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!

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