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Grade Grade- Headfirst Straight To Hell

Dang...another Grade CD, and at that another good Grade CD. If you were into their past stuff, especially their early sound then I think you will definitely like this. As it seems most bands get softer and softer with each album, Grade has defied the norm and gone heavy all over again. In that they sacrificed a lot of the catchy hooks that were found on their last release. I think though, the listner will not be dissapointed in that Grade has pushed the envelope with their sound once again. I can compare them to no one and I think that helps define how original and just how good this band really is. They play extremely emotional, heavy, original music. Make sure that you check this CD out if you havn't already.

The North Sixty The North Sixty- For a Moment I Saw Clearly
1340 Records

hmmm...the North Sixty...I don't know... I really think that live I would really enjoy this band, but this CD just isn't cutting it for me. You see I like Rock. I have no problem with admitting that straight up. But North Sixty's brand of rock n' roll doesn't get me moving. So, I guess here we go. This CD is a lot of light rock mixed with some distorted guitars. This is a talented band. I think they really know what they are doing. It is just I don't find it to original or inspiring. It tended to bore me a little in parts.

With all that said, this is a very passionate CD. I really appreciate that, and by that I can get into this CD. At times this CD is very spiritual in the atomosphere it creates and the words that are sung. The North Sixty is a Christian Rock band that I think could have greatly benefited from a better recording.

River City Rebels River City Rebels-Playing to Live, Living to Play
Victory Records

Why the horns! Why in the world River City Rebels have horns on this CD I have no idea. Anyway, minus the horns, I really like this CD. Very rocking punk rock that teeters on the edge of respectable radio rock and credible punk rock. Nah...bad example. you go, At times they remind me of watered down Rancid and at other times they remind me a little of Social Distortion. That is Social D with out horns. (Ugh)

I think the title of this album kind of somes the whole disc up. These guys are just here to rock and to have some fun while they are doing it. Not too much posturing here. I really get the feeling that what we have is just an honest expression of the band themseleves. If you are into just some good and fun punk rock. Try these guys out.

Philadelphia Experiment- Tour '01 Demo

Remember when you had shows with Punk and Hardcore bands and nobody really made a fuss. The music was definitely distinct, but there was still enough of both going that it was cool with everyone. Well Philadelphia Experiment brings me back to those kind of shows. Not that they sound like anyone back then, it is just they are a punk rock band that plays it hard. Definitely a street friendly band that brings it hard an in your face. There are plenty of sing a long's, but they are in the form a some gritty chant or anthem. Philadelphia Experiment play street punk/oi that reminds me of a highly caffinated Pressure Point (The band, not an actual pressure point. hehe). Matter of fact Ian's vocals remind me a lot of them. Check'em out.

7-10 Split 7-10 Split- Trial by Stone
Screaming Giant

Oh man!!! I am the biggest jerk. I should have reviewed this and the Jesse and the Rockers CD a long time a go. All apologies, let's just say we were in transition. Anyway...7-10 Split play fast pace pop punk (Instruction Manual) that sounds like... oh wait, 7-10 split play old school hardcore with the vocals and everything (REMI). Nope, I was wrong again, they play a sort of metal...Oh man, what do they play? Either this band is still trying to define their sound or they couldn't care any less to fit into any certain genre. One thing that can surely be said of 7-10 Split is that you can not pigeon hole them into anything besides being Christian. To tell you the truth all the different genre's of music you hear on this disc may actually be one of its strengths because they do them all well and incorporate them all well. That is except for when they try and pull the whole metal-core sound ("Grind Core Kid", "REMI"). Oh man, I don't know what they were thinking with that. Anyway, if you feel like taking a risk on the unknown and unexpected try these guys out. I will say that they provide a fun album that I'm sure they had a blast recording (Despite the fact I struggle listening to this more than a couple times.). My favorite track is probably "Rot and Decay."

Alabaster Alabaster Box-Pre-release forRed

Yes!!! If Weezer and Radio Head were to put an album out together I think this would be somewhere close to the end result. It is something that at first, I found myself saying "What the Heck?" But after the first chord progression it was just a resounding "YES." Alabaster Box completely have got their rocking thing going on, complete unique and original while not too obscure. I totally dig the 5 songs on this CD and can't wait until the full-length. Beware though. If you happen to find yourself to cool for straight rock then steer far from this release. My favorite sound is by far "Ellen and I." Very passionate...

American Nightmare American Nightmare- Background Music
Equal Vision Records

American Nightmare rock! I was really expecting something a lot more metal than this and dang am I glad that expectation didn't ring true. "Background Music" is an excellent metallic hardcore album that is heavy on the Hardcore and light on the metal (Thank goodness.) Although I will admit there is nothing really too ground breaking with this release. Don't get me wrong though, an album does not have to be absolutely musically astonishing to get your head bobbing the whole way through. Also, I don't want to give the wrong impression, they seem to have an original sound for I just can't compare them to anyone. If you are a fan of good hardcore with a little metal thrown in make sure you check these guys out. Lyrically this CD seems to be pretty dark and for the most part they seemed more personal than anything. C!

Jesse Jesse and the Rockers-Madison Road
Screaming Giant Records

Well...this is extremely radio friendly pop punk. Some of you I'm sure can stop reading this now. But for those of you who may be into Blink 182 or Fenix "whats their name," this may totaly be your thing. I do not want to take away from these guys though. This album is extremely tight and they are definitely good at what they do. The vocals are strong and on key. The guitars, for this genre are quite good and the album will keep you swaying the whole way through.

Milton Milton-Swingline

Wow!!! Watch out for these guys! Bone Crushing heavy, low end guitar, Metal. The vocals are half sung (Reminiscent of Mark Solomon) and half screamed (Reminds me of Dan from Zao) which adds a real nice affect because when the singer really lets it out it just carries such a contrast in the music. Actually it is kind of nice to see a singer mix it up a little instead of just pounding us over the head the whole time. Anyway, like I said, watch out for these guys. They are playing a sound that seems to carry over and cross genre lines and will in time attract both metal and hardcore kids. Check'm out!

Ears to the Ground V/A-Ears to the Ground vol.2
Burning Records

Not bad! Not bad at all... "Ears to the Ground Vol.2" is a fairly decent mix of underground sounds, and for the most part each band is pretty good. Standouts are definitely Crutch, Peacekeeper,Decree, Vessel, the Berlin Project, and Broken Free. You should definitely pick this up if you want to support good independent bands. Not only that but there is enough of a mix as far as music goes to keep you interested the whole way through.

Guest Reviews

Embodyment- The Narrow Scope Of Things
Rating 2.5/10

Yuck. First let me start off with how I rated this sucker. First I rated it for an Embodyment CD, then just for a CD in general, as if they had never put out an album before. For an Embodyment it gets a ZERO out of 10. This is NOTHING to their old stuff. For a CD in general it gets a 5, as I am not a big fan of the whole "Emo-Core" thing but it is okay. Average then together and what do you get? 2.5

Iím about to go off on this CD, so if youíre in love with it and donít want to be offended stop reading now. First off, I LOVED Mark Garzaís drumming so much on Embrace The Eternal and the good ole demos. The man has so much skill itís scary. Why am I mentioning this in the "bad" part then? He doesnít use his skills at all. The drumming is so monotonous and boring by comparison it is unreal.

The guitars...*sigh*. How can these be the same axe men? I donít know. The brutality, technicality, and creativity that was Embodyment is gone. Once multi-layered songs with TONS of riffs have been cut down to simple, repetitive crap that does nothing but make me want to put Embrace The Eternal in.

Now for the new element, the vocalist who repleced (replaced? Haha! Tried to is more like it) Kris M. For the "new" Embodyment. His singing voice has him ALWAYS sounding like he has a really bad stuffy nose (not kidding), and his scream sounds like the new singer in Sepultura, whom I also dislike. You are sorely missed Kris...

If youíve never heard Embodyment before, you may think this is good. If you hate real metal, you may think this is good. If you liked the old will be disappointed. I am going to go listen the Embrace and mourn in silence now, waiting for Kris to start a new band as vocalist...
-Daimonas Fonias

Rating - 10/10

I remember waiting for this to come out. I had had Burial and the Mesmerized EP since they had came out, and was drooling with anticipation of this release. I even called my local Christian bookstore a few time to make sure they were going to have it by the realize date. I was one of the people who downloaded the song "Inferno" from the Solid State website before the release of the album...but before it really got spread around on Napster. As good as that song was, nothing could have prepared me for how good this disc was.

More "death" than their previous album, Undeceived is crushingly intense, but still manages to pull off melody and even finesse from time to time. Cellos and violins add a dimension that we rarely see in the death metal genre. Oleís familiar clean vocals make an appearance on three tracks, but are far more polished than they were on Burial. Speaking of allusions to Burial, the bass on Undeceived is mixed higher, giving us more of the "crunchy" metal sound we crave.

Undeceived kicks off with "Inferno." This song starts the album right, and has dual vocals through much of it. Tor Magne, also of Lengsel and Extolís new bassist, lends his wicked black metal shrieks to the song. Itís too bad that they donít do this on more of the songs, but it makes "Inferno" even sweeter.

If I had to pick a few standout tracks (and this is hard to do because theyíre all good) I would go with "Of Light And Of Shade," "Ember," and "Shelter." "Shelter" is a song I would have never have expected Extol to play: itís very "doomy" and not much at all like their other songs, save the fact that it is still extraordinarily good. Normally I do not like distorted vocals but on this song they sound good, and the fact that Peter does not overuse them makes them better.

The vocals are more consistent than on Burial, and either layering or lots of back-up vocals are used to make them even more intense. The guitars are incredible thanks to the guitar demi-god Ole...who unfortunately left the band a while after this was released...and Christer. The bass is far more apparent than it was on Burial due in part it seems to the mix but I think it may have much to do with Tor Magne joining up. The drums are about ten or so THOUSAND miles an hour, as usual.

There is only one shortcoming to this album: the track "Abandoned." Not written by anyone in Extol (written by Sanctum actually), it doesnít seem to flow with the rest of the album. I am not a fan of industrial noise to begin with. The fact that itís not written by Extol, and the fact that it is so short, to me warrants not giving the album anything less than a 10 even though itís on here.
-Daimonas Fonias

Lengsel- Solace
Rating - 8.5/10

Ice cold black metal from Norway. Do you really need to know more? Well, Tor Magne the guitarist/vocalist is in Extol too. Interested yet? I was too. This CD will not disappoint you unless:

A) You cannot stand bad production, in which case black metal really not the genre for you to begin with.

B) You insist on having the lyrics to your music being 100% blatant and do not like metaphorical depictions of Christianity.

Why did I add the last one? I have seen LOTS of people complaining about this band not being Christian "enough." To me, these lyrics are nothing short of inspirational, but I suppose it all depends upon your outlook on the world. Lengsel has a dark outlook, but there is no hope in this world after all. There is only hope in the next realm, and Lengsel exemplifies that to me.

Musically this album is great, and I doubt too many people will argue that with you. An overall feeling of "cold" fills the guitars. The drums are good, and the occaisonal keyboards add to the dark atmosphere the band creates. If you like black metal (or Unblack if you insist on calling it that), or any dark type of metal...get this now.
-Daimonas Fonias

No Innocent Victim-Tipping The Scales
Overall Rating - 6.5/10

Okay, donít let the rating deceive you, this is a good CD. The only problem with it is that with 11 songs, it is only a whooping 22 minutes long. Iíve come to expect that from NIV, but be warned that this CD ends way to fast. All things considered, I have some 5 song Eps that are a LOT longer than this.

More aggresive than their previous album, Flesh And Blood, it seems what they were going for was to give your head the feeling that it had beem slammed hard against a brick wall over and over and over...about 11 times to be exact. The vocals have much improved, and their singer no longer is extremely slurry like he was on their last effort (which, for the record, was about 24 minutes long).

The drumming is good, but nothing impressive. Just a typical bass-snare-bass-snare hardcore beat most of the time. The guitars, as one would expect, are aggresive and oddly enough, remind me of Fear Factory at times! That was something I would never have expected on a hXc album like this, but this is a good thing. They in no way sound like a FF ripoff, but there is some similarity in the guitar deparment. If only their drummer sounded like Raymond Herra... The mix/production of this album lets you hear the bass lines loud and clear, and I love tough guy/old school hardcore bass.

In conclusion, the album is good, but it too short. Although making the songs themselves longer might take away from NIVís unbridled intensity, adding more tracks would would probably motivate a lot more people to buy this album. If it was about 10 or so minutes longer this would be an incredible CD.
-Daimonas Fonias

Premonitions of War-s/t (AE1001)
Accendere Et Interficiere

I walked into Vibes music (located in Indianapolis IN) to buy my montly dose of metal/hardcore madness. The owner, who shall remaine nameless, threw this CD on the counter and said "if you don't like this band after you hear it, i'll give you your money back!" How could i turn that down? 7 dollars for a CD is a deal any way you look at it. The owner than proceeded to tell me that he had seen the band live and it blew him away. So needless to say i was anxious.

I got to my car and put the CD in. At this point i should've exited the parking lot and proceeded on with my lunch hour erronds. But i didn't. I sat in the parking lot for over 9 minutes with my jaw hanging to the floor.

Yes it is that good.

The best way to describe them is Isis on amphetimines or cocaine. They have that incredibly heavy sound that most band only dream about. It's one of those "get in, get your dome rocked, and get out" type of CDs. It definatlly leaves you wanting more.
-Mike D.

Soapbox- A Divided Man
Rating - 5/10

Swedish hardcore/punk! Donít listen to this expecting another Blindside, but they are good at what they play (then why a 5? Believe me, if I give a punk band a 5 itís good...for punk). The vocalist will take some getting used to if youíre not accustomed to that odd yell-ish scream/sing thing that they use for almost all of the album. There are a few parts with clean vocals...but unfortunately they are not too well performed. The best part of this album, in my humble opinion, has to be the bass lines. While not overly difficult or technical, they are just plain cool sounding. Listen to "Guilty" or "Black Roses" to get what Iím saying.

There are a few tracks on this disc that totally rub me the wrong way...for example I cannot stand "Way Too Much, Way Too Sick" at all. I find the overall sound of that song annoying. "Smorgasbord" is another one like that. If youíre really into the whole Swedish punk thing...this album is for you. If you like Selfmindead then you will probably LOVE these guys (they are better by far). If you like Blindside you may like them (but they just arenít on the same level).
-Daimonas Fonias

Suicide Note-Come On Save Me
Hawthorne Street Records

I wasn't real sure what to expect when I bought this CD. I was only familiar with a few songs I had heard on comps and 7". To say I like this CD is an understatement. I love it. 6 songs in just under 13 minutes, you can't beat that. From the dissonant, noisy to the metal/hardcore, every song just works. I can't quite put my finger on why it all works. One of the main things that i do like is the vocals. I've never really been into "screamy" hardcore, but Casey Donelys vocals are superb, and the guitars are excellent as well. Just enough metal to keep me happy, oh yeah, there's a guitar solo too!!!!!! (listen to songs 2 and 6). You should buy this cd, fans of all different types of hardcore will love it.
-Mike D.

Zao- [Self-Titled]
Rating - 9/10

The newest CD by Zao, originally titled Alive Is Dead, makes up for some of the shortcomings of Liberate Te Ex Inferis, but brings in a few new ones of its own. To start off, I have always liked Danís vocal style, but he has always come across as somewhat lmited in terms of overall range to me, as he used to stay in the same range most of the time. On [Self-Titled], this is no longer an issue. Now Danís range extends from low, death metal flavored growls which are used from time to time to the shrill, raspy, beyond-black metal shrieks we have come to expect from him. Overall, the vocals on [Self-Titled] are extremely varied. On songs like "5 Year Winter" they are intense beyond belief, but on some of the tracks we hear from Dan vocals we would never expect to hear on a Zao CD. "The Dreams That Donít Come True" is almost half-clean singing. "Witchhunter" is all eerie whisper/talking. "FJL", although listed as an instrumental (?) is not and has more clean vocals. The shortcomings of the vocals on this disc are limited to one track: "The End Of His World." This would be one of the best songs on the album, but the background vocals in the chorus (done by Jessie) are nothing short of annoying. In a voice that sounds like a cross between a punk singer and Rage Against The Machineís vocalist he repeatedly sings (more like whines) "She didnít know he was gonna die". I know Jessie can do better than these, and I have no idea what possessed the guys to have him do this type of vocals on this album.

Now for the instruments. The drums are, as usual, nothing short of spellbinding. Jessie Smith strikes me as one of the best drummers on the Christian market today, and is better than about 95% of those on the secular market as well. I would place Jessie up there with David Husvik (Extol), Mark Garza (Embodyment), and Craig Smilowsky (Immolation) even if he doesnít use the insane speed that weíre used to from those three most of the time. His talent is still incredible nonetheless. Some people will complain about the electric drum kit he uses on this album, but I love it. And anyone who knows drums knows that triggers are not a crutch and will not let you go any faster than you would be able to otherwise. The guitars are in general heavier than on Liberate on the more aggresive songs of this album, but also have more melodic part than before. There are a few parts with lead that are much better than what we have heard from Zao in the past. The only real shortcoming of the guitars is the fact the the acoutic intro to "The Race Of Standing Still" sounds way too much like some of the intros they have done in the past. Listening to it closer will reveal that it is in fact different, but at first it sounds really close.

Lyrically, this is my favorite Zao album to date. One song that you will most likely hear a lot of fans complaining about in this department is "Trachcanhands (Keyboard Cowards)" in which the guys let off steam about the people who spread rumors about them on the internet. For those of you who frequent any heavy Christian music message board or chat room, you know EXACTLY what I am talking about. This happens way too much. I for one am glad they wrote this song. Hereís an excerpt from it: "You think because you bought the record, you read a list of thanks, you can judge our lives (youíve identified). A favor we provide. Little forum boys, with your polished cyber toys." I hope the rumor spreadors get over themselves and listen to this song. Maybe then theyíll stop. The rest of the album has Danís typical dark approach to the lyrics. "5 Year Winter" deals with what sound like a messy break-up, "A Tool To Scream" is an anti-abortion song. My favorite song lyrically is "The Race Of Standing Still," which is about racing towards oneís goals.

Overall, this is my favorite Zao album to date. The best tracks (in no particular order) are: "5 Year Winter," "A Tool To Scream," and "The Dreams That Donít Come True." This blows the heck out of any "Nu-Metal" out there.
-Daimonas Fonias

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