Monday, June 30, 2008

Omni - Ghosts

I'm fascinated with this album.

Not since Dead Man's Euphoria, have I encountered a disc that I find so hard to pull out of the Ripple CD player. Each spin draws me deeper and deeper into their cosmic world, sucking me in like a black hole sucking in a helpless nearby star. My mass is caving in on me with each listen, my density deepening.

In simple terms, OMNI is a three-piece experimental, progressive, space-rock outfit from Seattle. That's the easy part, unfortunately, it tells you absolutely nothing of the true nature of this band. Their bio sheet says that they're for fans of Perfect Circle, Faith No More and Depeche Mode. I disagree with all of that. (The Pope says he does hear some Faith No More, so who am I to argue?) To my ears, a better mix would be Radiohead in melody and complexity, Porcupine Tree in dynamics and musicianship, and later-era Japan, in terms of melody and atmosphere. But that still doesn't tell you what they sound like. I could say that I rank this album right up there with a new brand of progressive rock that has emerged over the last year or so; along such bands as other Ripple favorites, Braintoy and Farflung, but that probably won't help you either. As you can see, I'm stumbling here.

Perhaps the best way to sum up this captivating release is to digress a bit. Back in the eighties, there was a science magazine called OMNI, put out by Bob Guccione, the publisher of Penthouse. As you may suspect from the publishing source, the magazine had a slightly different agenda than a rigid science mag like Scientific American or Discover. They were slick, well-produced and, while they didn't publish nude photos of spread-legged aliens, they were free to follow their own cosmic muse, unleashed to explore whichever area of science appealed to them. Deep into space, journeying through unimaginable lands, delving deep into the recesses of the mind that few would ever dare to follow. That's what I'm hearing right now.

That's OMNI

OMNI's music is a constant contradiction of light and shadow. They are an exploration in texture. Tones of heaviness butt up against gorgeous passages of infinite light. Songs veer off in various directions, following unexpected twists and turns, sparkling with the glory of the cosmic dust shimmering in a comet's wake. That's OMNI.

Ghosts begins tempered on the ambient tones of "Der Bettler," lulling you in, falsely luring you to a safe place, until the 19 second mark and the bass kicks in. Deep and heavy, foreboding in its tone. Suddenly you don't feel so safe anymore. The atmosphere darkens as bassist/singer Chris Cullman's voice lilts overhead, "Say, say it's not too late." If that passage doesn't send goosebumps up your flesh, then I doubt you're human. Then, without warning, the song fuses into "Secret to My Success," shattering the calm with the dissonance of a distorted guitar chord, immediately launching into the full on muscular prog riff, bass and drums digging in. Chris's voice is so perfect, launching between smooth and inviting, maintaining all the high notes, then rough and growling with menace, that it's shocking to learn that he wasn't always the vocalist for the band's previous incarnations. I can imagine no other voice adding the texture that this music deserves.

David Green brings on spasms of distorted guitar to start "End Game," then launches off into swirling cosmic tones as the song leaves the earthbound atmosphere. In each song, his tone is unique, universal in its reach. Will Andrews drumming is remarkable throughout, effortlessly leaping through complex time changes at the tap of a cymbal, dropping in fills in places I didn't think a fill could ever be placed. And we're not talking of standard Ringo fills here. No, Will's fills (Will's fills?) are as deeply complex as the music he propels. As a unit, OMNI is incredibly tight, each note exact and precise without superfluous showboating and soloing. These guys allow the music to breathe. They understand the power of silence, when a moment of quiet can be far more powerful than the loudest scream.

It's too much to try and describe the majestic beauty of each song. The deep menace of "Demon Haunted World," the atmospheric floating of "Janus," the shimmering excellence of "Mother Night," the ethereal ambiance of "Out with a Whimper," or the symphonic splendor of "Dead Sky." Suffice it to say, Ghosts is an album of remarkable depth and scope. This is an aural journey, a transportation through dimensional worlds of sound and melody, full of unexpected twists, sudden turns, time changes from neighboring star systems, swirls of sound and layers of atmosphere. Moments of metallic muscle fused with ambient beauty.

Never before have I so much wanted to use the word texture to describe an artist's work, but that sums it up for me. This is an album of infinite texture, an album so layered in sound, I just want to reach out and touch it, feel the C chords wrapping around me, cocooning me, carrying me away on the tones of an upright bass. Maybe Penthouse could take a photo of that.

In the end, I think the boys can sum up their sound better than I ever could. Omni, as a prefix, means "all" or "fully encompassing." Yep. That just about does it.


Friday, June 27, 2008

Opeth - Watershed

So, I get my copy of Opeth’s latest disc, Watershed, and proceed to give it the initial spin to get a feel for what the band is up to these days. As the first notes flutter from my speakers, I can feel my mouth slowly widening as my jaw allows gravity to grab hold and not let go. With every subsequent musical passage, I find that my throat is as dry as any God forsaken parcel of desert and I realize that my mouth is still agape. How many flies I’ve ingested at this point is beyond me, and quite frankly, I don’t care. I’m caught up in the music. It’s all that matters. It’s all that is.

I fully expect the Opeth fans to come out of the woodwork and offer their two cents, but spare me the droll, knuckle dragging comments on why such in such album is better than such in such album. Couldn’t care less. I’ve just achieved nirvana in the form of sound and your opinions mean very little to nothing at this point. If you’d like to make inane remarks, the bands message board is better suited for you. I’m here to tell you why Watershed is a brilliantly realized endeavor of a musician who has spent the better part of his life trying to materialize the sounds in his head so that we could all take part in the experience.

Watershed opens with an uncharacteristic tune in the form of “Coil.” Uncharacteristic in that it’s the opening track and not a rocker. It’s completely acoustic with Mikael Akerfeldt’s soothing voice coming across as smooth as velvet. The melody is haunting and sexy. Reminiscent of some of those finer ‘70’s rock moments that some of use grew up loving, kinda’ like the softer moments of the mighty Zep. Akerfeldt’s voice is accompanied by the equally beautiful voice of Natalie Lorichs, which adds a tortured texture to the tune. My chin has abrasions from being dragged from my car to the front door of the office.

Opeth return to the darker roots with songs such as “Heir Apparent” and portions of “The Lotus Eater” and “Hessian Peel.” But, like much of their recent works, they intermingle softer passages to add texture and tension, which breaks up the din of death metal. Notably, the more traditional aspects of the death metal parts seem even more menacing than on previous releases. New drummer Martin Axenrot can be thanked for this as he incorporates more of a blast beat approach to the tunes, specifically on “The Lotus Eater.” This tune is about as epic as we’ve ever heard from Opeth in that it shifts from the raucousness of death metal to more elaborate and melodic passages, and ultimately turning a new page by adding a funked out groove that defies description. The way I've found to describe is as theme music for being trapped in a maze of mirrors with a crazed ax wielding butcher. Completely psycho and unique for the band, but welcomed by these ears. Pushing the envelope is what Akerfeldt has consistently done to create his musical vision, and by doing so, has alienated some of the more closeminded listeners. Opeth can no longer be considered strictly a death metal band, as they’ve become more of a prog outfit that incorporates their death metal, classic rock, and folk influences.

By the time “Burden” makes it’s way on the play list, my jaw has seriously cramped to the point that I’m sure I’ll be carrying it in my hand by days end. As this tune, in it’s acoustic vibrancy, carries us through forever, I glance over at the visiting Delta Mud Skipper, field correspondent for the Dirty South, and see that he’s absolutely mesmerized. Now remember, friends . . . the Mud Skipper is a blues guy through and through. To have him in awe of “death metal” means something otherworldly is going on here. As I've mentioned, it's not strictly death metal that we've got here. Akerfeldt is simply breaking down the barriers and stereotypes of the music with a “fuck it” attitude. This is his baby. Who’s gonna’ tell him he’s not doing it right? Check out Per Wilberg’s prowess on full display as he hammers out some memorable melodies on the keyboards.

“Porcelain Heart” is a sinister, yet sexy epic of a song. So horrifying in a dark Victorian-era kind of way. Gothic? Perhaps. Blended acoustic passages with the heavily distorted guitars create more mood swings than a pregnant woman. Akerfeldt’s bluesy guitar licks during one of the quieter portions are a nice touch and shows more of his unique flavorings. He breaks into a bit of what sounds like Swedish during “Hessian Peel,” though don’t hold me to that . . . I still haven’t learned the language (check a review of Trettioariga Kriget’s Elden Av Ar for details.) Listen for the guitar solos that Akerfeldt now shares with new guitarist, Fredrik Akesson. Amazingly fluid and versatile, this new combo of six string attack should keep things more than interesting for the next few years. “Hex Omega” wraps up the disc with a keyboard driven tune through the verses that explodes into a melodic and intricate, almost Arabic groove at the chorus. Keep an ear out for the guitar solos as they swell, shift, and dive with the texture of the music. Truly incredible that this was rattling around someone’s head at one time!

In typical Opeth fashion, seven songs clocking in at just under an hour. It's what we've come to expect from these guys. Grand scale music that encompasses a variety of moods and textures, usually in the course of one song. Mash that all into one album and you have a head spinning experience on your hands. It's their approach towards music . . . the band takes the listener on a journey through the visions of the main man in charge, Mikael Akerfeldt. He’s leaning on his influences through all aspects of music, not just death metal, which allows him to stretch the boundaries of the Opeth sound. Now, the music can breathe on it’s own and become it's own entity. When I first stumbled on these cats, I thought, ‘Oh . . . death metal.’ But, I grew with the band and I’ve been able to open mindedly accept the changes the band has gone through. So now I sit with Watershed, the band’s ninth album, and can’t help but wonder what changes the band will attempt on future releases. For the time being, I’ll revel in the brilliance that is Watershed and nurse my ailing jaw back to some semblance of normalcy.

- Pope JTE

Buy Watershed here: Watershed

Buy Deluxe edition here: Watershed

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Proto-metal Report - Atomic Rooster - Death Walks Behind You

Rising from the ashes of the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, eccentric keyboard virtuoso Vincent Crane grabbed Crazy World’s drummer, Carl Palmer, added vocalist/bassist Nick Graham, and set out to destroy the world with their new proto-metal beast, Atomic Rooster. After releasing their debut album, Palmer left to join ELP and Graham abandoned Crane to join Skin Alley. Undeterred, Crane revamped the band, bringing in guitarist/singer and songwriting partner, John DuCann formerly from Andromeda and new drummer Paul Hammond and created a masterpiece of early doom metal.

Death Walks Behind you has been hailed a classic of early prog and proto-metal, and with its incredibly dark theme, doom-laden lyrics, horror-filled drama and sprinkling of morbid fears, it may be one of the earliest precursors of what became Death Metal.

Featuring the band’s first ever hit, “Tomorrow Night,” a deeply twisted and demented love song which climbed to #11 in the U.K. singles charts in February 1971, this is the album that broke the band. A staggeringly heavy, virtuostic display of early metal and prog. Crane was elevated to the level of Keith Emerson, Brian Auger and Graham Bond for his fluidity on the keyboard and his proficiency as a composer. Perhaps most amazing, despite their pulverizingly heavy sound, Atomic Rooster at this stage had no bass player, Crane knocking out all the bass parts on his organ with his left hand or the organ’s foot pedals. With this work, Crane laid down the foundation of what would become keyboard metal. He created a sound, if you can envision it, much like ELP crossed with Sabbath.

“Death Walks Behind You” is a stunning opener. Starting with the creepiest, most haunting descending piano intro I’ve ever heard, pierced with psychotic shrieks of guitar feedback, this is every horror movie you’ve ever seen put to music. This is fear itself, trickling off the keyboard. Then, when the guitar kicks in with that riff, as heavy and menacing as anything on Sabbath’s debut, you know we’re going somewhere. While Sabbath brought their love of old Hammer films to their music, Atomic Rooster brought the whole damn graveyard. This is a terrifying slab of paranoia, night fears and morbid terror. “Lock the door/switch the light/ you’ve been so afraid tonight/ lie awake/from the past/count the nine lies that you’ve had/Start to scream/ shout for help/ there is no one by your side/to forget/what is done/seems so hard to carry on.” Then the chorus, the repetitive pleading that “Death Walks Behind You,” sung over that pulverizing riff. This is as dark and heavy as any song to come from the seventies. 7 minutes and twenty-two seconds of demented terror brought to life, one of the first ever moments of heavy metal.

“Vug” (see second video) is an extended, early prog freakout of hammond organ, jazz and classical all scorched over a bluesy shuffle beat. An extended 5 minute prog-blues jam, this was jazz-fusion long before the term ever existed. This fuses effortlessly with“Tomorrow Night,” (see first video) one of the darkest love songs to ever be a hit. Starting with a solo piano, accompanied by scratching guitar, the song explodes into one of the most perfectly simple guitar riffs of the seventies. Propelled by a stomping beat they even throw in some cowbell (more cowbell!). Listening to this rocking tune, you’d never know it was a love song, you’re more taken by the tormented lyrics showcasing Crane’s debilitating insecurities. “When I wake up in your bed/I can still hear what you said/Like a bad dream I can’t fight/tomorrow night.” Featuring a dynamite organ solo in the middle, this is a rocking, stomping number with a great guitar solo outro, leading to a total breakdown into dissonance and early noise rock. Not surprisingly, this ending was faded out for the single version

“Sleeping for Years” starts off with psycho guitars warping back and forth between the speakers, guaranteed to send chills down your neck before the full blast of all-out proto-metal. There must have been something in the water over in the U.K. in 1970, the same year as Sabbath's debut, to have produced this much disaffected heaviness at once. A blistering riff, scores of screeching guitar fills, a tremendously melodic breakdown of a chorus, emotive singing, marching drums and a bonafide out of his mind guitar solo. What else did you want with your metal?

“I Can’t Take No More," the shortest song on the album (only one of two to clock in at under 5 minutes) is about as straight ahead as the boys play it. I swear part of the chorus melody line was stolen years later by ELO for their hit “Don’t Bring Me Down,” “Nobody Else,” features some of Crane’s most beautiful piano playing, creating a melody of uncommon beauty. And haunting, as DuCann adds the difficult lyrics, “My whole world is coming down/ My whole world is gone away.” This is depression put to music, suicide in script. Then, lest you forget that this is a metal album, midway through DuCann launches off into his most inspired playing, ripping through a melodic lead before the song breaks back down to the piano line.

Without a doubt, Death Walks Behind You, is a classic, a masterpiece of early proto-metal, reveling in and animating the demented, horribly tortured mind of the band’s musical genius. Atomic Rooster would go on to an even greater chart success when in 1971 “Devil’s Answer,” climbed to #4 on the U.K. charts off the “In Hearing of Atomic Rooster” album. But soon after that, DuCann and Hammond left to form their own band, Hardstuff. Vincent kept the band name alive, going through various line-ups that at one point featured Gillian bass-player “Big” John McCoy and Cream’s Ginger Baker, but in the end the Rooster faltered.

Finally, unable to keep those haunting demons at bay, Crane committed suicide on Valentine’s Day, 1989. Seen in this light, Death Walks Behind You was horribly prophetic. As opposed to so many of the dark, death metal bands that flirt with depression, suicide and death as if it were a gimmick to sell albums, Crane was in truth a terribly tortured soul, who’s music was his only outlet of expression to let the demons free and bring some peace to his troubled mind.

As it stands, we’re left with this mesmerizing, deeply engaging, bottomlessly dark and heavy album, one of the first heralding cries of the coming of metal.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Rumors Heard in Myspace, Episode 5

With summer upon us, there's something in the air that we've noticed here at the Ripple office. It all started when our good friends Mos Generator came back from their tour of Europe and jumped right back into the studio, set to release two vinyl only discs. Their words were, "Europe is clamoring for vinyl." Now, that struck us as interesting. We've known that some big bands have been releasing vinyl, like the White Stripes and Foo Fighters, but just last week we received a submission for review by a new indie label, Death by Audio, who sent us not only copies of their first two CD's, Coin Under Tongue and Sisters, but also a cassette and a full vinyl album. To top it off, in the paper today, Associate Press states that vinyl sales are up 36% from 2006 to 2007 to more than 1.3 million units. Amazon now has a vinyl only section and even Best Buy is testing vinyl sales.

Hmmm, now this is interesting. Here at the Ripple, we've always felt that music is meant to be a full sensory product, a tangible item, not just an ethereal series of 1's and zeros transferred through cyberspace and then deleted. Music, also, is not supposed to be entirely free. Artists slave to produce a product we enjoy for years, in some cases becoming the soundtrack of our lives, our weddings, parties etc. They're supposed to be paid for this. It remains to be seen if this new interest in vinyl will give the music industry a shot in the arm of much needed adrenaline, but perhaps the real question is, does this resurgence of vinyl represent, in some small way, a rebellion against the disposable place that we've placed music recently? We certainly hope so. In any event, we're damn glad we still have our turntable at the Ripple office.

On that note, we'll start off this months Myspace Rumors with a brand-spanking new, vinyl only release.

Big news coming your way for fans of Afrobeat, African music or just something a little different in the sound of your dance and bass heavy groove. Lion Head Recordings is the new label from veteran electronic dub producer Glyn "Bigga" Bush. Now this is the guy who created some amazing work with Rockers Hi Fi, long a Ripple favorite for modern dub. The first taste of Bigga's limited edition funk, afro and dub vinyl releases is this tasty 12 incher delving deep into the early '70's Afrobeat style brought back to sparkling life with modern technology, some serious studio wizardry and a handful of swirling dubs and textures. Fans of pulsing polyrhythms and undulating bass styles won't want to miss this, guaranteed to get your bottom end in motion. Check it out at or And keep your eyes peeled for Bigga's first album, 13 Faces of Lightning Head. If it's as good as this EP, just go ahead and mark it essential.

Keeping with the theme of vinyl releases, Hirax are planning on releasing a double vinyl 12"edition of live tunes entitled, Thrash and Destroy. No word yet on a release date and we'll let you know as soon as we hear something, or you too can check out their page If you can't wait for the live album, load up the party van and make the trek to San Francisco for the Tidal Wave Festival 11. It's being held on the 5th of July and Hirax will being sharing the stage with Bay Area thrashers Exodus, Attitude Adjustment, and Detente. By the by . . . Hirax are putting the wraps on their new studio album El Rostro de la Muerte and is planned to hit the streets in August. You can also hear the tune "Satan's Fall" from the disc on their page.

Back to the CD format, another great treat for those in the chill-out vibe is the new Brown Baby Records release, Hussein Boon's Life Changes. A London-based guitar player of exquisite talent, Boon mixes his instrument into some seriously gorgeous mellow jazz/chill soundscapes, guaranteed to melt the work week's tension from your bones. Think of it as modern smooth jazz with ambient textures. Or just think of it as beautiful. Definitely worth a look. Check him out at

If you're in the mood for something a little different, something to help you kick back and enjoy your summer yet still touch your heart, check out this vastly talented young singer/songwriter Vanessa Kafka. In her soft, poignant songs you'll hear traces of Natalie Merchant, Suzanne Vega and an old Ripple favorite, Jann Arden. Working with the good folks at Aberrant Sound in Concord Mass, Vanessa is due to release her debut album this fall, but lots of tracks are available for listen on her myspace page. One early morning, I started my day by walking the dog, tending to my garden, and then perusing the web with Vanessa's tunes as accompaniment, perfectly setting the mood as I eased into my day. "Silhouette," "If He Stays," and "Tell Me So," are the early Ripple picks, but you be the judge and let us know your choices. We expect big things from her in the future.

On a progressive note, one of our favorite groups of Swedes, Trettioariga Kriget have a double live album in the works that, word has it, will span the entire TK career starting from the 2nd live gig. In conjunction with this release, Olle Thornvall, chief lyricist for the band, is writing a book on the history of Trettioariga Kriget. I'm giddy with excitement over this one and just want to share with all of you Waveriders. Not content with resting after the recent success of their latest album, I Borjan Och Slutet, the rumor mill is ripe with tales of the band hard at work on the third part of the trilogy (Elden Av Ar, I Borjan Och Slutet.) They're merely in the writing process, so there's gonna' be some time before that album reaches our ears. But, when it does arrive, we TK fans will also have a visual of the band in the form of their very first DVD release. Exciting times, my friends. If you can't wait for that DVD, their performance, along with those of Anekdoten, Opeth, Mats/Morgan, Plankton, and Comus from the Melloboat Festival, was captured on tape and planned for a DVD release. Info on this endeavor is a bit sketchy at this point, and as always, if bat-like ears hear it . . . you'll hear it.

Our progressively psychedelic chums in Imogene are no longer called Imogene. To alleviate some of the confusion between them and the more pop flavored Imogene Heap, our Imogene has decided to change their name to Heavy Water Experiments Considering the affinity to the lower sound registers and the fluidity of their music, the name is a perfect fit. Since I heard a few samples of the new tunes, I've been figuratively perched on the edge of my seat in wait for the release of the new album. I've been assured by the band that the album is in fact complete and will be available in the very near future. Hee-hee!

Coming from the Rocking World of Switzerland, we got the grinding industrial sounds of Fanoe and their brand-spanking new album, Down To Heaven. Now, anyone who reads the Ripple knows that we're open to all kinds of metal, but Racer has a warm, special place for a perfectly executed industrial beat, and he's found this album to be chock full. In fact, one of Fanoe's cuts, "Skin and Bones," a pulverizing mix of pounding beats and tearing riffs, ala Rammstein, has already been burned onto Mrs. Racer's workout ipod, about the highest praise you can give something that hasn't been deemed holy. Find them at or buy there CD through CD Baby by clicking on the photo of the album art above.

Miggs has hit the road in support of their latest release, Unraveled, which was reviewed in the very pages on the Ripple. They're tooling around the southeastern portions on the U.S. with what appears as a brutal trek to Montana in the middle of a string of shows in Florida. Granted, it's a show with Maroon 5, but man . . . look at those frequent flyer miles pile up! As far as Unraveled is concerned, it was released on June 17th and 17 must be the magic number, coz' as of this entry, it's climbed to number 17 on the Hot AC/Top 40. Good job, gents . . . your successes are richly deserved.

Did y'all go out and pick up a copy of Being You from Attic of Love? Why not? I'd never try to guilt you Waveriders into spending your hard earned duckets, especially in this economy. However, think of it as an investment. While that recently purchased SUV is being used as a lawn ornament, your ears will still be getting plenty of use from this disc. Here's some news about the band for ya' . . . they've posted a couple of new tracks on their page and the band asks that you drop everything and check 'em out. Okay . . . they never actually told me that, but I'm sure they were thinking it.

Ever hear of Petty Crux? We hadn't either until a few weeks ago, but then we did, and we posted a review on their album, All That Survived the Crash. We received such a stunning response from you readers that we wanted to make sure that you got your Petty Crux fix. These cats moved from Miami (Florida, that is) to New York because that's what a musician is supposed to do. Makes sense to me. Find your market and pursue your career there. Well, apparently, Jim Croce isn't the only one singing the tune "New York's Not My Home" and the band are considering a move to the greater Los Angeles area. Boys, we'd welcome you to the west coast any day.

In closing this months episode, we want to pass on our love to the friends, family, bandmates, and anyone who had the pleasure of just meeting Michelle Meldrum. Michelle was the leader of the group Meldrum and she passed away suddenly due to a cystic growth on her brain that restricted the flow of oxygen and blood to her brain. Stop by the bands page and read up on her . . . she seems like a genuine soul and a true champion to the women of metal. Though I never had the opportunity to meet her, I did see her perform once and got the sense that she truly loved playing guitar and rocking out. I don't mean to mention this for any reason other than to spread the word that, though our community within the music world is splintered into a million sub-genres, we're still a community who thrives on the artful expression of sound. We are one living organism and the loss of one from our being deserves a moment of respect. Michelle . . . we light a candle in remembrance of you.

Until next month, my friends . . . wink wink, nudge nudge.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Greenleaf - Agents of Ahriman

Ok, it's official.

We here at The Ripple have decided that Sweden must be the best place in the world to live. Not only do they dominate the only sport that matters, winning the last Olympic gold medal (yes, that would be hockey for those who have to ask) but they also boast arguably the best defensemen to ever play the game (Nicolas Lidstrom), and the current Conn Smyth trophy winner (Henrik Zetterberg). Heck, with the arrival of Henrik Lundquist you can't even make fun of their goaltenders anymore. Now if only someone would buy a bionic foot for Peter Forsburg. . .

But in addition to their hockey prowess, Sweden is a country that loves its music and it seems that those Swedes have learned to dominate just about every music genre that matters, covering all bases with top-quality exports. You like psychedelic prog? Try Deadman. Garagey punk rock? The Hellacopters, the Hives and Backyard Babies got you covered. Prog metal? Opeth wrote the book, baby. Trettioariga Kriget and The Soundtrack of our Lives play prog rock like none other and don't even get me started on their contributions to Death metal, Doom or the Gothenburg sound. Let's face it, those wacky Swedes can do it all.

And now there's Greenleaf, the latest revelation to toke back a joint and belt out a massively fuzzed out stoner-seventies riff. In truth, it was only a matter of time before the Swedes took over the head of the stoner rock mantle, they'd been bubbling just underneath the surface for a while with quality bands like Lowrider, Dozer, Electric Wizard, and Spiritual Beggars. So, just what do you think would happen if some of those leading forces of Swedish stoned-out metal joined together in an unholy THC-laced matrimony, creating a supergroup of bong-fueled heavy rock? The answer is what we've got spinning nonstop on our Ripple turntable right now, a mini-masterpiece of grooving bass lines, cranked up riffs and enough melody to hook the whole thing together and blow that baby through your peace pipe.

Originally formed in late 1999 by guitarist Tommi Holappa (Dozer), drummer Daniel Liden (Demon Cleaner, Dozer), and engineer/bassist Bengt Backe, the band operates like a Swedish Queens of the Stoneage, featuring a revolving cast of fellow musicians who share a love of heavy fuzz rock. Guest so far include members of Dozer, Stonewall Orchestra, Lowrider, the Truckfighters, Payback and a handful of others who happened to wander into the studio. And let me tell you, for a loose alliance of friends getting together to lay down a vibe, they're good. Really good. This is stoner rock the way it's supposed to be, big and loud, exuberant and loaded with enough muscle to make Arnold look like a poser on a fifth grade playground.

Coming to us from the fine folks at Smallstone Recordings, perhaps the world's finest purveyor of stoner hard rock, Agents of Ahriman is a beast of an album. "Highway Officer," sets us in motion, an atypical riff shrieking out to a stuttering start until that bass comes rolling in. Instantly accessible and so hook-laden it could take a trout fishing championship. And actually, that's one problem I have with the genre, not the music, just the name. Stoner rock has become a catch-all for all heavy, seventies inspired, riff-monster rock. The problem is, it just don't fit anymore. What I'm hearing right now has more in common with any number of great '70's riff metal bands than many droning stoner releases like Sleep or High on Fire. We need a new name, something that captures the passion, intensity, high energy and honesty with which these boys rip through their riffs. Something that captures the groove and the fun these guys are obliviously having. This is rock and roll, baby. Just great heavy, party-hard rock and roll.

"Treehorn," follows next with a vocal hook as good as any you'll find in the genre, sung over a pulsating bass line and shimmering guitar. "Alishan Mountain," with it's underlying organ hiding below the bottom heavy riff leading to the soaring chorus sounds like it could have been a lost track from BTO's Not Fragile album, and I mean that in the best possible way. "Black Tar," follows suit, Grand Funk for the new millennium, power-driving rock and roll, with a bass line so heavy it'll make your colon spasm.

Following "The Lake," an intensely melodic rocker, the title track "Agents of Ahriman," brings in the first true hint of a spaced-out stoner vibe, a distorted bass pulsing out the heartbeat until the cosmically heavy guitars rip in. This is Greenleaf's most ambitious effort, their epic du force, a moment of stoner prog. To cut the bullshit, this is their moment of greatness. Then, lest you think the boys are starting to take themselves too seriously, "Ride Another Highway," roars back, a pounding, thundering slab of straight out '70's metal, updated and injected for a new day. And so the album goes, straight to the closer, the very strong "Stray Bullit Woman." The boys got it covered.

So what's a guy to do. Well, we at The Ripple have decided if you can't beat em, join em. We're currently looking around Central Stockholm, digging through the district of Norrmalm, trying to find a new loft to set up shop. Yep, we're moving to Sweden, committed to basking for the rest of our days in the greatness of hockey and music. And meatballs. But if we can't actually convince our wives to pack up their lives and move, then I guess we'll just have to console ourselves with the NHL Center Ice and the great flood of Swedish bands that keep coming our way.


Buy Greenleaf here: Agents of Ahriman

The boys don't have a current video, so check out these sites to sample their music.

These are some videos from Dozer, an integral part of the Greenleaf sound.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Byzantine – Oblivion Beckons

Today’s metal moment is brought to you by the letter B.

B is for Byzantine and their latest release entitled Oblivion Beckons is a bold and brilliantly balanced meal of meaty metal riffs, energy sustaining melodies, and flavorful technical prog-type garnishes. Okay . . . I’m done with the B thing. Oblivion Beckons is heavy to an extreme, yet complimented by well timed melodies and mellow musical passages. I’ve mentioned in past reviews that I love my metal best when it’s kept interesting. Kick my ass with all the aggressive groove that you can, then make a dynamic shift in tempo and mood to change things up, and I become butter on a hot biscuit. Okay . . . now I’m really done with the B thing.

“Absolute Horizons” gets your attention right off the bat as the beeps and blips of a Morse code transmission fade away and a barrage of uncompromising aggression plows into you. The vocals are as menacing as any I’ve heard in metal and the tempo is high. My initial reaction was one of trepidation, but thankfully that melted away as I began hearing some obscure guitar licks here and there. Then I began noticing some of the complexity of the riffing. Suddenly, my ears were open to a whole new world of metal madness and I turned the volume up another notch. I was sold on my latest discovery at the 3:04 mark as the guitar swells into a tasteful and classy solo over an off time rhythm. That effectively goes down as the moment that I fell in love with Byzantine.

Things only got better from there. Like “Nadir” before it, “Oblivion Beckons” opens with another devastating riff, but melts into an addictively melodious chorus. Sure, we’ve all heard aggressive riffs dramatically shift into emotional choruses, but few are captured with as much flavor as this one. Then, the band drops into an off time riff that kinda’ comes out of nowhere. Again, it works well. But, don’t think that these guys are done keeping the listeners on their toes. To add additional flavor to this off time ditty, poly-rhythms are added, which gives the sense that the tune is building once again, and then it’s as if the bottom completely drops out of the tune as the guitar solo takes us to another dimension. So, for those keeping count, five dynamic musical shifts in about a minute. Somehow these cats pulled it off and made it feel as natural as breathing. Fuckin’ awesome!

Prepare to get pummeled once again as the bludgeoning starts up on “The Gift of Discernment.” The snare rolls at the intro collapse into one the groovier riffs on the album, and as a whole, the tune is a clinic in drum work. Great double bass work, off time grooves, smooth transitions between the cymbals. Yeah . . . the drummer, Wolfe, has mad skills. The most intriguing aspect of the song is during the outro portion, the guitars go for a clean tone and meander towards oblivion in a jazzy fashion, similar to something one would hear from Stanley Jordan. Since all four members of the band are listed as guitarists, I haven’t a clue who’s whippin’ this little ditty out, so kudos to whomever.

Oblivion Beckons thrashes it’s way through 54 minutes of heady and forward thinking metal in the vein of Lamb of God, maybe not as flesh searing, but nevertheless, technically sound. Check the mellowed out break in “Pattern Recognition” as it flows into yet another searing guitar solo. The acoustic guitar work of “Renovatio” as it disintegrates into the cataclysmic “Centurion” shows the care that Byzantine use to ensure anything but a normal listening experience. “Deep End of Nothing” is the cream of the album as it opens with a jazzed out guitar riff and then explodes into a classic thrash riff. Ojeda’s vocals convey the torture, the grooves move every molecule of the body, the guitars astonish . . . quite simply, it’s text book metal that borrows from various aspects of the genre. An amalgam of beauty and beast, dark and light.

As a final highlight, check the mid section break on “A Residual Haunting,” right around the 2:15 mark. Great riff and excellent use of accents. Hot damn! That’s good stuff right there, kids.

Riddled with some brilliant guitar work, Oblivion Beckons shows that “OJ” Ojeda and Tony Rorhbough have the makings of metal’s guitar heroes of tomorrow. Unfortunately, for this to happen, it will be with other bands. You see, only a few days after the release of this disc, Byzantine decided to call it quits. Hey . . . that’s the music industry for you. We should feel blessed that they finished and released Oblivion Beckons before they went their separate ways. Regardless of the bands status, they’ve left us with a steaming slab of high quality, sub-genre defying metal. It will make the old school thrash guys reminisce about the glory days of the late ‘80’s, and will attract the newer generation of New Wave of American Heavy Metal for it’s sheer brutality. Another link in the evolution of metal? Only time will tell how this one ages, but with it’s musical diversity, it should still sound fresh and vital ten years from now. - Pope JTE

Buy Byzantine here: Oblivion Beckons

Monday, June 16, 2008

Petty Crux - All That Survived the Crash


Petty Crux is an earworm.

Now, if that may sound like a strange way to start a review, let's back up just a little bit. Petty Crux is a powerpopping, brit-rock, indie band, currently taking New York by storm. Having played at all the major clubs in the Miami area and winning the 2006 Miami New Times Battle of the Band, the boys simply needed a larger stage to set their eyes upon. They've been called by those in the know "bold and engaging, with superstar written all over them," and claimed to be a "rival of any good Brit pop band coming out of the U.K."

And they're an earworm.

One of the great things about our job here at the Ripple, is that while we're sifting through the musical detritus that lines the rock and roll highway, we occasionally stumble upon a treasure, a tiny gem, sparkling under the faint glow of recognition. Clemente, one of the main Cruxers, popped their self-produced debut All That Survived the Crash, over to our illustrious office and eventually it landed on my desk with all the fanfare of another piece of junk mail. A car wash coupon. A pizza flier.

What I didn't expect was an earworm.

So, always working for you oh waverider, I plunked the disc into the player and immediately started bopping my head to "Real Love," a crushing, chiming display of smooth powerpop with a killer riff, nice vocals with a swooping bass line leading to a charging chorus. It was then, while I was grooving with the boys, digging what they were laying down, letting that fantastic hook penetrate my body, that the earworm made its way into my brain. Days later, I was in my closet folding clothes, hanging my vast assortment of rock and roll t-shirts, when I found myself singing a song. But what song? I didn't even recognize the melody coming from my own mouth and then it hit me. "Real Love," had worked its way into my brain. It was now a part of my consciousness. It was that good.

And that's what an earworm is, a line, a hook, a melody that works its way into your brain where you hear it over and over. When that song is a television jingle it can be torture, but with the Petty Crux melody, it was just good fun, like having a jukebox bolted into my head.

Then, suddenly, "What do You Care," with its spasmodic, angular guitar riff rocking over a Gang of Four or the Automatic beat followed next, emanating from my mouth with a chorus as memorable as anything to come from the current wave of postpunk guitar bands like the Killers or the Strokes. I could hear the sparkling guitar, that incessant, instantly catchy hook. I was banging my hands against the closet door to that driving drum beat that sends the chorus into fifth gear. All I could remember thinking was that this song needs to be heard, it should be huge. The earworm had worked its way from my cortex to my auditory center.

"Slow," a mournful ballad came next with its swooping vocal line, a beautiful and evocative tune. "Heroes Are Lonely," breaks form, launching off with a jazzy drum and keyboard intro harkening back to the days of Level 42 or Curiosity Killed the Cat. There again were those smooth, soaring vocals, the insistent guitar lines, beautiful background vocal harmonies, a head-bopping bass line and a chorus that seared straight into my nervous system. The earworm had worked its way deeper, now entering my limbic system, where "Apocalypse. . . For Now," drove the damn thing home. Following a scattering, chopping guitar riff, and thudding rhythm, the boys craft another perfectly paced powerpop gem.

Is "All That Survived the Crash," a perfect album. Well, no. Overall, the songs suffer from a lack of production like you'd expect from a self-produced release. "Take My Hand," a tender ballad, is just screaming out for orchestration and a symphonic accompaniment, but these are minor complaints, simple things for any powerful producer to smooth out and embellish. What Crash, does show is a band brimming with potential, capable of crafting some instantly memorable melodies and the skills to drive those melodies soaring to heights that few bands can obtain. The future will decide where Petty Crux take their talent, but we at the Ripple will be there, waiting, watching to see what happens. Waiting for Clemente and the boys to drill that next earworm into my brain. The first one's already made its way to my cerebellum, so I guess I got room for more.


Sorry, the boys don't have a video yet. But check them out at The songs are available there for download. Check out "Real Love," "What do You Care," and "Stand," to get a glimpse where these guys are coming from.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Nevermore - Dead Heart, in a Dead World

A number of years back, I went to my local record store looking for some metal that was sorta’ like Iced Earth. I had just “discovered” Iced Earth and I figured there were more bands like them, so I asked the Counter Chimp if he could recommend something that was close. He handed me a copy of Nevermore’s Dead Heart, in a Dead World and said, “Have you heard these guys? They’re just like Iced Earth.” I said I had not and hastily threw my hard earned cash in his general direction, and raced to the Pope-mobile so that I could immerse myself in the grandness of the next Iced Earth. Well . . . in short, I should have turned my sled right around and doled out some physical punishment on this hapless slob. But, being the peace loving cat that I am, I tucked my tail between my legs and found sanctuary in my other purchases of the day.

Waveriders, let me tell you. Things happen for a reason and I believe that the hapless Counter Chimp deceived me for a reason. He knew something that I didn’t at the time. Nevermore’s Dead Heart, in a Dead World is heads and shoulders better than anything that Iced Earth has even contemplated doing. It just took some perspective to actually see that. As much as it hurts my pride to be lied to in such a way, I actually feel indebted to this guy. All is forgiven, Chimp.

Dead Heart is thinking man’s metal. A bit on the proggy side, which was probably why it took me a few listens to get into, the musical complexity isn’t all that overwhelming. I’ve found something actually comforting about Warrel Dane’s vocal crooning and Jeff Loomis’ searing guitar work. The off time rhythm’s and progressive metal leanings tear the accessibility out of this album, though it’s these same aspects that make it an addictive listen. With every subsequent listen to the album, something new magically appears in the music, and like a sudoku puzzle, challenges the way I think.

Singer Warrel Dane is next in line to the metal vocal hierarchy of Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson, and Geoff Tate. This dude has so much control and range that it’s silly. When he takes the deeper approach towards the songs, his voice is instantly distinguishable. The moment you hear Dane belt it out on “Narcosynthesis” you’ll know what I’m talking about. It’s full of nuance and clearly his own voice, as he doesn’t sound like he’s trying to emulate any other vocalist. Feel the goose bumps engulf your flesh when he gets to the chorus. Amidst the chaotic thrall of musical notes that the band casually tosses around, the vocals are the calm through it all.

The intro for “Inside Four Walls” blasts us with a fury of double bass drums and detuned riffing before careening into the first verse. Drummer Van Williams shows us his acrobatic skills as he practically fills every nook and cranny with a beat of a drum or crash of a cymbal. Yet, through the chaotic din of sound, he still manages to keep it musical. Bassist Jim Sheppard creates a wall of noise that’s only penetrated by the squealing guitar heroics of Jeff Loomis. If you’re new to Nevermore, “Inside Four Walls” is a good introduction to what the band excels at.

“Evolution 169” is a symposium of musical dynamics. From the opening crash of instruments that announce their arrival to the melodic chorus, then back into the intro riff. The break going in and out of the guitar solo is filled with note bending madness, which isn’t to say the solo itself is sane. It’s wondrously filled with hyper fast scale runs, but pulled off as clean as they get. Dane’s passionate vocal performance also gets high marks.

Quite possibly the most accessible tune is “The Heart Collector.” Dane’s vocals, reminiscent of Geoff Tate, croon over an acoustic guitar before Loomis decides to trade that in for his electric model for an outstanding chorus. Take note of Sheppard’s bass work as the band comes out of the first chorus. Gotta’ love how it compliments the acoustic guitars as they return to the tune! I guess one could call this a power ballad in the sense that it’s got the softer verse to heavy chorus formula working for it, but that’s where any similarities come to a grinding halt. It’s too bad ass a tune to be called a true power ballad. Great performances from the entire band on this one!

“The Sound of Silence” took me by complete surprise. The beginning strains of the classic song by Paul Simon kick the track off, but suddenly, any resemblance to the song vanishes as the chaotic Nevermore sound takes over. Basically, the band kept the original Paul Simon lyrics and rearranged the music to their own liking. Pretty fucking awesome.

“Insignificant” and “The River Dragon Has Come” are also noteworthy tunes to Dead Heart, in a Dead World. It’s definitely an album that takes some time to truly appreciate, but man . . . it’s so worth it. I’ve heard some people call the band pretentious. Whatever. My feelings are that if a band has the musical ability to make something over the top while retaining some sort of soul, then more power to them. Nevermore are highly accomplished musicians who run circles around the majority of the musicians on the circuit these days. I’m not saying this is for everybody, you just gotta’ like some key elements to your music to appreciate it. You pretty much have to like high level musicianship, intricate compositions, and complex arrangements. If you don’t mind music that makes you think, then Nevermore is definitely a band worth investigating. If you hate metal, then I’m surprised that you got this far in the review, but I thank you for spending the last few minutes reading this. - Pope JTE

Buy here: Dead Heart, in a Dead World

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Tommy Bolin - Teaser

I've just been informed by my "ever-right" partner here at the Ripple, the Pope, that today's review marks our 100th post (I know the counter says more, but ignore that). While maybe not worthy of a national holiday, we still thought this was a good time to thank all the waveriders out there, the bands and labels who sweat out their hearts and souls to produce the music and the readers who's words and comments make this such a fun job. We'll keep digging underneath the rocks searching for the best new, unheralded and lost classic artists we can find. Please drop us a line anytime to let us know if there's anything we could be doing to make the Ripple better, and we look forward to what the next 100 posts will bring us, and beyond.

So for our 100th post, I thought we'd go back and look at the work of a lost classic.

The world is full of great, "lost" artists. Musical geniuses who flew by too fast for the mainstream to catch up, just a fleeting burst of lightning then they were shuffled and misfiled in the archives of the past, leaving the world a bit more barren for their loss. And it's a shame, because many of these artists had such a tremendous gift to bring, yet it somehow never got heard.

And without a doubt, one guitarist who deserved to reach a larger audience was Tommy Bolin.

Just the mention of his name can provoke an extreme of reaction: On one side you'll find his devoted fans, a dedicated cult following who'll talk endlessly about the brilliance of his playing and his roll in the creation of hard rock and jazz fusion. On the other side, you'll find those who associate his name only with the demise of their favorite band, either Deep Purple or the James Gang. And then, there are those who've just never been lucky enough to hear of the guy.

So today, we'll set the record straight. There was not a guitarist who came to light in the '70's who had such a gift of tone and fluidity, or was as versatile and creative as Tommy Bolin. If history was kind, he'd be held with the same esteem as Page, mentioned with the same breath as Beck and be as revered as Clapton. Before he died, way too young at the age of 25 of a drug overdose, Bolin left behind a prodigious archive of impassioned rock and fusion that just should not be missed.

Teaser, the first of Bolin's two masterful solo albums is a recording of infinite beauty, grace and devastating power. Up until this point, Bolin's career had been one of fits and starts. Stepping in for Joe Walsh with the moribund James Gang, he couldn't save the band, even though his two Gang albums, Miami and Bang are now considered under-rated gems. And following Richie Blackmore into Deep Purple was a move destined for failure, regardless of who the guitarist was. Blackmore's fans would make sure of it, even though history has proved Bolin's one Purple album Come Taste the Band to be a rock/funk masterpiece. In truth, as talented as he was, Tommy Bolin was the wrong guitarist to have ever been brought into these bands. His style wasn't meant to be shoehorned into that of a pre-existing framework and fan base, he was a free bird, a creative whirlwind, best served flying on his own. Which is exactly what he did with Teaser.

While Bolin loved rock, and could blaze out a lead so searing it'd bring tears to your eyes, jazz/rock fusion was his first love. Let's not forget that Bolin was the guitarist on Billy Cobham's classic Spectrum album, one of the first defining moments of jazz fusion. In fact, it was Bolin's playing on Spectrum that inspired Jeff Beck to pursue fusion as his muse with his 1975 Blow by Blow. Which, by the way is the same year Teaser was released.

And on Teaser, Bolin does it all, from blazing rock, fiery jazz fusion, to rockin' blues and sentimental folk. "The Grind," starts it off with a down and dirty blues riff before dropping into a honky-tonk montage of rock and funk. Through it all, Bolin's leads cut through the mix like a surgeon's blade slicing through an organ. Nowhere will you ever hear a lead like Bolin's. His notes flow together like water pouring through Japanese ponds, blending effortlessly from one to the next. It's almost impossible to imagine what his hands looked like streaming across the fretboard to create such a magical sound. His tone is totally unique, never to be mistaken for any of the guitar God's I mentioned earlier, or any who've come since.

"Homeward Strut," is a full-on jazz fusion work out. How Bolin isn't mentioned in the same breath as Beck as the creator of fusion is a crime against humanity, but one listen to this gem will forever correct that error. Bolin is in his element here, ripping through jazz funk riffs effortlessly and joyfully. "Dreamer," slows the pace and is one of Bolin's most beautiful ballads, while "Savannah Woman," tosses some latin flavor into the mix, demonstrating Bolin's mastery of all styles and tempos. And that solo! Bring me a handkerchief, Pope, I got tears in my eyes!

The title cut "Teaser," (first video) brings the rock back on full force, by now leaving you nearly breathless with the scope of music already covered in only the first five tracks. And the album goes on from there, through the jazzy rock of "People, People," the intense fusion of "Marching Powder," the somber beauty of "Wild Dogs," (second video) until the full-on hard rock attack of the closer "Lotus." Simply put, Teaser is a stunning display of an artist at the peak of his craft, one who left us too soon. But don't take it from me, check out the videos below. I've heard some people take exception with Tommy's voice as being on the thin side, but to my ears, its perfect, a soulful, soft instrument created to bring to life the emotion in his songs.

The good news is that the Tommy Bolin archives (I believe run by his brother, correct me if I'm wrong guys) has been doing an excellent job of keeping Tommy's music alive and kicking. Seems that Bolin lived with a tape recorder permanently bolted to his side. He recorded everything except his evening prayers and the archives has been going through these amazing tapes, releasing on disc the cream of the crop, whether rare live shows, unexpected jams, recordings of his great lost band Energy or, my favorites, simple intimate moments of Tommy alone with his electric or acoustic guitar, writing and creating. Whichever mood appeals to you, do yourself a favor and click over to the archives and check it out. Some of our heroes are way too important to be lost to the passage of time.


Monday, June 9, 2008

King's X – XV

When I stumbled on King’s X, I was in the midst of my fascination for thrash metal and the deep, dark, and hairy aspects of metal. I had seen the video for “King” (Out of the Silent Planet) on Mtv’s Headbangers Ball and immediately fell in love with it. Due to limited funds and a difficulty in acquiring LP’s, it was a few years before I could get my hands on that album. Now, after staring long and hard at my wall of CD’s, I have to ask . . . was that really fifteen albums ago? Next question: Where the hell did the time go?

I’m not going to try and say that I know more than the next guy about King’s X, I’m really not interested in being that guy. My fascination with the band started with the first album, and duly, the band has supplied the soundtrack to much of my post high school life. Therefore, I’m not going to say that their latest release, XV, is better or worse than any other album from their catalog. If you know anything about this band, it’s that every album has it’s own distinctive sound, and XV is no different.

With King’s X, you’ve got a few constants. Doug’s pained and soulful vocals, with an in-your-face bass tone. Ty’s understated guitar work mixed with a healthy dose of crunch, and occasional airy vocal leads. Jerry’s solid back beat and vocal harmonies. Melodious tunes with just enough musical virtuosity to keep things interesting. Nowhere near as musically adventurous as Gretchen Goes To Nebraska or Faith Hope Love, XV is a great mix of both infectiously heavy groove tunes and harmony laden pop pieces.

“Pray,” “Rocket Ship, “Alright,” “Move,” and “Go Tell Somebody” all feature that classic heavy groove thing that the boys do so damn well. Doug’s distorted bass bounces it’s way through the tunes, which are then highlighted by his gravelly, yet soothingly soulful voice. Ty adds subtle guitar flourishes before committing a hundred percent to the underlying groove at the choruses. Jerry, the drum-meister that he is, adds beats as if he were laying bricks for the foundation of his new home, meticulously placing the pieces in their place to create a castle of music. Beware the groove, folks! Each one of these tracks has the power to get even the stiffest body moving with the rhythm. Play these songs in a graveyard and watch the ground come to life all Thriller-zombie style. Ha . . . then it’d be called a grooveyard! Damn, I crack me up!

To contrast these heavier groove oriented tunes, “Repeating Myself,” “Julie,” “I Just Want To Live,” and “I Don’t Know” are reminiscent of all that great radio rock from the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. Ty takes over the vocal duties on these tracks and simply sells them. Much more mellow than the Doug fronted tracks, these songs tend to show the softer side of the band in that the tempo is generally more laid back. Ty’s vocals have a dreamy quality to them . . . maybe even a bit whimsical. Radio friendly? Perhaps. I guess it all depends who’s turning the knobs at the radio station. If it were Ripple Radio, then most certainly. Note the guitar solo on “I Don’t Know” and see why Ty is one of rock music’s most revered talents. The vocal harmonies at the end of the tune are also a great touch.

XV is another fine King’s X album and fits in nicely with the rest of the back catalog. It’s not as proggy as their earlier stuff, and it could be that they’ve been there and done that already, so why go down that road again? What they have created is a disc full of good songs. Damn good songs, really. Are they groundbreaking songs? No, but they’re honest songs devoid of frivolous hey-look-at-me-moments. XV could actually act as a good lesson plan for up and coming bands. Cut the shit and write from the heart and you too can release fifteen albums over a twenty plus year career. On top of all of that, with every spin of the disc, it seemingly gets better as I hear things that I missed on previous listens. I love that in an album coz’ then I know that the next time I play it, chances are I’ll be hearing something new. As Doug so aptly sings on “Go Tell Somebody,” “If you like what you hear, then go tell somebody.” I’ve taken those words to heart and I’m out here telling all of you. Pick up XV, embrace the groove and feel the love! - Pope JTE

Buy here: XV

Friday, June 6, 2008

Fear Nuttin Band - Yardcore

What do you do if you have an eclectic range in musical tastes? You're a metal head and a rastaman, all wrapped into one half-shaved head of jah-lovin dreads. Sometimes you want to skank to some reggae, rockers or roots style, yet you still want it vicious and aggressive. Other times you want some metal, but a little different than whatever "core" is the vomit- throated sound of the moment.

You want to rock and you want to reggae. You want some Yardcore.

For years bands have been trying to find the right balance between skanking reggae and slam pit rock. Some come from the rock side, adding flourishes of reggae like Bad Brains, Skindred, Dub War, even the Police. Others, like Peter Broggs or Eddy Grant come from the reggae side, adding heavy metal guitar to the mix of their roots stylin. The results of these experiments are sometimes more successful than others, I'll let you be the judge. But I will tell you one band that found that magic mix.

Fear Nuttin Band, FNB, is headbanging, deep roots reggae, with enough Jah to chill to in your hammock with a cold one and enough metallic crunch and riff to knock at least three cervical vertebrae out of place.

This is reggae rock, roots metal, or rasta-core. Whatever you want to call it, it's pretty fucking amazing. Now, anyone who's read my Puya review know that I give respect to any band that can successfully mix up the metal sound, throwing their own texture into the recipe, but I gotta tell you, reggae's a hard one. By it's very herbed-out nature, roots reggae has got to be about as polar opposite as possible to metal, in mood, message, tone and aggression. Balancing these two dissimilar styles into one cohesive whole requires some pretty special musicians and a little something extra, some added musical spice, to make the whole thing simmer together into something tasty.

Fortunately, FNB got it all. Chris Regan and Jay Chung mangle their guitars as ferociously as any metal band, with the chops to speed it up, rough it up, or drop it down at the drop of dreadlock tam. Produced by Terry Date (Deftones, Pantera, Soundgarden) I hear traces of P.O.D. and Papa Roach here. Drummer Matt Penza and bassist Brian Daigle, the heart and soul rhythm section of any reggae band, fuse seamlessly between dub style and metal, pulverizing you one moment, throwing in Island texture the next, something I didn't think was humanly possible. And then, there's that something special.

FNB features not one, but two authentic reggae lead vocalists, and it's the dynamism of the vocal interplay between Roosta's more Dennis Brown smooth roots style and Prowla's gruffer, Burning Spear toasting baritone that drive these songs. This is fierce reggae metal, brimming with intensity and power, grooving to a reggae beat with enough crunch to still rip the pores from your face.

"Enemy" launches this beast off, as mean and ferocious as any hardcore, pounding and thudding for four minutes while Roosta and Prowla skank and toast, the band going ballistic behind them. "Rule the World," ranks as the highlight here, a perfect blend of pulverizing metal, feedback screeching at the end of the chords, and the most singable reggae chorus I've heard since Black Uhuru. Either one of these guys could lead their own rasta band, their voices are so strong, but together, with the band lighting sticks of dynamite behind them, it's explosive.

"Dun Di Place," is a mosh pit waiting to happen cut in pieces by some deep bottomed dub breakdowns. As you would expect from a song titled, "Police State," this mid-tempo fierce rocker takes no prisoners, a street riot captured in four minutes of pounding metal and toasting. Then, just when you think you've got the boys's style pegged,"Pon Di Block," breaks it all down, Rootsa and Prowla digging deeper into their roots-style for a slower paced roots number, Roosta voice floating in and out of the chorus, while Prowla brings on the deeper end. From there, there's just no letting up. "Vibes,""Runaway," and "Fears,' will all keep the masses smashing each other with flying elbows and knees, while "Can't Get Me Weed," "Real Music," and "Friends," bring on the more melodic island vibe without ever losing their groove.

Now, if it seems like I'm just going on and on, well, I am. It's been a long time since I've had this much fun with a new metal band, most bands satisfied recycling old Sabbath riffs, the same blast beats, or spewing out their vocals as if they were hawking phlegm from a diseased lung. And to successfully fuse two of my favorite musics, straight up roots-style with the demolishing muscle of metal, I feel like a kid discovering Reese's peanut butter cups for the first time, "Peanut Butter and Chocolate? In the same candy bar? Holy fuck!" On their CD cover, the boys have a saying. "Unify the Music, unify the people." Well, just sign me up.


Buy here: Yardcore
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