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Dark Phantom / “Nation of Dogs” Review

Review by * Hiram 357 *

    I’m a cranky old-fart metal elitist. Yet, somehow, I found myself reviewing new albums in the most life-embittered way. This review is the story of the album “Nation of Dogs” by Dark Phantom. But this review is much different from my other reviews. For one thing. This band is a pioneer for their part of the world. For a second, they are playing a show in Syria on 16 February 2019. So, this is as much an article about the band as it is a review. The band is composed of Mir Shamal (also plays all instruments in Cyaxares) on vocals, Murad Jaymz & Rebeen Hashim (also plays all instruments in Rabeen) on guitars, Mahmood Qasim on drums, and Sermet Jalal on Bass. Considering that there are only 8 Metal bands listed as being currently active in Iraq on the Encyclopedia Metallum (www.metal-archives.com), the members Dark Phantom are responsible for almost half of the Metal that comes out of Iraq. So, these young musicians are quite important to the music scene in Iraq. Syria, where they will be playing 16 February 2019 at the Music House in Lattakia, itself has a small but tenacious metal scene (only 20 active bands). So, a foreign Metal band playing in Syria is a big deal. Dark Phantom are a metal band from Kirkuk, Iraq, which is in the part of the country also known as Kurdistan. This is not a lucrative place to start a metal band, much less a Death/Thrash band. And, yet, they did it. Not content with being the hardest band in town, they turned around, and booked a show in Syria, which is unheard of. In their basics, Dark Phantom are a Death / Thrash band with Groove Metal and Heavy Metal influences. Yet, they go well beyond that; this is an experimental band on so many levels. Yes, the music they play is identifiably Death / Thrash Metal, they also use middle eastern scales and progressions; and this is no minor influence. “Nation of Dogs,” their first full-length album, is a good mix of Western and Middle Eastern music. It was released in 2016 on CD (Symbol of Domination Productions), Tape (Dead Generation Records and later on Toxic Death Records), and as a digital download. Their first release was an EP, “Beta,” released on Salute Records in 2013. “Nation of Dogs” is an interesting listen. On the surface, it’s an enjoyable listen. But if the listener gives this album more than just a casual listen, there’s gold here. The Death vocals are standard, and generally good. However, they are top heavy on “State of War.” They also use clean vocals both as lead vocals and as a backup to the guitars. And these clean vocals are are a mixed blessing. It caught me off guard at first, but once I got a feel for the album, I saw what they were doing. It was at that point that I realized that they are mixing musical styles from two different worlds; this caused me to go back, and listen to the album with a new set of ears. Once I did this, the clean vocals made sense, and they added a nice dimension to the music. At times, it reminds me of the backing vocals on “Six Degrees of Inner Turbulance” by Dream Theater. My only complaint is that the clean vocals on “Nation of Dogs” don’t completely mesh with the instrumental music. They play their instruments well, seemlessly blending Thrash, Heavy Metal, Death Metal, Groove Metal, and Middle Eastern music into a coherent piece of music. This give a unique and varied sound to the album, though their sound needs a bit of refinement. Their solos are well-played and proficient. And, while combining all of these elements, this album is refreshingly modern in sound. I must commend them on their talent and strong knowledge of their craft. The high points of the album is “Atmosphere,” which reminds me of “Djinn” - era Melechesh. In my mind, this song achieves everything this album sets out to do. I did not have access to the lyrics, so I cannot comment upon them. The production is perfect for this album, especially how the backing vocals work with the guitar. Starting a band in a healthy scene is no easy task, but starting one where a scene so small is a feat of endurance. For those who are able to attend the show on the 16th, do so. Judging by the music on this album, that will be a concert to remember. Dark Phantom’s “Nation of Dogs” is a bold experiment of combining several disparate styles of music. And, on most levels, it succeeds, though it does have its rough edges. This album is both enjoyable and a documented step of the development of this band. If they continue in this direction, they will be a success. ***Please note: I received a free digital copy of the album in order to review it. But, for what it’s worth, a free album won’t sway my judgment.***

Hiram 3-5-7 thenewhiramshighlights@gmail.com


Ennui / “End of the Circle” Review

REVIEW BY *HIRAM 357*

    I’m a cranky old-fart metal elitist. Yet, somehow, I found myself reviewing new albums in the most life-embittered way. This review is the story of the album “End of the Circle” by Ennui. Ennui is a band from Tbilisi, Georgia, which  consists of David Unsaved (also active in: Comatose Vigil A.K., Necropoli, and Unsaved) on vocals and guitar, and Serj Shengelia (also active in:Angel of Disease, No Regrets, and Signs) on guitar and bass. These musicians have considerable experience from playing in several bands at once, so they are well-oiled. “End of the Circle,” which was released as a CD on 18 September by Non Serviam Records, is Ennui’s third Full Length. It was preceded by “Mze Ukunisa” (2012), “The Last Way” (2013), and “Falsvs Anno Domini” (2015); they also appeared on the “Immortal in Death” split with Aphonic Threnody (2014) and the “Escapism” split with Abstract Spirit (2014). Fair warning: I was never a Doom Metal guy. Other than those rare exceptions, I never cared much for doom. And Funeral Doom Metal always sounded like the croaking of a suicidal frog to me. So, while I can’t compare it to another Doom album, much less another Funeral Doom album through sheer lack of interest in the genre, I can comment upon it as a music fan and a musician. So, this review will be a bit different from my others. That said, I found this album to be quite different. Yes, it has all: it’s slow and durge-y; yes, it is as heavy as a lead weight around the listener’s neck; and the songs are as long as a lifetime. Yet, it has so much more. This is not an album that you put on as background music; and it is not an album that you listen to actively. An album like this requires the listener’s passive attention. “End of the Circle” is an where it was an immersive experience. It reminds of “Heathen” by Wyrd – 50 minutes of beautifully ugly music to immerse oneself into. The music is off-putting if you put it on for “enjoyment purposes” or in the car. Trust me – I tried both. Yet, the music made me want to listen to it – there was something engaging there. So, I did what I used to do with some of the more atmospheric Black Metal albums – Sit still, and float in the music. And it clicked! This is almost meditation music – heavy, grinding meditation music. It takes the listener into a bleak landscape of sardonic desert of midnight-black sand. It opens up emotive and thought streams into the darkest recesses of the listener’s mind. Ennui fluctuate between mellow passages that sound like a suicidal David Gilmore only to transition into a bone-grinding mill wheel that pulverizes your soul. This music really brings the listener into another place that is both peaceful and sardonic. What I found interesting and even addictive are the aural textures Ennui creates with their music. It both engrosses the listener and pushes him away. There are only three tracks on this album, each ranging from 20 to 30 minutes. This makes it difficult to point out a standout song. However, the title tack,“End of the Circle,” is a well-rounded, complete piece of music, while the other two tracks, “The Withering Part I - Of Hollow Us” and “The Withering Part II - Of Long-Dead Stars” are a single piece broken into two movements. While this breaks this piece into more easily digested parts, it is an artificial division. This, however, is just me nitpicking, as this doesn’t affect the flow of the album. Other than this minor gripe, I cannot criticize this album. I really enjoyed it once I figured out how to listen to it. I did not have access to the lyrics, so I cannot comment on them. The production on this perfect for the genre. It’s clear enough to heard everything, but it’s got a certain murky depth to it that enhances the atmosphere of the music. Ennui’s “End of the Circle” is a masterpiece. I’m not sure how fans of Funeral Doom Metal would rate it, but I love it. This album requires the listener to put himself into the proper state of mind to appreciate it, but “End of the Circle” rewards the listener who takes the time to do this. I highly recommend that anyone interested in exploring the extremes of existential music to get this album. ***Please note: I received a free digital copy of the album in order to review it. But, for what it’s worth, a free album won’t sway my judgment.***

Hiram 3-5-7 thenewhiramshighlights@gmail.com


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Prezir / “As Rats Devour Lions” Review

REVIEW BY *HIRAM 357*

     I’m a cranky old-fart metal elitist. Yet, somehow, I found myself reviewing new albums in the most life-embittered way. This review is the story of the album “As Rats Devour Lions” by Prezir. Prezir is an interesting band. They come from Milwaukee, WI in the USA, but they maintain a connection to the Balkans. The name of the band is the Serbian word for “Contempt.” And this fits the band’s music nicely. They are distinctively American,but they do have European undertones in their music. Prezir describes themselves as Anti-Ideological Metal,which is accurate, considering the lyrical content. For simplicity’s sake, I would say that they straddle the line between several genres, but I think they lean closest to War Metal. They are definitely Black metal, but they incorporate elements of Death and Thrash Metal. This variety is for a reason for this. The various members have been involved in multiple very different bands over the years. Rory Heikkila (Gust, Heedless Descent, Promethean Parallax, and Shroud of Despondency) and Tyler Okrzesik (Cholernik and Sillage) are on guitars; Luka Đorđević (Khazaddum and Promethean Parallax) is on vocals; Brian Serzynski (Pig’s Blood and Shut In) is on drums; Jerry Hauppa (Ara, Concentric, Northless, and Steel Iron) is on bass. These are working musicians who keep their skills sharp. “As Rats Devour Lions” was released 18 August 2018 by Godz ov War on CD; and they self released it digitally and on cassette. This is their second release; their first being “Contempt” back in 2017. This is a varied and enjoyable record. Yes, it maintains a traditional Black Metal sound and feel, but it is much stronger than most Black Metal records – thanks to a noticeable Trash influence. The vocals range from high-pitched Black to deep Death styles. What really is exemplary in this album is the how the interplay between the guitars and bass. I should mention at this point that I can hear a very strong “Anthems”-era Emperor influence in the guitar playing. And this is a very good thing. While there are no particularly weak songs, this album has several tracks that stand out. “Daral Harb” has some outstanding interplay between the guitars; it’s reminiscent of “Howl Ravens Come” by Einherjer. “Serpents in the House of Ra” is downright groovy – not groove metal, but groovy; I don’t know any other Black Metal song that I can say this about. “Hamatsa Death Ritual” is the high point of the album. It shifts gears seamlessly, has a good solo, and the instruments play off of each other really well. It also has this certain intangible something that makes it great. “As Rats Devour Lions” was produced by Shane Hochstetler. The production on this album is clean, so all the instruments are clear. They complement each other instead of fighting for the listener’s attention. Now, the lyrics – Despite what the scenesters will have you believe, Black Metal was created to be offensive to our most dearly-held beliefs. And Prezir delivers. As I pointed out before, they play “Anti-Ideological Metal,” and they spare no one. All the major religions and political stances are directly criticized in this album; and they do this to encourage the listener to form his own opinions as an individual. Also, these criticisms are not vulgar and mindless; quite the opposite – they are rooted in history. Each song gives a historical context and reason for their criticism. These lyrics are what really make Prezir stand out from the hordes of Black Metal bands. Prezir’s “As Rats Devour Lions” is one of the very few bands that hold true to Black Metal’s roots while playing music that is both intelligent and enjoyable. If they continue to grow in this direction, they will become legends. Black Metal fans should run out, and buy this album, because you will not find a more honest and engaging album. ***Please note: I received a free digital copy of the album in order to review it. But, for what it’s worth, a free album won’t sway my judgment.

*** Hiram 3-5-7                                                                                                                                                                                        thenewhiramshighlights@gmail.com


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XALPEN / "Wowk Otrr" Review

REVIEW BY *HIRAM 357*

I’m a cranky old-fart metal elitist. Yet, somehow, I found myself reviewing new albums in the most life-embittered way. This review is the story of the album “Wowk Otrr” by Xalpen. Xalpen is a two-man black metal band from Chile with Alvaro Lillo (a.k.a. Tarem-Keláash) handling bass & vocals, and J.P. Nuňez (a.k.a. Keykrok) handling Guitar & Vocals. Individually, they have been active in several quite talented bands; Alvaro Lillo has been involved with Execrator, Kako Daimon, Undercroft, Hellfire (former), Hostile Reaction (former),and he played live for Watain and Detraktor (former). J.P. Nuňez played with Bloody Torture (former). They have an impressive background, so they have no excuse to be mediocre. On “Wowk Otrr,” Francisco Morales (a.k.a. Kamok) played lead guitar, and Sebastian Fucksman (a.k.a. Wéyntek) played drums. Also, Dalila Damaris did female vocals, and Nicolas Varas played the piano suite. “Wowk Otrr” is their second album, and was released by Morbid Skull Records on 13 September 2018 as a CD, cassette, LP, and digital. Their previous album was “Black Rites,” which was released in 2016. And they are already working on their net album – quite an impressive work ethic. They sit firmly in the Black Metal genre, but I would say they specifically are Necro Black Metal. Black Metal, like Thrash, maintains a sense of tradition – if you stray too far from these set of guideline, you wander into Extreme Metal Hipsterland. Xalpen maintains all of the aspects that make them Necro Black Metal, and they bring in other elements that keep it from being just another Black Metal album. The influences are varied and surprising. Of course, you can here the traditional Black metal influences with a lot of tremolo picking, but there are other influences, too. As with many Black Metal bands, the punk influence can be readily heard. “Xosh Kassek (Chant to Xosh)” shows heavy metal influence and riffing; and “Ten Hashpen (In Darkness Remains)” show a much different influence with its dual vocals and thrash influence. The instruments and vocals work well together. They work in unison to create a soul-stripping mindscape. It’s ugly in its beauty. That’s the only way I can describe this album. There are several stand-out tracks, and one was really surprising. “K’Ternerrnenqar Shwaken ( The Vengeance of K´terrnen)” starts off as a Ritual Ambient with tremolo picking and sparse drumming, after which, it speeds off into oblivion. “Ten Hashpen ( In Darkness Remains )” is the high point of this record. It’s got dual vocals; it shifts gears seamlessly, and it’s just an all-around tough piece of metal. “Kay Taw Chalp Ny Palakaw Sho´On Msh ( A Cold Rain Under the Cloudless Sky )” is also unique; it goes from being Doomy to Black metal, and has some ambient lead guitar work a là Lifeson’s guitar solo in “Earthshine,” but much more subdued. The surprise was the title track, “Wowk Otrr ( Oculus Australis );” it’s a ritual ambient song with wonderful lead guitar work. This song shreds your soul in the most beautiful, icy way. This is a strong album, but it has one week point – the introductory song, “Intro.” I can’t tell if it’s static or the waves on the ocean, but, whatever it is, it is a waste of space on the album. Conversely, the piano outro, “Seyta ( the Barn Owl ) / Outro ( Piano Suite),” brings the album in for a perfect landing. The production on “Wowk Otrr” is amazing. It’s harsh enough to maintain a sense of genuineness, but it is clear enough so the listener can really appreciate the music. And this is impressive considering the band did their own production. Lyrics posed an interesting problem; they’re written in Selk´nam, a largely unknown indigenous language from South America. While I can’t actually comment on the quality of the lyrics, I must comment the band for writing them in such an obscure language. I’m really impressed. Helgea Hekatae & Valentina Reyes did the artwork for the physical releases, and the few samples that I’ve seen are dark and wonderfully made. They are appropriate for the music. Simply put, Xalpen’s “Wowk Otrr” is a great album. Barring the Intro, I absolutely love this album. It does 2 things that a Necro Black Metal band needs to be great: it maintains a traditional sound and introduces unique elements into their music. And Xalpen manage to do both of these things. I strongly recommend any Black Metal fans get a copy of this album. And I urge Xalpen to continue in the direction they are going, and they will become an underground classic. ***Please note: I received a free digital copy of the album in order to review it. But, for what it’s worth, a free album won’t sway my judgment.

*** Hiram 3-5-7 thenewhiramshighlights@gmail.com


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 Shelton Chastain / “The Edge of Sanity: 88 Demo Session” Review

REVIEW BY *HIRAM357*

I’m a cranky old-fart metal elitist. Yet, somehow, I found myself reviewing new albums in the most life-embittered way. This review is the story of the album “The Edge of Sanity: 88 Demo Session” by Shelton Chastain. This band consists of David Chastain of Chastain and the late Mark Shelton of Manilla Road. While these two musicians already had an impressive back catalog individually, this is their first and only recording together. David Chastain is a multi-instrumentalist and phenomenal guitarist; and Mark Shelton is a strong vocalist (and a good guitarist). Separately, they are brilliant musicians, but together, they are shear genius. Their individual bands are great for their instrumental musicians, and though the singing is strong, it does not seem appropriate for the instrumental work. Enter, Shelton Chastain… They bring all their individual experience and expertise into something completely different from what they had done before. And though it is so different, the musicians are readily identifiable by their playing (and singing) style and shear talent of these two musicians. This album I’m reviewing here is a Demo from 1988, which was released as a cassette, CD, and LP on 26 October 2018 by Pure Steel Records (CD & LP) and Post Mortem Apocalypse (Cassette) – 30 years after it was recorded. Quite unfortunately, it is their only published work together. When I listen to to this album, it immediately reminds me of Iced Earth at their finest. Strong and thrashy and, at the same time, it’s not quite Thrash. However, Chastain’s playing is varied he ranges from traditional Metal to Classical Metal to a bit of Prog. I even can hear Yngwie Malmsteen’s influence and, one point, Alex Lifeson’s, especially in “Orpheus Descending.” I hate reviewing albums with only four songs, because there is so little musical content that they are either great or horrible with little or no room for a bad song on the record without tanking the whole thing. Even when songs are 10 and 20 minutes long, they either work or they don’t. Gratefully, this is a gem. All of the songs are strong and well-written, intelligent and yet pounding. Every song has its merit here. “Orpheus Descending” is obviously the centerpiece. Centerpieces, actually, because there are two different versions of it. Complex and varied, both versions highlight different aspects of this song. There are no weak songs on this album, but the extended “Orpheus Descending” by itself makes this album worth buying. The lyrics are at the same time works of fantasy and philosophy. These men are competent musicians and lyricists, which is a feat in itself. It’s a shame that this is only a Demo that’s been put onto CD. Yes, this has a good production, but the production could could have been better. But, this doesn’t take away from the music, because it is pure quality. Much more than a historical relic, Shelton Chastain’s “The Edge of Sanity: 88 Demo Session” is an enjoyable listen that is well ahead of its time. It is nearly perfect, and it far exceeds anything David Chastain and Mark Shelton did with any of their other bands. This album’s only weakness is that the production should have been better. Unfortunately, this was Shelton Chastain’s only release; having said this, the music we have here is shear perfection. ***Please note: I received a free digital copy of the album in order to review it. But, for what it’s worth, a free album won’t sway my judgment.

*** Hiram 3-5-7***                                                                                                                        thenewhiramshighlights@gmail.com


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Chastain / “The Voice of Cult: 30 Years of Heavy” Review

REVIEW BY *HIRAM357*

I’m a cranky old-fart metal elitist. Yet, somehow, I found myself reviewing new albums in the most life-embittered way. This review is the story of the album “The Voice of the Cult: 30 Years of Heavy” by Chastain. Unlike most bands that I review, Chastain are veterans of the music scene. In fact, this album was released 30 years ago. Chastain was originally intended to be back-up band for a one-man-act, but wound up being a full band. And it has been going ever since. Barring 2 hiatuses, Chastain has existed since 1984. They’ve released two demos, four compilations, and ten full-length albums over the course of those thirty four years. They have had numerous line-ups over the years, but their current line-up consists of three of their original members, David T. Chastain, Leather Leone on vocals, and Mike Skimmerhorn on bass. Stian Kristoffersen recently joined the band as a drummer. It should be noted that David Chastain is the only stable member of the band. The album in question has Ken Mary on drums, along with David T. Chastain, Leather Leone on vocals, and Mike Skimmerhorn on bass – the classic line-up, and this album is a classic in their catalog. “The Voice of the Cult: 30 Years of Heavy” is particularly difficult to review, because it is not a current piece of work. Art is timeless, but it also has a special significance for the time in which it is written. Considering 30 years has passed since this album, it is a necessarily dated work. Yet, these older works need to be re-released. They are brilliant, and the younger generations of musicians to learn from them. I say that the best way to approach this album is as a dated work of art, much like “Call of Cthulhu.” It’s a work of genius and a classic, but it is also a work of its time. So, we do need to make an allowance that the musical tastes of the ‘80s were different from our contemporary tastes. This incarnation of Chastain are remarkably talented. And the instruments work together, and complement the lead guitar work; and this is what they are there to do. And David Chastain’s guitar work stands up to even the best of Shred guitarists; he is an absolute genius. There is, however, a fly in the ointment: the vocals. The vocals do more to detract from the music than anything else. Yes, Leather has a strong voice, and she is pitch-perfect, but it just doesn’t fit the music. At points, it grates against the instrumental genius that is the heart and soul of this album. But, overall, it is tolerable, and, at times, it even fits into the music. In many ways, Leather’s voice reminds me of Tim Aymar on “Fragile Art of Existence;” he’s a great singer in a great band (Control Denied), but his voice works against against the album. The same thing is happening here. Phenomenal musicianship, good singer, but the two don’t mesh here. That being said, the vocals are appropriate for the style and the time period in which this album was recorded. And Yet, not everyone will find them appealing. Leather’s voice reminds me of a mixture of Donnie James Dio’s and Hansi Kirch’s voices. This, however, is all a matter of taste, so at least give the album a fair listen. The highlight of the album was “Live Hard;” this is a prime example of genius guitar work, and is ahead of its time. Another great song is “Evil for Evil” with its thrash influenced Heavy Metal; the double bass drumming is particularly nice. It’s just a great song. “Fortune Teller” is another great song. I don’t know why, but it reminds me of Gravedigger from Germany, but much more technical. The lyrics are of good quality, and get the points of the songs across. This reissue was released as a Vinyl LP by Pure Steel Records on 26 October 2018. The mix on this album is beautiful. All the musicians are clear, yet everything meshes nicely. That being said, I am basing this review on the digital download that is sent to reviewers. I don’t know how this will sound on a vinyl record. Sometimes digitally remastered albums don’t sound quite right on vinyl, but this is by no means a hard and fast rule. “The Voice of Cult: 30 Years of Heavy” is a great album, yet it is marred by good vocals that are wrong for this music. I’m glad Chastain is still around, and that most of the old line-up are back together. These are immensely talented musicians, and this album in particular is brilliant. It’s a snapshot of the ‘80s metal scene, and a good one at that. Despite my criticism, this album is great for those interested in the history of Metal and for those looking for a well-rounded piece of music. ***Please note: I received a free digital copy of the album in order to review it. But, for what it’s worth, a free album won’t sway my judgment.

*** Hiram 3-5-7***                                                                                                                                      thenewhiramshighlights@gmail.com


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Trash Bombz / Prisoner of Disaster Review

REVIEW BY *HIRAM357*

      I’m a cranky old-fart metal elitist. Yet, somehow, I found myself reviewing new albums in the most life-embittered way. This review is the story of the album “Prisoner of Disaster” by Thrash Bombz. Thrash Bombz is a Sicilian Thrash Metal band from Agrigento in 1997. They were first named Necrosis, but, after releasing one promo, they changed their name to Thrash Bombz in 2007. They started life as a Death / Thrash Metal Band, but evolved into a traditional Thrash Metal Band. After several line-up changes, they came together as he line-up is Giuseppe “UR” Peri (rhythm guitar), Salvatore “Skizzo” Li Causi (lead guitar), Angelo "Destruktor" Bissanti (bass), Tony "Stormer" Frenda (vocals) & Salvatore "Trronu" Morreale (drums). They have released a demo, “Sicilian Way of Thrash” (2012), EP, “Mission of Blood” (2103), full length album, “Mission of Blood” (2014), EP, “Dawn” (2014), full-length album, “Master of the Dead (2017), and this current full-length album, “Prisoner of Disaster” (2018). So, with these 21 years of experience and a reasonable back-catalog of published albums, I expect them to be a well-oiled machine. Thrash Bombz is a Thrash band, and I’ve always seen Thrash is a more conservative sub-genre of Metal. There are certain aspects that must be maintained in order for it to be Thrash: open-string based riffing, fast tempos, shredding, and vocals are often melodic, but closer to shouting. I view Thrash in the same way I view Raw Black Metal, Brutal Death Metal, and Traditional Heavy Metal. These sub-genres are Metal’s memory; they keep Metal rooted in what it is: offensive, abrasive, protest music. In addition to acerbic lyrics, there are certain compositional aspects that must be maintained in order for it to be Thrash: open-string-based riffing, fast tempos, shredding, and vocals are often melodic, but closer to shouting. With all of this in mind, I am using the following standard to judge “Prisoner of Disaster”: Does it intelligently and creatively hold to Thrash’s characteristics and maintain this aggression and conflict, both compositionally and lyrically? Thrash Bomz clearly are talented musicians. They play well within the Trash’s structure, both individually and as a band. Vocals in Thrash have always been hit or miss for me, which makes it a particularly difficult sub-genre to be a fan of. Bands often have great instrumentalists, but a vocalist who sounds like a little girl with laryngitis. This definitely is not the case with Thrash Bombz. Stormer’s vocals fit the instrumentals perfectly. He is one of the best Thrash vocalists I’ve heard. “Prisoner of Disaster” is well-written, well-recorded, and has a clear production. It stays well within the boundaries of Thrash, but it also brings in other elements without losing their identity as a Thrash band as so many other have done (I’m looking at you, Metallica). A particularly good example of this is “Mafia Demonz,” which incorporates elements of Black Metal and still remains a proper Thrash piece, and a brilliant one at that. This is one band that I would really like to see live. All of the songs, except “The Order” lend themselves to sound really good live. They’re strong and fluid, and they demand to be listened to at full volume. “Apocalypse / Prepare Yourself to Die,” with its warm intro solo, and its back-and-forth vocals makes for a strong piece. And, as I mentioned earlier, “Mafia Demonz” mixes in Black Metal elements which makes for the most original Thrash song that I’ve heard in years; it’s my favorite song off this album. “The Headquarter” is an instrumental that can stand up to “Orion” by Metallica. These songs are the high points for me. The only song that needs to be removed from this album is “The Order.” Not only are intros generally useless, but this one in particular doesn’t serve a purpose, and it cuts off abruptly. It was a bad way to start such good album. I had no access to the lyrics, so I can’t comment on them. The mix is good and clear; all the instruments mesh nicely on this album. So, turn it up to 11 – it only gets better as the volume increases. “Prepare for Disaster” by Thrash Bombz is a strong album with some unique elements. They remain firmly rooted in Thrash while bringing in other elements to create quite a special album. I encourage Thrash Bombz to continue in this direction (just please, no more intros), and I’m already looking forward to their next album. ***Please note: I received a free digital copy of the album in order to review it. But, for what it’s worth, a free album won’t sway my judgment.

*** Hiram 3-5-7***                                                                                                                                                                                    thenewhiramshighlights@gmail.com


                         Mycelia - Apex Review - Eclipse Records

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 MYCELIA - APEX @ ECLIPSE RECORDS - VIDEO-STREAM & PURCHASE - POINT

 Mycelia / Apex Review

REVIEW BY *HIRAM357*

      I’m a cranky old-fart metal elitist. Yet, somehow, I found myself reviewing new albums in the most life-embittered way. This review is the story of the album, “Apex” by Mycelia. Mycelia is a Swiss band that started back in 2010, and, after a few line up changes, they stabilized as Mark Trummer (drums), Mike Schmid (guitars), Mike Fuller (guitars & clean vocals), Eugen Wiebe (bass), Marc Fürer (vocals), and Lukas Villiger (vocals). They describe their music as not having a genre, but blending any style that suits their whim, from Jazz and Classical to Death metal and Djent, into a blizzard of extremity. And this is exactly what they do. Mycelia’s latest album, “Apex” is due to be released on October 12, 2018 via Eclipse Records, with the first single, “eight Milligrams, having been release to radio stations on September 24, 2018. This is not their first album, however. They have already released two EP’s, “Mycelania” (2011) and “Summer Mix” (2013). They also released four previous albums: “Isolator” (2012), “Nova” (2013), “Obey” (2015), and “Dawn” (2017). Considering their track record, “Apex” better be good. The band claims that their music “sound pairs groovy, crushing rhythmic sections with subtle, intricate melodies, on top of surgically precise drumming and vocal arrangements that range from soaring clean vocals to utterly brutal screams and growls.” So this is the standard that I will judge them by. And, again, they better be good. Well, they are good; they’re very good. The accomplished exactly what they set out to do. And Mycelia know who they are and what they’re doing. When I first read their press kit, I thought these guys were full of themselves, but they’re not. They are every bit as good as bands who have been around for 30 years. Not only are the individuals accomplished musicians, they also work well together as a band. Mycelia is a strange band, and “Apex” is a strange album. So many Prog bands brag how they mix every style, but this often translates into a great Metal band with strong Jazz influences and/or classical influences; and, yes, this is a treat. In Mycelia’s case, they do mix more styles than I ever thought they could mix and maintain structural integrity. I hear many influences in this music, especially old Amorphis (“Tales from the Thousand Lakes” / “Black Winter Day” era), Symphony X (“Damnation Game” era), and even later Enslaved. Myselia pulls in Neo-Classical movements also, as well as Swing Jazz; I even thought I heard some Chiptune in the background. And the vocals go from Death Metal to clean (nice voices there, by the way), and this was one of the amazing things about this album. They even did a song in the Spiritual style. Interspersed throughout this album were comparatively short songs. They fit into “Apex” nicely, and they even help to maintain the album’s flow. They also complement the longer pieces. This is part of their genius – they understand movements within music, and how to place them within the individual songs, and those songs within the album so that it grabs you from the first note, and it doesn’t let go until the very end. I should draw attention to one of these humbler, short songs. “Holler,” in all its simplicity, shows their skill in adapting to so many different styles. This song is sung in the style of the African American Spirituals; and Mycelia absolutely nails it. These guys have music in their blood. I had no access to the lyrics, so I cannot comment on them. I also wish I know who who the producer was, because this is a beautifully clear and balanced recording. There are several stand-out tracks on “Apex.” “Eight Milligrams,” which was released for radio play on September 24, 2018 is a perfect starter for this; it starts off conventionally aggressive, and then the electronics kick in, and it goes all over. “Slip-Along Jack McTravis” is an interesting piece of music, heavy, punctuated, and fun; it has a carnival feel to it. And, at one point in the heaviness, they switch gears to throw in a bit of Jazz inspired by Cab Calloway’s “Scat” style. “Cromulon” wonderfully ascends and then descends into chaos. And “Timesick” is the perfect song to close this album, dynamic, strong, and it resolves the entire record. There are no weak songs here. The only thing I will say is that “Lawnmower Man” It starts out really strong, but, at some point, it cools off. And “E.V.A.” is good, but lacks something to be great. “Apex” is a strikingly diverse album that grabs you as soon as the music stops, and holds your attention through the many twists and turns. It is the chaos of this record that holds the listener, and this chaos gives this record both life and structure. Mycelia is one of the most talented band I’ve heard in a long time, and I encourage everyone to try this album; you won’t be disappointed, and it may even change how you listen to metal. ***Please note: I received a free digital copy of the album in order to review it. But, for what it’s worth, a free album won’t sway my judgment.

*** Hiram 3-5-7***                                                                                                                        thenewhiramshighlights@gmail.com

                   


                        TURMA - KRAKEN REVIEW - AGOGE RECORDS

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TURMA - KRAKEN @ AGOGE RECORDS - MUSIC PLAYER

Turma / Kraken Review

REVIEW BY *HIRAM357*

       I’m a cranky old-fart metal elitist. Yet, somehow, I found myself reviewing new albums in the most life-embittered way. This review is the story of the album, “Kraken” by Turma. Turma is a metal band from Naples, Italy. Formed in 2008, they went through a couple of line-up changes, and stabilized as Raffaele Berisio (voice), Lello Di Lorenzo (guitar), Fabrizio Lamanna (bass), and Ciro Troisi (drums). Both Berisio (Kyom, Burial in Sulphur, and Deatheriorhate) and Triosi (South of No North) have been in published bands prior to Turma, so these guys should have their chops down. They categorize their music as Djent / Deathcore, which I suppose would be fair (sort of, at least), but I think they’re using the Core title in an attempt to be relevant, which, for this band, is unnecessary. They definitely have the Djent thing down, though; and they show both Death Metal and Thrash Metal influences. Turma have released a demo, “The Great Chaos” (2008), two singles, “Brothers” (2012) and “Kraken” (2017), and two full-length albums, “Tearless” (2011) and “Kraken” (2017). Their current album, “Kraken,” was released digitally by Agoge Records These guys are a bit more interesting than your average band. Between the two albums, they radically changed their style between their first and second albums. Their first album was a well crafted piece of Thrash Metal with some Heavy Metal influences; and their current album is a Djent / Thrash crossover. This is impressive in itself, as it takes quite a lot of skill to play radically different music from one album to the next. They are a mix between German Thrash (like Kreator and Destruction) and Meshuggah, but with some clean vocals thrown in. There are even passages that remind me of Crematorium from Chicago. Turma describe this album as “A new, aggressive modern metal sound with extreme metal influences!” And this is the standard to which I will hold them. I think they definitely achieve what they set out to do. Listening to “Kraken” was an odd experience. When I saw “Djent / Deathcore” in their press kit, I expected a bad Meshuggah knockoff. I couldn’t have been more wrong. They nicely mix several sub-genres of Metal into a smooth and unique sound. Granted, this sort of thing is not for everyone, but they are really good at what they do. Turma seamlessly switch back and forth between Thrash and Djent, and this is important. It’s one thing to mix styles, but it’s a completely different thing to take these styles, and meld them into a cohesive whole. That’s not to say there aren’t aren’t abrupt changes in musical direction; there are, but they make sense within the context of the songs and the album as a whole. Needless to say, the musicians in this band are accomplished with their instruments. Quite honestly, they need to be in order to play the music on this album. I can’t say one instrumentalist sticks out; they are all phenomenal musicians. And they know how to play off of each other. When talking extreme genres, one thing that easily can make or break a band are the vocals. At first, I could take or leave them, but once I gave the album some attention, I realized that, yes, they were Death Metal vocals, but they weren’t static. They had the same sense of movement and fluidity that the other instruments had. The lead guitar work is particularly interesting in that it serves as a complement to the melody (or lack thereof) as opposed to being a spotlighted part; and, contrary to conventional wisdom, this really strengthened the music here. The only problem with this is that the lead guitar is a little low in the mix sometimes, particularly in “Destroyer.” I had no access to the lyrics, so I can’t comment on them. Gianmarco Bellumori produced this album, and he did a beautiful job. Only sometimes does the lead guitar sound low in the mix; otherwise, the mix is very clear and balanced. The standout tracks are “Mortal Kombat,” “The Fifth Joint,” “Kraken,” and “Forgotten”. I particularly like forgotten, and how the guitars play off of each other. It reminds me of “Howl Ravens Come” by Einherjer. There are no particularly weak songs on this album, but the last two are not as accomplished as some of the others, so maybe a different song positioning on this album would have given this album a little more oomph. My only real complaint is that it is only a digital release. Not having a physical product takes away from the listener’s experience. Album art and lyrics round out the musical experience, so I encourage Turma to consider a physical release of this album. “Kraken” is a wonderful album – well-written and well-executed. This album takes a couple listens to get into, but once it grabs you, it digs into your skin. Even though I really enjoy this album, I also think it is not for everyone. It is both aggressive and intelligent, and it has to be approached as the unique piece of art it is. **Please note: I received a free digital copy of the album in order to review it. But, for what it’s worth, a free album won't sway my judgment.

*** Hiram 3-5-7***                                                                                                                        thenewhiramshighlights@gmail.com


                            NEXUS - TAINT (AGOGE RECORDS 2018)

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 MUSIC & VIDEO PLAYER @ AGOGE RECORDS  NEXUS "THE TAINT MEDIA PLAYERS

Nexus / "The Taint" Review

REVIEW BY *HIRAM357*

      I’m a cranky old-fart metal elitist. Yet, somehow, I found myself reviewing new albums in the most life-embittered way. This review is the story of the album, “The Taint,” by Nexus. Nexus is a band from L’Aquila, Italy consisting of Vlad Voicu (guitar & vocals), Tony DiMarzio (bass), and Lorenzo “Il Diverso” Mastracci (Keyboards). Diego Aureli (live guitars) and Danielli di Gasbarro (live drums) play during live shows. Formed 2009, and at some unknown date, they released the “Death of Art” EP (no date), and this current album, “Taint” on CD in October of 2017 on Agoge Records. These guys had been around for a quite a while before they released anything, which is a very good thing. And the best part about it is that is shows in their music. Their music is well-written and arranged. There is no doubt that a lot went into this. Nexus describe themselves as Industrial Goth Rock, and their sound as, “haunting but catchy melodies and instrumental hooks accompanied by detuned guitars and a groove-heavy rhythm section.” This is the standard I shall judge them by. Is their description accurate? Well, yes and no. I would describe their sound Goth Metal with industrial elements. So, if anything, I think they sell themselves short. In many ways, this band reminds me of a mix of Khasm (the one from Connecticut, USA) and Clan of Xymox. The vocals are strong and sardonic, which is perfect for Goth music. And the guitar work is chunky enough to where they don’t sound like a bunch of emo kids trying to express their tender feelings. They are emotional, but they have backbone – a hard balance to strike. They play their instruments well, and the industrial electronics are integral to the songs, as opposed to simply accentuating what’s going on. The keyboards are as central as the guitars; they not only complement each other, they play off of each other. The guitars are strong and maintain good grooves, but there is not much soloing here, but this is a good thing, because a lot of soloing would have ruined this album. The drumming is very good, but the bass is adequate. The singer is very good, but his voice is not always deep enough, to keep up with the instruments, particularly on “Cancer.” The good news is that this does not happen often on this album. This album’s strong point is in how it’s arranged; everything works well together without any of the individuals overpowering the others. In this regard, it reminds me of Einherjer’s “Norwegian Native Art.” Lyrics were not available, so I cannot comment on their quality. I have not seen the physical product, so I cannot comment on the packaging; the cover art is interesting and appropriate for the style of music. This album, “Taint,” was produced by Gianmarco Bellumori, and everything is well-balanced and clear. For me, the stand-out tracks are “N.B.N” and especially “Crimson Wine;” this simply is a great song. There were no particularly bad songs, but “Scrying Mirror,” which was a very good song, lacked something to be truly great. While it is not perfect, “Taint” is a wonderfully smooth album, which surpasses the standards set by the band. It is a great listen, especially for the band’s first full-length effort. Granted, they were around for 8 years before they released this album, but it’s still quite an accomplishment. If they continue taking their time and making music of this quality, they will be very successful. ***Please note: I received a free digital copy of the album in order to review it. But, for what it’s worth, a free album won’t sway my judgment.

*** Hiram 3-5-7***                                                                                                                                                                                         thenewhiramshighlights@gmail.com


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ENTROPY CODING - TALES OF THE MOON @ AGOGE RECORDS - MUSIC PLAYER

Entropy Coding "Tales Of The Moon" Review

REVIEW BY *HIRAM357*

I’m a cranky old-fart metal elitist. Yet, somehow, I found myself reviewing new albums in the most life-embittered way. This review is the story of the album, “Tales of the Moon,” by the band, Entropy Coding. Entropy Coding is a new one-man (one woman, actually, Susanna Coultre) progressive symphonic band from Rome, Italy. Italy has a good metal scene, and arguably has produced the brightest minds in Metal, Luca Turilli. Before starting Entropy Coding, she played for a year or two in the Italian Prog Metal band, Embrace of Disharmony (which is worth checking out). She appeared on their “Humananke” album. So, she definitely coming from the right place with the right background. This is her first full-length release with Entropy Coding, with the single from this album, “Feel the Air,” being released a week prior. So, for all intents and purposes, this is their first release. It was produced by Gianmarco Bellumori, and released digitally on Agoge. With all this background, let’s look at the album itself. The Press Kit states: “The main purpose of this project is to reinterpret in a new way the symphonic metal genre, using prog and power metal elements with innovative voices.” I will therefore use this as the standard of the album’s success Building on her experience with Embrace of Harmony, she definitely continues in the vein of Prog metal, and her music is also symphonic. So, at this level the album is a success. Her voice is strong, and she has good control over it, which is ever so important in “Power Metal.” Again, success. Where I think they overreached is that the vocals are not innovative. They are beautiful; they are strong; but they are not innovative. This is not catastrophic, but just a little too much advertising hype. Ms. Coultre knows her art and how to apply it. The songs are never boring. She successfully melds Prog, Power, and symphonic metal into a new genre of Symphonic Prog Metal. And she brings all of these pieces together nicely. The individual songs have good flow to them, with enough movement within them to keep you guessing. Just when you thought you knew where the song was going, it changed directions. Yet, it’s not chaotic, which is quite a feat when even the heavyweights fall into this trap (i’m looking at you, Dream Theater.). She excels at both composition and arrangement. Speaking of Dream Theater… This band is influenced by Dream Theater, Ayreon, and Luca Turilli (more in compositional concept than style, though). Obviously, stands on the shoulders of giants. One of the downfalls of the first album of most, if not all bands, is that you can hear the band’s influences a little too much. This album have this, but it’s not fatal. As much as this is a flaw, it displays her talent as a composer and her studio musicians’ virtuosity as players. I’ve praised Ms. Coultre’s abilities as a composer and arranger, but she also is an astounding pianist / keyboard player. She worked with 10 musicians whose names are not given (though they are too talented to be the Nameless Ghouls). And now for the nitpicking: This is a great album, though I ask her the same question that I ask all musicians who do this: Why the intro? If it’s not an overture, either tack that intro to the first track or drop it altogether. While the songs are well-written, at times, they are soulless, but this is not a constant problem, but, occasionally, they do lose some heart as they noodle around their parts. Again, not a big deal, though. Given that there are lyrics in these songs, a lyric sheet / libretto would go a long way to help the listener appreciate the beautiful music on this album. Knowing what she is singing would probably fix the sense of soullessness that I mentioned. The lyrics are part of the artwork, so they should be included. Please, please, please, for the love of Geddy Lee, please make a physical album! This is wonderful music, and making a physical product will not only appeal to a larger audience, but the listener can enjoy it so much more. Nothing is more enjoyable than listening to a new album while reading the lyrics in an art-laden lyric book. Surprisingly enough, the standout tracks for me were quite far into the album; they were, “The Wolf’s Trap” and “Shining Through Our Light.” These songs showed Entropy Coding without any dependence upon their influences. These songs are brilliant. Her voice is unique in “The Wolf’s Trap,” and there is no question which band is playing. The interesting thing is that even though I personally prefer “The Wolf’s Trap,” I think “’Shining Through Our Light” is the strongest song on the album. In fact, it should have been the first song on the album, not the last, but it is a strong song to end with. Again, this is a well-written album, and it accomplished what it set out to do. Barring a few hiccups, this is a wonderful album. In all honesty, for being her first solo album (and bearing in mind that she only appeared on one other album), it is brilliant. Having said that, she set a tortuously high bar for her second album. But, seeing what she she has done so far, I fully expect a magnificent sophomore release. ***Please note: I received a free digital copy of the album in order to review it. But, for what it’s worth, a free album won’t sway my judgment.

*** Hiram 3-5-7***                                                                                                                                                                                         thenewhiramshighlights@gmail.com


                         GIGANTOMACHIA - ATLAS - AGOGE RECORDS

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GIGANTOMACHIA - ATLAS @ AGOGE RECORDS - SINGLE & VIDEO 

Gigantomachia / Titan Review

REVIEW BY *HIRAM357*

      I’m a cranky old-fart metal elitist. Yet, somehow, I found myself reviewing new albums in the most life-embittered way. This review is the story of the album, “Titan” by Gigantomachia. Gigantomachia is a Death Metal quintet from Alatri, Italy consisting of Davide Angelo Pietrantoni (vocals), Lorenzo "Barabba" Suminier (bass), Alessandro Caponera (solo guitar), Stefano Severa (rhythm guitar), and Nicola Frate (drums). The band’s Press Kit explained that their name “is linked to the legend of Alatri, the city of the Cyclopes, and to Greek mythology.” While their press kit describes them as Melodic Death Metal / Epic Metal. I, however, believe they are more along the lines of traditional Death Metal with some Doom metal leanings. There is a lot of sludge in the distortion, melodic passages, and a mixture of tempos; there are even some clean vocals on this record, in addition to good old fashion gutteroll vocals and higher pitched screaming. So, they are melodic with some dynamic shifts. However, they definitely are not what I think of when think of when I hear Epic Metal (Nile is an example of Epic Death Metal). But let’s not get hung up on labels; subgenres are just guidelines. This is the first published band that these musicians have been in. And this band published, “EP,” an EP (duh) in 2016 and “Titan” in March 2018, with the song “Liberate the Titans” having a video and single (also released in March 2018). They are not seasoned musicians, but they are starting their climb as professional musicians. They are billing this new album as, “An ancient but overbearing album, an ancestral and metallic sound. Scratchy guitars and inhuman growl for an epic and dark death metal. Ancient myths in a death-key!” And this is the standard to which I will hold them. This album was released both in digital and CD formats on Agoge records. So, how does the album fair according to the band’s self-imposed standards? It doesn’t. They do nothing of what they set out to do. The songs are mostly standard mid-paced Death Metal that had its hey-day in the ‘90s. However, there is a passage in “Eye of the Cyclop” that reminds me of the song, “Gates of Mountains (Chapter 1)” by Ono Turma, and this touched my fuzzies in a nice way. That the music is generally mid-paced to fastish, does not mean that there is no change in tempos; there are . This is not static music. It ebbs and flows, and there is movement, but this album is most comfortable chugging along at a nice jog with a some healthy sprints thrown in. The guitars and bass are distorted enough to give it definition and the needed sludge for this style of music. And they know how to play their instruments well. The lead guitar is present, and there are short solos interludes, but nothing that Trey Azagthoth would smile upon. The vocals are good on this album; they remind me of Max Cavalera at his finest, and the screams are adequate. Believe it or not, the clean vocals add to the music. In fact, the clean vocals on “Atlas” and “Scylla and Cariddi” give them a bit of a Nu-Metal feel, but not in a bad way – it gives it unique character. The instruments do their jobs. There is nothing spectacular here, but there is nothing bad here either. The guitar and guitar work are good, but it’s not stellar; “Leviathan” has a good solo, though. This does not mean it’s a bad album; it’s just not great, but it is a good first full-length. My usual rant against intro tracks applies here. Ambient synth and drumming is cool and all, but “Rise of Cyclop” does nothing for the album. The same goes for “Abyss Leviathan;” it sounds like a guy walking around in spurs to a drum beat. Lyrics were not made available, so I can’t comment on their quality. I watched the lyric video of “Unleash the Titans” on Youtube, and it is based on classical Greek mythology. The spelling needs to be cleaned up a bit, but that’s just me being picky. Gianmarco Bellumori produced this album, and he did a beautiful job with it. I found the production to be clear and easy to listen to. “Leviathan” and “Atlas” are the stand-out tracks for me. They showcase musicians that can think outside of the box, and these songs showcase their abilities as songwriters and players. Coming back to the point of their self-imposed standards… This album is a good, mid-paced Death Metal album with a couple of unique elements thrown in. It is not not overbearing; when I think “overbearing,” I think of bands like Driller Killer or Anal Blast. And Gigantomachia lacks their brutality. And I don’t see anything dark or epic here; there needs to be a certain level of technical proficiency and additional instrumentation to be epic (e.g., Nile or “Demigod”era Behemoth). Since lyrics were not included, I cannot comment on whether or not this is a dark album. Again, this is a good album, and a respectable first full-length from musicians who are still learning their trade. Given time and more experience, this band will evolve (Nile’s Festivals of Atonement” was good, but not great, but they evolved into a Death Metal powerhouse). And I expect Gigantomachia to accept this review as a challenge to evolve like this, because they have the capability. They just need to push their art to the extreme. ***Please note: I received a free digital copy of the album in order to review it. But, for what it’s worth, a free digital album won’t sway my judgment.

*** Hiram 3-5-7***                                                                                                                                                                                    thenewhiramshighlights@gmail.com


                DANCING SCRAP - THIS IS SEXY ALTERNATIVE IRON PUNK

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(AGOGE RECORDS 2018) 

DANCING SCRAP - THIS IS SEXY ALTERNATIVE IRON PUNK  @ AGOGE RECORDS -  MUSIC PLAYER 

Dancing Scrap / “This is Sexy Sonic Alternative Iron Punk” Review

REVIEW BY *HIRAM357*

      I’m a cranky old-fart metal elitist. Yet, somehow, I found myself reviewing new albums in the most life-embittered way. This review is the story of the album, “This is Sexy Sonic Alternative Iron Punk” by Dancing Scrap. Dancing Scrap started back in 2008, and after a couple of name and line-up changes, it solidified with this line-up: Ronnie Abeille (composer / vocals), Sal Ariano (guitars), Eugenio Pavolini (guitars), Bobby Gaz (bass), and Danilo Camerlengo (drums). Over those years, they’ve released two demos and two full-length albums (each with a single and an accompanying video). The album that I am reviewing here is the second full-length effort. So, by the time they recorded this album, they were already experienced musicians with some synergy. Not only this, but they have a single song-writer, so their music is focused. They describe their sound as Indie / Punk. They couldn’t be more wrong. They go well beyond punk, and and the generally limp genre of Indie. For the life of me, it’s hard to pin down a style for this music, and I mean this in a good way. Yes, it is punk; there’s no mistaking those vocals. But there’s also industrial and hard rock here. There’s a lot going on here, so the first thought upon hearing this album was, “What am I listening to?” They describe this album as “Sexy Sonic Alternative Iron Punk,” and I suppose this is as good of a description as any considering that this album is all over the place, but in a a good way. This album does stand up to this description, and it surpasses it. It is rooted in Punk, but it is much more dynamic than punk could ever hope to be. If this album were a person, it would be that blue collar genius who goes around in jeans and a t-shirt. The basic song structures are Punk, no question, but songs they build around those structures are are quite inventive. In many ways, this album reminds me of a Punk equivalent to System of a Down’s album, “Toxicity,” which was firmly rooted in nu-metal, but brought in so many other influences that it went beyond nu-metal. Everyone plays his instrument well; there are no slouches here. The singer is strong and roots the band in Punk, giving everything direction, and having a duet on “Bitch and You Know It” is particularly effective, especially for the closing track. The guitar work is outstanding, and the solos are perfect for the songs, especially in “I Like It.” The bassist does a particularly good job on this album, playing an active role in the arrangement and the mix; he sounds particularly good in “Yet to Come.” The drumming was well-played and varied. And the songs were written and arranged well. And their placement on the album gives them a good ebb and flow. This album was produced by Gianmarco Belluri, and he does a flawless job. That is not to say this album is perfect. It is not. The songs do vary in quality, but there are no stinkers here. The only real complaint I have is that a couple of tracks are too close to conventional punk for a band this talented, particularly “The Rocker You’re Not” and “The Goddess.” But, not everyone likes everything. “Ready for the Show,” “Bitch and You Know It,” and especially “I Like It” are the standout tracks for me. My only major complaint is that this is a digital-only release, and the lyrics are not included with the download. This seriously hampers an album’s impact on the listener, especially when the lyrics are not present. The music is important, but the lyrics are the music’s soul. Also, the packaging give the listener something to look at while he is listening to the album; it’s a more well-rounded experience. Now for the twist – I dreaded the thought of listening to this album when it showed up in my email – I hate Punk music with every fiber of my soul. Yet, I found it more than enjoyable to listen to. “This is Sexy Sonic Alternative Iron Punk” is definitely worth listening to. I encourage Dancing Scrap to continue in the direction that they have on this album. They have a unique sound that is both intelligent and has the potential for radio-play. ***Please note: I received a free digital copy of the album in order to review it. But, for what it’s worth, a free album won’t sway my judgment.

*** Hiram 3-5-7***                                                                                                                                                                                    thenewhiramshighlights@gmail.com


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