Friday, December 21, 2007


Well folks, it's that time again! We're reaching the end of yet another year of music and with that in mind, it's time for us all to go on record & make fools of ourselves salivating over a handful of the better platters of '07. So, send in your Top Ten long-players (CD's, albums, whatever you want to call 'em). The only requirement is that they were released in 2007 (I know there is sometimes a sticking point over the date on the back of disc... e.g., sometimes something is dated 2006 and actually isn't available until 2007. What we're looking for is things that became available during know what I mean. Anyhoo, send in your Top 10 list to my email: The cut-off date is Jan 31, 2008 for the simple reason that we give you till the end of the year and then a little time to get your thoughts in order. Then, right after Jan 31, I'll publish the results of the poll, plus my own Top 10 for those of you who give a dern. BE SURE TO INCLUED YOUR POSTAL MAILING ADDRESS IN YOUR EMAIL! Anyone who sends in a Top 10 by Jan 31, 2008 will receive a kewl surprise from me in the mail shortly thereafter! So, list away! Again, send the Top 10 and your mailing address to:

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Have a Happy Holiday or Be Possessed By Satan!

HIGHBINDER – “Moreneverthanever” CD ’07 (Private, US) – I had a freakin’ feeling this was going to happen. Ever just get one of those? Back in 2004 when I got a package in the mail from Sin Klub Records, I listened to a couple OK discs and was about to sit ‘em aside for a bit when I stuck in the last one and got a pleasant surprise. Well, that was the understatement of the year, actually. HIGHBINDER from Michigan/Ohio had delivered “All The Way To Hell,” a sterling CD full of metalized rawk and laced with interesting lyrics & mega-cool guitar work. While I couldn’t put my finger on it exactly, that’s about when I got “the feeling.” While “ATWTH” sure was fine, I thought the next one could be “the bizz.” Nearly 3 years later, HIGHBINDER has self-released their sophomore album & it is “the bizz” to about the 10th power. Are the nasty, metallic riffs still there? Yup. How ‘bout the sharp lyrical sense? Sure ‘nuff, just take in “Ebony & Irony,” Hang ‘Em High” & “Whaler.” Still, the factors that raise this album to an exponential level are different. Check out the far more aggressive vocal style that hits right between your eyes on “Burning The Camel At Both Ends.” Listen to the light & shade present in “I Never Sleep,” incorporating a decidedly country feel into the heavy proceedings & having it work. Then you’ve got the nearly industrial “W.L.I.E. TV,” the dark, swirling 8-minute maelstrom of “Whaler” and a truly scary version of John Entwhistle’s “Boris The Spider” closes things up. Through it all, I’m super-impressed by the guitar work of Andrew Clark & Jon Kuhlman. These guys are great because, without dishing out oodles of traditional solos, they raise the bar very high with an awesome blend of crushing riffs & subtle melodic underpinnings. It’s funny, with most bands we tend to worry about the “sophomore slump.” With HIGHBINDER, however, I’m wondering how they can up the ante even more next time around, as these guys are on a massive upward curve that’s already reaching stratospheric heights. Stunning. Rawk. Buy. Now.

BRAIN POLICE – “Beyond The Wasteland” CD ’07 (Small Stone, Swe) – What is it my 13 year old geography wiz told me? Greenland is ice & Iceland is green? Seems I also recall a buddy giving me the heads-up on saving a boatload of cash by taking Icelandic Air to Europe. So, I was thinkin’…dangerous, I know, but wouldn’t it be cool if this 4-piece from Iceland really rawked? Well, it would’ve. As it is, BRAIN POLICE are ok and that’s about it. “Beyond The Wasteland” is smack-dab in the middle of mediocrity. Competent playing, by-the-numbers riffs & so-so vocals make this sound like the Son Of The Return From Beneath The Planet Of Kyuss’ Younger Brother. And, as Van Morrison would say, all the tea in China can’t change that.

PUNY HUMAN – “Universal Freak Out” CD ’07 (Small Stone, US) – Much better of a release for the Small Stone folks is this new effort by PUNY HUMAN. Having spent awhile attending to personal issues must’ve been good for these guys as “Universal Freak Out” is the best of their 3 efforts thusfar. Sure, there’s a generous dollop of what could be called “stoner” here, but in the case of PH, it falls more on the Deep Purple side of the fence than the over-done Sab-aping area. Moreover, the PUNY bunch inject songs like “Wake Of Williamsburg” & “The Bus Will Eventually Crash” with a definite punk ethic, rising to near-Devo levels of kewl quirkiness at points. A nice surprise.

HAUNTED GEORGE – “Pile O’ Meat” CD ’07 (Hook Or Crook, US) – Ok, here’s the deal. Should a small, padded brown envelope show up in your mailbox with the return address of one George Pallow, don the following: Carefully…VERY CAREFULLY, open one end of the parcel &…LISTEN TO ME, DAMN IT! ARE YOU BEING CAREFUL?! You cannot move quickly and possibly jar this thing. Now…like I was saying…gently slide the jewel case out of the envelope. There you go. Now take your time and open the lid slowly. Remove the CD and…JESUS!!! HOLD IT STEADY, WHAT ARE YOU CRAZY??!!! Now lower it into your player. Take your remote and walk like 50 feet back &, yeah, that’s a good idea, better move to one side or the other. Ok, raise the volume as high as it’ll go, pull on your flame-retardant visor & hit “play.” Duck. Seriously, this one man wrecking crew called HAUNTED GEORGE is probably the most sonically devastating solo act out there and could easily not only hold his own with, but obliterate most 3 or 4 man combos on the planet. See, HAUNTED GEORGE takes a guitar, plugs it into an amp thru a few effects, adds a kick-drum & a microphone and proceeds to unleash a torrent of honkin’ musical proportions that could snow under a freight train. Blasting distorted rockabilly riffs that sound as if they were ripped from an open wound, he howls over them in a voice that could only come from the woods deep in the night and sets it all in motion with an insistent, nerve-rattling drum-slam that would wake the dead if they weren’t scared silent already. As vile as the first Venom album and as honest & real as Johnny Cash, songs like “Torture,” “Moaning Behind The Door” and “Pit Of Death,” not to mention “My Penance” (Jesus, this one is immense) are beyond what the word “lethal” was ever intended to describe. The fact that one guy with modest equipment could make a band like Opeth run crying to their mothers is at once awesome and terrifying. As an aside, keep this one close to the player next October 31 as you could have some fun scaring the hooligans away from your house with it. At the same time, I have a feeling that if you’re of the intense musical ilk, “Pile O’ Meat” will still be high on your playlist by then anyway. I need more of this guy’s stuff asap, as I have a new hero and his name is HAUNTED GEORGE!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Here's 50-year-old Ray with more REVIEWS!

SKELETONWITCH - "Beyond The Permafrost" CD '07 (Prosthetic, US) - Ohio used to have a good rep back in the '70's with monsters like Poobah & Morly Grey hailing from there. SKELETONWITCH are rumbling down the same interstates these days, but with a musical pedigree that is a bit different from bluesy '70's hard rock. If you think in terms of technical-yet-powerful Bay Area thrash, add in a generous dollup of head-turning double lead guitar work and finish it off with vocals that sound like a completely insane person locked in a rusty cage without food or water for a day or two (um...that's a good thing), you may end up somewhere "Beyond The Permafrost." What I especially like about these guys is the fact that while they really know how to play their asses off from a technical standpoint, they also cut right to the chase and blast out songs that are all real immediate. No wandering down 10 minute blind alleys for these skeletons, they take care of business in highly memorable 2-4 minute bursts. Ripping stuff!

TRETTIOARIGA KRIGET - "I Borjan Och Slutet" CD '07 (Mellotronen, Swe) - To begin with, TRETTIOARIGA KRIGET is from Sweden. And, no, they are not black metal nor are they sleaze rock nor do they sound like HELLACOPTERS (R.I.P.). They have been around since the '70's and they also have a band name, the pronounciation of which may leave most readers scratching their heads. What they additionally have, however, is quite a nice little album here. Now, if you're familiar with this band's early works, let me say this straight out: "I Borjan..." is not the frenzied, fuzzed-out, proto-metal-psych guitar shred of the past. In actuality, it's a powerful work by a super-impressive bunch of veterans who still have more creative fire and lust for playing that a lot of newer bands will never know. Broken down into sections that are then composed of 12 cuts, this album brings the feel of the heavy European progressive scene of the '70's straight thru to '07 and does so with great aplomb. Whether it be the liquid Strat tones sliding effortlessly from rhythm to lead, the bubbling keys or the insistant bass & drum interplay, this is a wonderfully organic recording, fueling cuts that vary in volume but never in intensity. If you miss the days when names like Jane and Nektar sat proudly in the bins of real record stores, TRETTIOARIGA KRIGET is for you.

TOKYO DRAGONS - "Hot Nuts" CD '07 (Escapi, Eng) - My first impression upon looking at the cover of this 2nd disc by England's TOKYO DRAGONS was "Damn, they've turned into the freaking Scorpions!" I mean, hey, you've gotta give me a break as those age-old computer-style letters were part & parcel of those wacky German's hey-day. But, if you've ever heard the DRAGON's debut opus, "Give Me The Fear," you should probably know better. Simply put, this bunch of English blokes are everything that's great about the term classic rock. I mean, only the best have ever been able to take three or four chords & constantly re-arrange them into an endless array of songs so catchy that the neighbor's dog could remember them 3 years later. And then there's the matter of being able to write lyrics that matter, not because they are trying to save the world or the harp seals or be transcendental or some such shinola but because they're cool. AC/DC did it, STATUS QUO did it, SLADE did it...and hey, I'm not ready to put TOKYO DRAGONS in that kind of company just yet, but grab a listen to this sophomore effort & don't expect no slump. Cuts like "On Your Marks," "Rock My Boat" & "If I Run, You Run" call to mind names like early Kiss (especially notable this time around), Thin Lizzy & even melodic Metallica, all being influences, not copies. Sure, there are a lot of bands cropping up flying the "classic" flag, but TOKYO DRAGONS are one of the few really putting the "rawk" in it.

MOUNTAIN - "Masters Of War" CD '07 (Big Rack, US) - Leslie West & I go way back. See, when I was first trying to play guitar back in about 1971, I stumbled upon a bootleg 8-track (yup, I said 8-track) of "Flowers Of Evil" in a bin down in Ocean City. Not knowing a thing about MOUNTAIN, but feeling kinda risky, I plunked down the $3 it cost and then proceeded to play that ghastly-sounding nth-generation recording into submission, sitting in my room & learning "Dreams Of Milk & Honey" till my fingers were raw. Shit, I even went so far as to post a "Best Guitarist - Vote For Clapton or West" poll in the hallway of my high school Sadly, The Great Fatsby took a serious ass-whuppin'. Now, 37 years later & a truck-load of Les Paul Jr.'s lighter, Mr. West (along with his constant drum cronie Corky Laing) continues with the name MOUNTAIN & it's all good, people. This time around, Leslie & Co. opt to lend their wares to a collection of cuts by the folk-rock bard Bob Dylan. A bevie of cool selections ensue, with some special guests showing up in the form of Ozzy on "Masters Of War" & Warren Haynes (Gov't Mule/Allmans) on "The Times They Are A-changin'" and the seething "Serve Somebody." I must admit that Laing's vocals/drum rap-style "Like A Rolling Stone" was probably an ill-advised idea but overall, this is a nice & surprising treat from the big man & as, Billy Gibbons would say, damn that boy can play! Squawking false harmonics & big, phat-assed riffs coupled with vocals, the underlying sensitivity of which belie their gruff exterior make this a winner.

LUCIFER WAS - "The Divine Tree" CD '07 (Transubstans, Swe) - There are bands who like to play like they understand the past. And...there are those precious few that actually feel it in their soul and let it guide them into a completely vital & original future. LUCIFER WAS is (was is?)...yes, IS one of the latter. Some 4 albums into their career, these Swedes have come up with yet another corker. While the last LW effort, "Blues From Hellah" was a clear tip of the hat to decidedly bluesy rock of the '70's, this one sees them return with a much more metallic edge once again, akin to their 2nd killer, "In Anadi's Bower." Now, when I say metal & Swedish, don't be thinking black metal. No, think about something like Tull's massive "Aqualung" platter. And, brother, if you don't call "My God" or "Wind Up" metal, then pity the fool! LUCIFER WAS takes super-catchy heavy-assed riffs & then stretches 'em over pure, organic production that'll remind you of the 2 words everyone should have on their mind at all times, Roger Bain. Check out "On Earth" or "Determination." Who comes up with riffs like that? Well, Iommi did on Sabbath's first album & Randy Palmer did in Pentagram...pretty nice company. Thore Engen is the axe-meister here and he also goes ahead & overlays some extended Blackmore-esque leads to tracks like this. Additional instruments like Mellotron, Hammond, flute, etc. colour & shade things nicely and it all culminates in the 11 minute "Crosseyed." I doubt the little girls understand, but I know LUCIFER WAS does.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

It's November kiddies, time for some new music!

THE CHUCK NORRIS EXPERIMENT - "The Return Of Rock 'N' Roll" CD '07 (Masterrock, Swe) - Well, "The Return..." sure came quick and I ain't talkin' 'bout no Goddamn Bathory album! No, Sweden's majestic CHUCK NORRIS EXPERIMENT has ridden back into town, snarling & proud astride their iron horse of riffs that would make everyone from Angus Young to Dirty Power to Wayne Kramer not only nod in agreement but say, in a suitable drawl, "I believe we've got company." Some short 6 or 7 months down the line from their already etched-in-stone 2007 Top 10 entry "And The Rest Will Follow," they've gone it one better with this sonic visit to the gin mill at the center of the town called Rawk. In the days when bloated, wheezing old has-beens like Metallica take 5 years to make a living piece of shit, CNE has gone back to the days of the '70's, when rock & punk & everything was fresh and delivered not 1, but 2 records of 10-out-of-10 worth just like masters named Iommi, Powell & the like used to do. Here's the thing, guys & dollies: This album has songs with titles like "Cold Blood," "That Shit Is Over Jack" and "The Road The Dust And The Goddamn Power." And, unlike others, they have the songs that back it up. In spades. People with names like Chuck Ransom, Chuck Daniel, Chuck Lee Riot, Chuck Baker & Chuck The Ripper hammer out riff bonanzas that would make Dan Blocker wince, pump in vocals that would do well accompanying a full-scale back-alley brawl & then coat the whole thing with leads Sir Angus could have switched for any on "Powerage" & come out OK. The fact of the matter is that THE CHUCK NORRIS EXPERIMENT has returned once again to bring the Rawk and what they've brought is as great a record as this year will see. 10/10 (Hey, I thought I didn't give numerical ratings. Well, I just couldn't help myself this time!)

BLOOD ISLAND RAIDERS - "Blood Island Raiders" CD '07 (Inava, Eng) - Anybody remember the old NWOBHM battlecry, "Wwwwoooaaaarrrrrgggghhhh!!!!?" Well, this baby echoes those sentiments super large time. I happened to spy this little disc thumbing through a local CD emporium's metal section &, remembering a glowing review I'd read, plunked down the $12 it took to make it mine. Any regrets? Not unless you consider about a size 12 boot-print square in the forehead, laced with sometimes Schenker-esque lead shards piercing your eyeballs a bad, that's not a bad thing, is it? From "I Am The King" and "Demon" (Sheezus, what an opening salvo) to "Blade Of Vengeance" & "God's Breath Is Steel" (that title sounds like a collaboration between Paul Chain & Manowar), this is pure freaking English metal the way it's supposed to be done, peppered with some blue-collar American & leathered Swedish vibes as well without sounding derivative. In fact, imagine if Steve Harris & Glenn Danzig had some sort of run-in with Entombed behind a hardware store over who's getting the last air compressor. Yeah man, this is sweet stuff that is as fresh as it is getting better every time it spins in my player. The real deal.

ANEKDOTEN - "A Time Of Day" CD '07 (Virta, Swe) - I remember several years ago I got a package in the mail from my old "Overdrive" buddy, Janne Stark. It was the debut disc by a Swedish band he was hot on, a group called ANEKDOTEN entitled "Vemod." What I found unusual was that it was not the typical Stark recommendation...usually crushing '70's-inspired metal-rock with devastating bluesy lead guitar. This was something that reminded me for all the world of that dark, nasty & yet hauntingly melodic King Crimson affair, "Red." Intrigued, I listened. And a funny thing happened...I listened to that album almost exclusively for about 3 months on my busrides into & out of downtown Baltimore for work. This was music that was organic, angular & above all, addictive. Through the years, ANEKDOTEN would go on to release several more discs, now arriving at their 5th studio effort, "A Time Of Day." With each release, the same line-up has been present (Niklas Barker, Ana Sofi Dahlberg, Peter Nordin & Jan Erik Liljestrom) and the band's progression has been linear but oh-so interesting. As so many times, it's all in the songs & while that initial ANEKDOTEN disc will always hold a special place, it's pretty damn cool how these folks have grown as song writers. One listen to the likes of "30 Pieces" or "In For A Ride" will tell the tale of a band going from writing prog riffs (great though they were) to truly progressive & captivating songs. Yeah, all the trademark ANEKDOTEN points are there: the pensive vocals, the Fripp-tastic guitars, the haunting mellotron & cello. And yet, listen to how they raise the bar each time, this album being yet again a new standard in creating memorable numbers. Great stuff, and not just for a rainy day ride home on the bus!

JOHN FOGERTY - "Revival" CD '07 (Fantasy, US) - I've always had a soft spot for CCR and John Fogerty. Of course, you hear all the stories about his tyrannical reign over his former band but JF and his songwriting always struck me as a pretty cool, honest working-man kinda take on good ol' rock & roll. And, hey, let's face it, his guitar playing in those old gems like "Suzie Q" and "Heard It Through The Grapevine" didn't hurt. Of course, JOHN has gone on to a pretty successful solo career, pushed along by stuff like "Centerfield" back in the '80's. This effort sees FOGERTY returning to his age-old label, Fantasy and delivering a set that is a mixed bag. There is some really good stuff here, like the very Credence-ish "Long Dark Night" and er..."Credence Song," not to mention the emotional stirrings of "Summer Of Love." On the other side of the coin, there are a couple downright embarrassing moments, like the forced, overly-polished & frankly, desperate-for-a-hit sound of opener "Don't You Wish It Was True." All in all, a decent CD by an old guy who could've had a real gem, had he whittled this down to about 8 songs.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

New Album Reviews 10/31/07...It's Halloween

GENTLEMANS PISTOLS - "Gentlemans Pistols" CD '07 (Candlelight, Eng) - There are some labels that put out a high volume of releases and, in doing so, sometimes seem to water down the quality thereof. I get that feeling when I see the "Candlelight" imprint, at times, and therefore was a little leary when I popped in this debut disc by GENTLEMANS PISTOLS. Suffice it to say that fear lasted about as long as it took the laser to begin reading the first track, "Just A Fraction." It would be easy to say that "Gentlemans Pistols" is one of the Candlelight label's shining moments thusfar and that's because it's true, but it's also one of it's most unique. That's because rather than the more "extreme" sort of listening we've come to associate with their releases, this one has got a vibe that exudes the heavy & psych-y hard rock of the late '60's & early '70's. And while a few scribes have mentioned GP in the same breath with those Witchcraft guys, I see this 4-piece coming down moreso on the late '60's side of the decade fence. Check out tracks like "Heavy Petting" (which showed up on a 7" the band issued prior to this CD), ""Widow Maker" & "Mistress Mistrust." Man-e-daze, I'm hearing echoes of things like Morly Grey & Stone Harbor and the only thing that could complete things would be if this was a good ol' vinyl record spinning around on my Bang & Olufsen. Nice stuff & wonderful that a new band is playing like this.

BLUTCH - "Materia" CD '07 (At A Loss, Bel) - Belgium's BLUTCH does not sound anything like Maryland's Clutch. I'm very glad. Now, don't get me wrong, I love Clutch...and not just because I'm from Maryland...but the reason I'm glad is that if BLUTCH sounded like them, then they would not sound like this. "This" is "Materia," an album that originally came out on a smaller label overseas in '06. It has seen official release in the US in April of this year and in doing so, has succeeded in perforating my ear canals & drilling holes through my vertebrae, hangling my sorry carcass on a bloody meathook, eviscertating me, then telling me my mother dresses me stupid, all in the space of 40 minutes. Seriously, if you like musical mangling in the vein of Neurosis, Asbestos Death/Sleep or the very best of the best Melvins stuff this is what you should be spending your money on instead of the DVD of "Saw III." Well, you should get that too, but not until you part with a handful of bux to score this mutha. This is the kind of music that is so heavy, dark and suffocating that I can imagine it playing in the depths of the storm drains under the very worst part of the city while some unimagined ritual takes place in which people worship large, metallic machinery and the smell of things sordid & desperate drift through the acrid air. The amazing thing about this damn thing, compared to other things that have come to light recently in the manner of King Sludge is the startling memorability involved in tracks like "The Black Caped Man," the "one-two-you're dead" speed of "Smile" or the sprawling and down-right harrowing moodiness of closer "Confutatis." There's even some of the aggressive tenor of early/mid Metallica here. If terror & beauty can truly reside in juxtaposition, then they do so in the black & white digipak housing this CD. Absolutely essential.
Watch RAYSREALM for a BLUTCH interview coming in the near future!

CHOWDER - "Chowder" CD '07 (Bland Hand, US) - 2 of my kids love watching The Food Network. And, I've gotta admit, while it still hasn't bumped ESPN or the Sci Fi Channel off my favourites list, it's grown on me. Hell, I remember getting pretty damn into this Cook-Off that Bobby Flay had with some New England guy who was the "chowder meister." Clam chowder, shrimp chowder, eel chowder...ok, this isn't Forrest Gump but there was one CHOWDER the guy didn't know about & that's this one from right here in the Land Of Pleasant Living, aka Maryland. Signed to John Brenner's (a guy who knows something good when he hears it) Bland Hand label, CHOWDER are one seriously-talented 3-piece. In fact, the 5 cuts on this disc are so chock full of deep, heavy & organic power trio motion that you'll be name-checking King Crimson, Anekdoten & Ixt Adux way before you'll even realize this is...instrumental! Whether it's the riveting opener "Eyes Sown Shut" or all the way through to "Saturated," the deep, angular riffs of Josh Hart (guitar, synths) spar with the muscular rhythm section of Chad Rush (bass) & Doug Williams (drums) like a heavy-weight match from wayback. Also a fantastic band live, CHOWDER is one of the best musical meals yet from the land of the Chesapeake.

MOS GENERATOR - "Songs For Future Gods" CD '07 (Small Stone, US) - Small Stone has a pretty good habit of putting out pretty good records and that surely holds true for this new one by Washington State's MOS GENERATOR. I really liked the organic power trio feel this bunch supplied on their last record and this new one sees that vibe continuing & even more so. While a lot of bands in the so-called "stoner" neighborhood tend not to be as loosely jamming as a near-50 year old '70's guy like myself would like (well, not everybody can be Nebula or Kyuss, Ray), these 3 cats lay it down just great. Check out the way they keep the structure of numbers like "Silver Olympus" or ""Son Of Acorn Smasher" intact while still daring to go off. Like the bands of old, they know how to let the song breathe. Can it be any coincidence that the insert pic of the band is a red-white shot that reminds me for all the world of that monumental 2nd Grand Funk release? I think not.

CENTURIONS GHOST - "The Great Work" CD '07 (I Hate, Eng) - I liked CENTURIONS GHOST's previous CD but with this one, I think the English band has surpassed it. CG is an interesting band, not in that they combine elements of doom, death, thrash, heavy prog etc. Others have made a go of such things. No, the 'GHOST is very interesting in that they do it so well, with such a flow that they manage to blend all these genres into a sound that is distinctly their's, not a jarring mish-mash. Look no further than opener "The Supreme Moment" to see what I'm talking about. Great stuff and it doesn't end there, as "Bed Bound (In The House Of Doom)" and "Walking Through Walls" prove. One of the most impressive things here is the vocal work of Mark Scurr, who basically walked into the band fresh for this album and proceeds to put on a clinic of how to growl with melody, oft reminding me of a more brutal Kalle Metz (ex-Tenebre). Nice one.

EVILE - "Enter The Grave" CD '07 (Earache, Eng) - As time passed on, as time so relentlessly does, from the '90's into the 00's, "thrash" became sort of a 6-letter word. Well...thrash was always a 6 letter word, but hey, you know what I mean, it kinda went out of style, even with metallers in favour of stuff like death-doom, black, stoner and others. So glad am I, then that this 6-letter word seems to have made a comeback over the last few years (even though to the chosen few, it never really went away). An entry from England into this rejuvenation of a genre is this blistering debut from EVILE (produced by Flemming Rasmussen, no less). Sure, this quartet may be from the "other side of the pond" to us Americans but "Enter The Grave" sounds for all the world like it could've come from the SF Bay Area during those great mid-'80's. Check out the riffing extravaganza present in the shockingly titled "Thrasher" (gotta love that) and remember the days of guitarists like Holt, Peterson & Piercy lighting up the guitar necks. Or try on the sheer knife to the jugular of straight-ahead whippers like "First Blood" & "Schizophrenia." True, EVILE may never win any Pulitzer prizes for enlightening lyricism but for that dark, threatening thrash vibe, they're about to become the next 5-letter word.

FUELED BY FIRE - "Spread The Fire" CD '07 (Metal Blade, US) - While we're delving headlong into a pile of bacon-cheeseburgers (sorry, it's like 12:00 noon & I haven't eaten at all yet know, took the kids to school, work, phone calls...ok, ok, I digress!) ok...headlong into the thrash metal renaissance, let's get right to the bullseye. See, the center of the target, the epicenter of the entire genre during it's heady times of the mid-to-late '80's was the San Francisco Bay Area in California. And sure enough, sure e-fucking-nough, that's where this 4 young cats have emerged from to produce a record that takes you back to the place Tony Bennett left his heart. Is this original? No. Is it trend-setting? No. Is it a barrel-load of pure, thrashing fun? YES! FUELED BY FIRE take their youthful enthusiasm & lash it to a pretty damn impressive understanding of what made places like The Stone, The Mabuhay Gardens & Ruthies tick. Witness pick-shredders like "Betrayal," "Dreams Of Terror" & (as God is my witness) "Thrash Is Back." Heck, they've even got a sense of humor as the intro "Ernest Goes To Hell" proves. For good, ol' unabashed thrash-a-holic fun, it's pretty hard to beat this spreading fire.

HIGH ON FIRE - "Death Is This Communion" CD '07 (Relapse, US) - Man, San Francisco's HIGH ON FIRE has surely come a long way. I remember the first time I caught Matt Pike & Co. live. 'Twas back in the cold depths of February '00, I think, when I saw the trio take the stage at Phantazmagoria (R.I.P.) in Wheaton, MD. There must've been a grand total of 10 people there and, even then (after buying a copy of the band's 3-song demo CD & a t-shirt from Pike himself), I realized I'd made a mistake. Well, I'd made a mistake regarding my physical health. See, I'd planted myself front & center, with no hearing protection & after about 3 songs, I knew that the 125+ dB assault from Pike's Les Paul-thru-Green combination was going to be the result of a major cochlea crunch. Still, I stood my ground & after the rest of the set, I had the feeling I had witnessed the birth of something very interesting. Yes, Pike had piloted the mighty Sleep through several key releases, including the landmark "Jerusalem/Dopesmoker," yet I got the distinct impression he was going to make a bigger mark on the metal market with H.O.F. And, he has in spades. Through what is now the band's 4th full-length release, Pike has molded & tweaked his sound, transitioning the plundering Asbestos Death/Sleep crush into a whipping cauldron of Slayer-esque proportions that sees not only speed rip into the mixture but an aggressive assault married to highly advanced riffs & leads courtesy of his 9-string axe. Blend into that stew Des Kensel's tribalistic drum cannonades & new bassist Jeff Matz's low-end attack, let Jack Endino sit at the boards & it all just works so well. From the very opener of "Fury Whip," right through the sprawling title cut and the moody intro-laden closers like "Ethereal" & "Return To Nod," this album is a treat. Any metaller, from the most casual to the deeply underground should partake of this Communion

ARSONISTS GET ALL THE GIRLS - "The Game Of Life" CD '07 (Century Media, US) - There's a good bit of this kinda tricky, crazy, bouncing-all-around "math"-type heavy stuff these days & I gotta say, I'm often left in the dust by it. I mean, I loved Watchtower and there is that band Look What I Did who came way out of left field to blow me away in 2005. Still, a lot of the Dillinger Escape Plan-type clones often hit me as a lot of show & not much substance. Thankfully, AGATG (I'm in a lazy mood right now) do a little more than try to keep up with the Joneses. I put this disc in, expecting to hop on the fast train to Yawnville by about the 4th cut, lolled to sleep by an inconsequential array of disorienting grinding chops...but.... Lo and behold, AGATG impress. With an overlay of distinctly eyebrow-raising titles like "Save The Castle Screw The Princess" & "Claiming Middle Age A Decade Early," the music here is right on. Not only can these guys play brutally on a dime, they also manage unlike their peers, to do so with more than a shred of memorability. The best recommendation I can give to this interesting debut "The Game Of Life" is that once hammered into my eardrums, I wanted to repeat the experience. Nuff said.