The song comes off the band's fifth studio album, Coat Of Arms, which was released in Europe last week via Nuclear Blast.

For more info: Website | MySpace | Facebook

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Video: Lake Of Tears - Illwill

Sweden's Lake Of Tears have posted a video for the title track off their latest album. Available via AFM Records, Illwill will be released in North America on June 14th.

For more info: Website | MySpace

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Review: U.D.O. - Rev-Raptor (2011)

U.D.O. [ Website | MySpace | Facebook ]

U.D.O. - Rev-Raptor
Mentioning the name Udo Dirkschneider to any true metalhead will be greeted with expressions of recognition, and perhaps even a smirk or two. Although short in stature, the former frontman of Germany's Accept stands tall among heavy metal icons - camouflage pants and all. Made a (metal) household name by the success of Accept's "Balls To The Wall" anthem, Dirkschneider departed that band in 1987 and developed a successful career fronting his own outfit dubbed U.D.O. With a sneering, gravelly voice that is as recognizable as Ozzy Osbourne's or Brian Johnson's (AC/DC), Dirkschneider's twelve studio albums with U.D.O. have consistently embraced a sound that remains true to the Teutonic sound of '80s power metal. Rev-Raptor is the band's thirteenth album and signals little change to U.D.O.'s overall style, though there are some surprises.

Although Dirkschneider fans know what they're going to get - for the most part - with Rev-Raptor, the album is the strongest effort from U.D.O. in years. Songs like "Pain Man", "Terrorvision", and "Dr. Death" vary little from the crushing style the band is known for, delivering plenty of crunchy twin-guitar riffs and sizzling solos from Stefan Kaufmann and Igor Gianola. As the album's odd name and somewhat cartoonish cover art implies, however, there's a distinctly futuristic quality to some of the tracks. "Leatherhead", for example, bears riffs that are quite industrial-like while "Renegade" has a digitized quality to the guitar tone that gives it somewhat of a sterile sound. While such over processing might elicit disapproval from some fans, these tracks burn with just as much heat as classic U.D.O. tunes and strengthen Rev-Raptor though their variety.

Another pleasant surprise found on Rev-Raptor is the track "I Give As Good As I Get", a mid-paced ballad that finds Dirkschneider significantly altering his vocal style. For a guy pushing 60, he's still got a great set of pipes and can hit those high notes with ease. On this particular track, however, Dirkschneider dumps his trademark shrill growl in favor of a clean crooning style and pulls off a big win. The song itself, with a wistful guitar tone, strong solo, and infectious refrain, is an endearingly well-written composition that's made even more noteworthy as a display of Dirkschneider's versatility. There are other points where the album slows a bit, such as the distinctly '80s "Fairy Tales Of Victory" and the lighter-waving anthem "Days Of Hope And Glory" (which is actually the weakest track on Rev-Raptor), but none can hold a candle to "I Give As Good As I Get".

Overall, Rev-Raptor is a crunchy album full of anthemic choruses (such as on "Rock 'N' Roll Soldiers", with its "Balls To The Wall" riffs), extensive solos, and all-around classic heavy metal ass-kickery. If you're already a fan of Dirkschneider or the style in general, then purchasing Rev-Raptor is a no-brainer. For those unfamiliar with this metal legend, the album will serve as an excellent introduction.

Track Listing
4I Give As Good As I Get4:29
5Dr. Death3:56
6Rock 'N' Roll Soldiers4:27
9Pain Man4:04
10Fairy Tales Of Victory4:11
12True Born Winners3:36
13Days Of Hope And Glory4:38
Total Runtime53:24

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Heavy Metal Tuesday: May 24th, 2011

"New Release Day" actually came on Monday this week, but yours truly is sticking to his own schedule. Besides, there's not a whole lot going on this week in terms of standout albums so you might have to fill your Memorial Day Weekend bash soundtracks with older material.

The Best of Week 21, 2011:

In Solitude: The World. The Flesh. The Devil.
(Metal Blade)
The sophomore full-length from Sweden's In Solitude is a journey back in time to the days of Cirith Ungol and Omen. The production is raw, the performances slightly less-than-polished, but The World. The Flesh. The Devil. is an album that fans of retro-styled heavy metal will enjoy.

And now the rest:
Acephalix: Interminable Night [ death metal ]
Book Of Black Earth: The Cold Testament [ death metal ]
Bringers Of Disease: Gospel Of Pestilence [ black metal ]
Devolved: Oblivion [ technical death metal ]
Drainland:...And So Our Troubles Began [ technical hardcore ]
Haemorrhage: Hospital Carnage [ grind ]
Inevitable End: The Oculus [ metalcore ]
Ipsissimus: Way of Descent [ black metal ]
LoNero: j.f.l. [ instrumental shred ]
Ravencult: Morbid Blood [ black metal ]
TNA: TNA [ hard rock ]

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Video: Alestorm - Shipwrecked

Scottish pirate metallers Alestorm have posted a video for "Shipwrecked", a song that appears on the band's upcoming release Back Through Time. Due out on June 14th via Napalm Records, you can check out Harvest Moon Music's review of the album right here.

For more info: Website | MySpace | Facebook

Friday, May 20, 2011

Review: Alestorm - Back Through Time (2011)

Alestorm [ Website | MySpace | Facebook ]
Back Through Time

Pirate-themed heavy metal is a difficult style to categorize. One one hand, the use of accordions, tin whistles, and 18th-century melodies could (and does) lead to bands like Scotland's Alestorm being classified as folk metal. On the other, can an occupation be considered "folk" in the same way that ethnic cultures, such as Irish or Scandinavian, are? It's a grey area, I suppose, and one that these four lads from Perth have been exploiting to their advantage for more than half a decade now. Back Through Time, Alestorm's third full-length album of tales about drunken rabble-rousing, lustful wenching, and all-around nautical skullduggery, is very much an enjoyable listen specifically targeted to metal fans who enjoy a good keelhaul now and again.

Alestorm has always been about propagating the "Pirates of the Caribbean" image through their highly contagious style of power metal, and Back Through Time continues that trend without much deviation. The band's liberal use of accordion-accompanied power metal riffs and flagon-raising gang choruses truly imparts a sense of high seas adventure, with "Shipwrecked" being one of the tracks that best exemplifies Alestorm's style - and, as an added bonus, there's a nice accordion/bass duet to boot. "The Sunk'n Norwegian" features a fantastic use of the tin whistle, along with some seriously meaty riffs from Dani Evans, and as such is another standout track.

Frontman Christopher Bowes has a gruff vocal style that is more than a perfect fit for Alestorm's image, making it easy to envision him as a gnarled old salt. His delivery actually bears a lot of similarities to that of Rolf Kasparek of that other pirate-themed heavy metal powerhouse, Running Wild, though Bowes definitely comes across as the more enthusiastic singer. There's little variation in Bowes' style during the course of Back Through Time, that is until the final, theatrically epic track "Death Throes Of The Terrorsquid". Here he briefly delves into a raspy black metal style to go along with the blast beats from newcomer Peter Alcorn and some tremolo riffing from Evans. Could this be a hint as to the future direction that Alestorm looks to take? Back Through Time opens with a title track (featuring the piratical voice of Lord Jaldaboath himself) that also contains some furious riffing and blast beats, so there may be more brutality in store from the band. "Scraping The Barrel", with its swaying riffs, is a humorously self-examining drinking tune that reflects on just how far a band can ride the wave of pirate metal, so maybe there's a change looming just beyond the horizon.

From start to finish, Back Through Time is a fun album. Just about every track is a highlight, though a couple of them ("Midget Saw" and "Swashbuckled") are just so-so. But with songs like "Rum", a raucous tribute to the Caribbean's tasty potent potable that comes complete with shouts of "Ahoy!", the album remains strong and is recommended for any fan of gritty power metal who has an affinity for occasional booty plundering (and really, who doesn't?).

Track Listing
1Back Through Time5:04
3The Sunk'n Norwegian4:08
4Midget Saw3:19
5Buckfast Powersmash2:34
6Scraping The Barrel4:41
10Barrett's Privateers4:42
11Death Throes Of The Terrorsquid7:47
Total Runtime43:18

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Video: Chaos Beyond - My Sacrifice

The Austrian melodeath outfit Chaos Beyond has posted a video for "My Sacrifice", a song that appears on the band's debut release Confessions Of A Twisted Mind.

For more info: Website | Facebook

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Review: Týr - The Lay Of Thrym (2011)

Týr [ MySpace ]
The Lay Of Thyrm

When I reviewed Týr's Eric The Red back in January of 2004, I was blown away by the Faröese band's seamless integration of folk, power, doom, and progressive strains of metal. At the time, I declared Heri Joensen - Týr's frontman and primary songsmith - to truly be a bard of the modern age. Now, many years and three albums later, Týr return with the epic The Lay Of Thrym and I can honestly say that my opinion of the band hasn't changed in the least. They still manage to weave, almost effortlessly, various metallic threads together into a tightly bound folk metal fabric that is rousing, enveloping, and unshakably infectious.

Some might say that Týr hasn't grown their sound much, if any, from their Eric The Red effort. There's truth to that, though the formula they've hit upon and stuck with remains exceptionally appealing and can be argued is what many bands within the folk metal envelope strive to achieve, though most never do. The band's signature guitar tone, put forth by Joensen and Terji Skibenæs, remains engaging and powerful as do drummer Kári Streymoy's intricate fills. Behind the mic, Joensen once more grasps the listener with his unique style that draws inspiration from both bardic tradition and classic metal crooners. I, for one, am perfectly content that Týr's sound remains untinkered with and wholly enjoyable.

The Lay Of Thyrm, which bears the name of one of the poems of the Poetic Edda, derives some of it's lyrical content from Nordic mythology and folklore but - more so on this album than on previous releases - current events play a large role in driving Joensen's pen to paper. The popular uprisings against tyrannical rule in Saharan Africa and the Middle East are reflected in songs such as "Take Your Tyrant", with the catchiest refrain of the album, and "Hall Of Freedom", an epic track sporting theatrical choruses and solos that are among the disc's most progressive. "Shadow Of The Swastika", which - if you listen closely - shows underlying hints of Third Reich propaganda melodies, steps back into recent history for yet another example of the corruptive nature inherent in absolute power.

Though some of the words allude to the afflictions of our modern world, Týr's music remains steadfastly folkloric. Whether it be the ballad "Evening Star", which compliments the power of the surrounding tracks with its plucky riffs and intricate solos, or the title track and its ethereal guitar tone that conjures up images of mist-enshrouded fjords and menacing longships, each and every song on The Lay Of Thrym combines to form a spectacular album of captivating - and energetic - folk metal. Genre enthusiasts will want this release on their shelves.

Track Listing
1Flames Of The Free4:18
2Shadow Of The Swastika4:24
3Take Your Tyrant3:54
4Evening Star5:05
5Hall Of Freedom4:08
6Fields Of The Fallen5:00
7Konning Hans4:28
8Ellindur Bóndi á Jaðri3:56
9Nine Worlds Of Lore4:05
10The Lay Of Thrym6:49
Total Runtime46:07

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Heavy Metal Tuesday: May 17th, 2011

The pickings are mighty slim this week, making up for some seriously good releases last week I guess. I really wanted to declare the new one from Warrant to be a no-brainer purchase, but it's just not there. Oh well, there's always next week!

The Best of Week 20, 2011:

Demonaz: March Of The Norse
(Nuclear Blast)
Former guitarist for legendary Norwegian black metallers Immortal, Demonaz returns to the genre fronting his own eponymous band. March Of The Norse, the project's debut release, is a highly melodic black metal affair that will appeal to a wide range of metal enthusiasts.

And now the rest:
Across Tundras: Sage [ post-rock ]
Anaal Nathrakh: Passion [ black metal ]
Black 'N Blue: Hell Yeah [ hard rock ]
Enbound: And She Says Gold [ power metal ]
Hell: Human Remains [ heavy metal ]
Necrophagis: Deathtrip 69 [ death metal ]
Putridity: Degenerating Anthropophagical Euphoria [ death metal ]
Samael: Lux Mundi [ symphonic black metal ]
Scar Symmetry: Unseen Empire [ melodic death ]
Warrant: Rockaholic [ hard rock ]

Monday, May 16, 2011

Video: One Without - Pretender

Swedish Gothic metal outfit One Without has posted a video for "Pretender", a song that appears on the band's recently released sophomore full-length album Sweet Relief.

For more info: Website | MySpace | Facebook

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Review: Frantic Amber - Wrath of Judgement (2010)

Frantic Amber [ Website | MySpace | Facebook ]
Wrath of Judgement

Frantic Amber : Wrath of Judgement
The Sweden-based, all-female Frantic Amber is beginning to cause a bit of a stir with their debut EP Wrath of Judgement. The video for the album's title track (which you can view below) is a captivating mixture of beauty and brutality - and is racking up the YouTube views accordingly - but there's much more to this band than corsets and leather. A truly international conglomeration, Frantic Amber boasts members from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Japan. With the majority of the Scandinavian countries represented, there may be an inclination to compare Frantic Amber's sound to any of the plethora of melodeath entities that have emerged from that part of the world. To a degree, such a reference point isn't unwarranted but Wrath of Judgement exhibits a band that is less aggressive, yet no less heavy, than their peers.

Being a melodic death outfit from Sweden with a female singer is sure to bring to mind Arch Enemy, but frontwoman Elizabeth Andrews' style is much more accessible than Angela Gossow's vocal onslaught. While Gossow flails away at the lyrics with hellish fury, Andrews enunciates nicely in a husky, slightly raspy roar. She flirts briefly with a clean delivery style during a short interlude on "The Awakening" and again at the beginning of "Unbreakable", providing an interesting contrast, but she spends the vast majority of the album harnessing her more aggressive abilities.

The pace of Wrath of Judgement is another area where Frantic Amber strays from the genre formula. The songs are mid-paced with appropriately spaced tempo shifts, but never really turn on the afterburners. Emlee (who left the band after the recording of Wrath of Judgement) lays done some solid double-kick from time to time, but you're not going get your teeth knocked out by any blast beats. What you do get, however, is some finely played guitar courtesy of Mio Jäger and Mary Säfstrand. A few of the swirling riffs that these ladies put forth have a bit of nu-ness to them, with some staccato sprinkled here and there, but tracks like "Bloodlust" and "The Awakening" (which is by far the strongest song on the EP) show just how well Jäger and Säfstrand handle their instruments. The melodic twin-guitar riffs of the latter track, coupled with a slightly raw guitar tone, are a highlight as is the noodling solo heard on "Bloodlust". Rounding out the Frantic Amber sound is the discernible contributions of bassist Sandra Stensen, who even gets a bit of a solo on "Unbreakable".

For fans of melodic death metal, Frantic Amber is a band to be aware of as they grow into their sound. Wrath of Judgement, as a debut release, is a solid offering that hints at greater things to come. Don't lose track of these ladies.

Track Listing
1Wrath of Judgement3:37
3The Awakening3:50
5Doomed To Walk This Earth3:22
Total Runtime17:13

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Heavy Metal Tuesday: May 10th, 2011

Quality triumphs over quantity this week, as there are only a handful of metal releases to be had but the majority of them are worth the price of admission.

The Best of Week 19, 2011:

Anvil: Juggernaut of Justice
(The End)
Semi-legendary Canadian thrashers Anvil are back with their 14th studio album. Although the overall pace can't quite match the band's earlier efforts, Juggernaut of Justice is nevertheless a powerhouse of a release certain to please fans of traditionally-styled thrash.

Gates of Slumber: The Wretch
(Metal Blade)
The fifth full-length release from long-running Indiana doomsters Gates of Slumber, The Wretch is classic doom in every sense of the word. Sabbath, Cirith Ungol, Candlemass... if those bands interest you, then this album is a necessary addition to your collection.

Novembers Doom: Aphotic
(The End)
Veterans of the American doom/death scene, Chicago's Novembers Doom return with their eighth full-length release. Aphotic evokes the sound pioneered by bands like My Dying Bride, Katatonia, and Sins Of Thy Beloved while at the same time harnessing the impact of contemporary production values. The Gathering's Anneke Van Giersbergen guests on one track, as does producer Dan Swano.

Portrait: Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae
(Metal Blade)
Old school power metal continues to rise again as bands like Sweden's Portrait continue to issue pummeling releases like Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae. The band's sophomore effort harnesses the spirit of bands like Mercyful Fate and Omen to deliver raw, compelling metal.

And now the rest:
Hate Eternal: Phoenix Amongst the Ashes [ death metal ]
Nazareth: Big Dogz [ hard rock ]
Skold: Anomie [ industrial metal ]

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Video: Factory Of Dreams - Back To Sleep

Portuguese progressive metal duo Factory Of Dreams has posted a video for "Back To Sleep", a song which appears on the band's recently released third full-lnegth album Melotronical.

For more info: Website | MySpace | Facebook

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Video: Arkona - Stenka Na Stenku

Russian folk metal outfit Arkona has posted a video for "Stenka Na Stenku", the title track of their forthcoming EP due out next month on Napalm Records.

For more info: Website | MySpace

Friday, May 6, 2011

Video: Desolate Ways - Regret

Brazilian Gothic metallers Desolate Ways have posted a video for "Regret". The song appears on the band's 2009 release Last Moons, their third full-length album.

For more info: Website | MySpace

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Video: Gypsyhawk - Gypsyhawk

California's Gypsyhawk, who count among their ranks former White Wizzard and Overloaded (from good ol' Detroit, Michigan) guitarist Erik Kluiber, have posted a video for "Gypsyhawk", a song which appears on their debut album Patience and Perseverance. Visit Gypsyhawk's bandcamp page to purchase the album.

For more info: MySpace | Facebook

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Review: Suidakra - Book of Dowth (2011)

Suidakra [ Website | MySpace | Facebook ]
Book of Dowth

Germany's Suidakra is arguably one of the most prolific bands of the folk metal genre, cranking out ten albums in a span of seventeen years, yet they've managed to remain mostly under the radar. Their combination of blackened metal with traditional Celtic melodies and instruments is hardly innovative these days, but with Book of Dowth Suidakra delivers an album that is consistently well-written, marvelously executed, and remarkable for its staying power. A concept album, Book of Dowth tells the dark story of the mythological Irish race known as the Fomorians as depicted by an ancient tome (fictionally) discovered at the Neolithic passage tomb of Dowth (or Dubhadh), which lies near Newgrange in Ireland's Boyne Valley. An interesting premise, for sure, and a key ingredient in the album's overall impact.

Book of Dowth gets rolling with the instrumental "Over Nine Waves". The fantastic blend of epic uillean pipes and menacing riffs makes this the best, and most appropriate, intro that I've heard in ages. The Irish instruments are used sparingly in Suidakra's sound, though when present they are not overwhelming nor do they overshadow the metallic elements. The band instead relies more on melody to generate a sense of mysticism, with atmospheric keyboard accents ranging just beneath the surface of the rousing riffs and urgent beats. Book of Dowth is, therefore, not so much a folk metal album as it as an aggressive power metal album with folkish melodies. Indeed, the strong riffs of "Dowth 2059" and the furious double-kick of "The Dark Mound" are more than enough to enrapture fans of straightforward power metal outfits like Gamma Ray and Grave Digger.

While the riffs put forth by frontman Arkadius Antonik (notice that Suidakra is Arkadius spelled backwards) are stirring, anthemic, and infectious, his vocal versatility is a key ingredient in Suidakra's successful recipe. Predominantly harsh vocals, comprised mainly of howling snarls, are a staple of the Suidakra sound. On Book of Dowth, as on previous albums, Arkadius ventures into cleaner pastures to give the album variety and, at times, poignancy. "Mag Mell" is an acoustic folk ballad that has a bit of a Falconer sound to it, mostly due to Arkadius' lilting baritone, that serves as a fine break from the aggressiveness heard on most of the preceding tracks - though plenty of aggression, most notably on "Fury Fomoraigh", remains ahead. Clean refrains and gang choruses also dot several other tracks, including the martial "Stones Of Seven Suns" and the vigorous "Battle-Cairns", but by and large Arkadius' well-enunciated harsh style dominates the album.

"Biróg’s Oath", a strong track that morphs from a wistful ballad into a rousing Celtic rampage, re-introduces Suidakra fans to the voice of Tina Stabel. Having briefly appeared on the band's 2009 offering Crógacht, Stabel returns to give a strong lead performance on this track - cementing it as one of the standouts on Book of Dowth - as well as contributing an engaging duet with Arkadius on "Mag Mell". Her crooning vocal style, while polished, perfectly suits Suidakra's folkish atmosphere. Although I am a fan of female metal vocals, I think using Stabel only sparingly to provide just a taste of variation was an excellent idea and Book of Dowth is an even stronger album because of it.

Folk metal fans have had a mixed bag of releases to choose from so far this year, but Book of Dowth is one album that rises to the top of the heap and should, without question, be examined by anyone with an interest in the style.

Track Listing
1Over Nine Waves2:00
2Dowth 20594:41
4Biróg’s Oath4:21
5Mag Mell3:22
6The Dark Mound5:17
8Stone Of Seven Suns5:04
9Fury Fomoraigh5:54
10Otherworlds Collide1:44
Total Runtime40:39

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Heavy Metal Tuesday - May 3rd, 2011

First off, let me apologize for missing last week's installment of heavy metal releases. I was pulling a couple of 40-hour shifts at my "day job" which really cut into the time I set aside for Harvest Moon Music. Besides new releases from Primordial and Pegazus, though, there wasn't much to be had so it's on to this week's notable albums.

The Best of Week 18, 2011:

Argus: Boldy Stride The Doomed
(Cruz Del Sur)
The sophomore album from Pennsylvania old-school metallers Argus, Boldly Stride The Doomed is a nostalgic nod to the sound created by notable genre forerunners Slough Feg, Pentagram, Omen, and of course Black Sabbath. A little doomy, a lot retro, this one is a must-have for fans of traditional heavy metal.

Leaves' Eyes: Meredead
If you're at all a fan of Gothic or folk metal, you already know that the latest release from Leaves' Eyes should be in your collection. You can check out Harvest Moon's review right here, but rest assured you will snag this one post-haste.

Suidakra: Book of Dowth
Germany's Suidakra has been delivering Celtic-themed folk metal for over sixteen years now, and with Book of Dowth (the band's tenth studio full-length) their formula remains relatively the same - which is to say that this album will appeal to folk metal fans who crave atmosphere, traditional instrumentation, and slightly more than a dash of blackened aggression.

Twisted Tower Dire: Make It Dark
(Cruz Del Sur)
Make It Dark is the fifth full-length from Twisted Tower Dire and it kicks some serious traditional metal ass. Read Harvest Moon Music's review here, then get this weighty slab of old-school into your collection.

And now the rest:
Artillery: My Blood [ thrash ]
Before The Dawn: Deathstar Rising [ melodic death ]
Faithsedge: Faithsedge [ power/prog ]
Midnattsol: The Metamorphoses Melody [ power metal ] Read Harvest Moon Music's review
Modern Superstar: Under My Skin [ hard rock ]
The Poodles: Performocracy [ hard rock ]
Satan's Host: By The Hands of the Devil [ thrash ]
Septicflesh: The Great Mass [ death metal ]
Shakra: Back On Track [ melodic metal ]
Shaman: Origins [ power metal ]
Sixx: A.M.: This Is Gonna Hurt [ hard rock ]
Solar Fragment: In Our Hands [ power metal ]
Suidakra: Book of Dowth [ folk metal ]
Uriah Heep: Into The Wild [ hard rock ]
Voodoo Circle: Broken Heart Syndrome [ hard rock ]
While Heaven Wept: Fear Of Infinity [ prog ]
Wormrot: Dirge [ grind ]
Xerath: II [ symphonic black metal ]

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Video: Black Majesty - Further Than Insane

Australian power metallers Black Majesty have released a video for "Further Than Insane", a song which appears on the band's 2010 fourth album In Your Honour.

For more info: Website | MySpace | Facebook