Search for the Hidden Gem (2010 – vol#2)

Written by on February 18, 2010 in February 18, 2010, Music Reviews - 1 Comment

With football season climatically over, and really who would have thought the Saints at 20-1 to start the season would win it all, I can now turn my attention to the Olympic spectacle that is curling.  If I could only remember where I put my lucky broom I’d be batting a thousand.

Clandestine

Self-Titled

www.clandestineband.com

Style (Rock / Progressive)

There’s something to be said about presentation because I grabbed this one from the pile because the CD arrived in a large clear envelope containing a decent glossy band picture on the front, a bio written on stylized paper, and interesting thought provoking artwork on the CD cover.  But all fluff and no fold still makes for wrinkled cloths.  In all honesty, if I came upon this band live on stage I’d give them a glance because the female lead singer isn’t bad on the eyes.  But after the visual stimulation waned my ears would tell me to keep steppin’.  That’s not to say the music is awful because it’s not.  What I’m saying is that the songs aren’t inspiring enough to keep my focus.  Musically I can hear these guys know a thing or two about scales, music theory, arrangement, tempo, etc and I really dig the progressively gritty raw muscle sound.  But what’s really sending me off to get another drink is the very thing that made me stop and stare in the first place, the singer.  Vocally she’s in tune and can belt out a note effectively, but unfortunately she doesn’t possess a quality of voice that keeps my concentration.

Rating 2 ½ (just OK)

Fat Wreckchords

“Wrecktrospective”

www.fatwreck.com

Style (Punk)

Sometimes a milestone celebration CD comes along that deserves recognition.  For this go around I’m honoring the 20 year history of Fat Wreckchords (pronounced Fat Records) and wish Fat Mike, founder and also lead singer and bassist of the punk rock band NOFX, another 20 years.  Fat Wreckchords is an independent record label for the punk rock masses based out of San Francisco.  I won’t play it off like I know anything about the punk movement or that I know a damn thing about any of these bands on the 3-disc release.  However, I do know the sound that gets me motivated and energized and this stuff does the trick.  This enormously complete release consists of 3 disc’s with each different from the other.  Disc 1 contains 33 songs and represents the greatest hits from the record label.  Disc 2 contains 28 songs representing an array of unreleased demos and other rarities, which in itself is a cool thing to have in a collection.  And finally disc 3 (27 songs worth), contains the entire Fat Club 7” series for the first time on CD.  Included with the release is a large pull out poster that contains every single Fat Wreckchords every released.  The punk artwork alone is truly amazing and speaks volumes to the personality and culture of what being “truly punk” is all about.

Rating 4 (an outstanding collection of Punk)

Maura Kennedy

“Parade of Echoes”

www.myspace.com/maurakennedy

Style (Indie / Singer Songwriter)

I can sum up this CD in three words and the first two don’t count – FORCED, FORCED, and FORCED.  Like a skipping needle on an LP, the consistency of the contrived labor running through these 13 songs and the photos is eerily spooky how close the CD titled nailed the description.  I’m sure inside there’s an artist with something on her mind, but maturity, examination, and understanding of the best method for delivering such thoughts to the masses needs to be evaluated because the musical path is definitely not getting’ it done.  If Ms.Kennedy and Phoebe from Friends were having a battle of the songwriters at Central Perk I’d rather hear “Smelly Cat” on a continuous loop than anymore of Ms.Kennedy’s whimpering attempt at tormented longing.  Ms.Kennedy’s writing, musicianship, not to mention her desperately pushed, lazy, and often out of tune vocals, remind me of those awful hippy songs of the 60’s I despise so much.

Rating ½ (at least with “Smelly Cat” I know in advance the cat smells)

The Fall of Troy

“In The Unlikely Event”

www.thefalloftroy.com

Style (Alternative)

This musical genesis explodes into your ears with ambitious ferocity and exceptional musicianship.  At first listen I was ready to write this trio from the Pacific Northwest off because none the songs related well commercially.  But I stuck it out for one main reason, Thomas Erak.  Thomas Erak is both singer and guitar player, and though his vocals are a cross between a mediocre American Idol karaoke contestant and a hardcore howler monkey, it’s his guitar playing that sparked my rubbernecking curiosity to see what’s happening up ahead.  To say Erak shreds on guitar is simply understating a fact.  Erak’s six string musicianship is fresh and exciting, and much different from those lame ass guitar shredders who keep saturating our ears with the same ol’ same ol’.  Erak plays with an unrelenting and unsympathetic energy, sharply changing direction faster than a cheetah chasing lunch, and smartly placing his licks within rhythms and choruses that actually make sense.  The song writing style for this trio is high octane up-tempo with an unimaginable amount of tangents.  The nearest comparison I can think of is Rush intensely fueled by a three-way cocktail of cocaine, red bull, and 10cc’s of adrenaline.  This CD is a great example of skilled musicianship (all three musicians to be exact).  However, my one knock against the music is the same that almost sent me away in the first place, which is the lack of marketability and commercial stamina to garner attention from outside the industry people who already know these guys for their playing ability.

Rating 2 ½ (low because the songs aren’t catchy)

Taking Dawn

“Time To Burn”

www.takingdawn.com

Style (Rock)

The bio tells me these guys are out of Las Vegas and are inspired by rock and roll bands like Bon Jovi, Skid Row, and the like.  Musically though, I hear more mythology based anthem style rock ala Iron Maiden.  Complementing the music, the CD artwork’s symbolism projects a mythological path with fire and brimstone, an Austrian Military Merit cross (made famous by the Red Barron), and an ouroboros.  I’m just a little confused by the bio when compared against what I’m hearing and seeing to know where this band is heading.  My confusion aside, Taking Dawn’s sound is intense, loud, energetic, fun, and full of youthful exuberance and definitely something I’d stick around to check out in a club.  One problem I hear though, which is both good and bad, is that this band’s sound is incredibly full and built for large venues and stadiums.  An interesting problem if taking Dawn is cutting their teeth on the club circuit because the fullness of their sound in a small club may be too overpowering.

Rating 3

Incite

“The Slaughter”

www.inciteband.com

Style (Hardcore)

WARNING!!!  Do not, I repeat, DO NOT, go from a vente chai latte chilling with some smooth jazz to this hardcore monster.  This is the one time I really should have paid closer attention to the warning label.  Damn does this animal voraciously wake your ass up!  Playing through this CD I feel like a dogs chew toy that’s been mauled to only be saved by getting tossed into the rinse cycle of an old Whirlpool with a busted drum.  Four songs into the 11 total and I’m already worn out.  Talk about taking control with zero let up.  The last time I was in a moss pit I got a rib fractured by a dude pushing 300+.  Being in this bands moss pit all I can hope for is that the 300+ pounders will be too damn tired so the old guy can get in the mix.  These songs are imposing, intense, brash, full of raw muscle and power, exceptionally well-orchestrated mayhem with killer punch, and exactly what good hardcore sounds like.

Rating 4 ½ (HIDDEN GEM – the energy level start to finish is fantastic)

Genitorturers

“Blackheart Revolution”

www.myspace.com/genitorturers

Style (Industrial Metal / Techno / Gothic)

I dig the music but hate the band name.  That name is just too much to think about and spit out.  As for the music, I’m on board with about half the CD and am totally jacked up on the song “Devil In A Bottle,” which is rough around the edges with its raunchy and throaty female vocals accompanied by hard driving rhythms delivered like lustful pounding pile driving sex.  The band’s sound and presentation is sexual, sleazy, aggressive, sex techno, gothic, and industrial.  Listening to the CD I’m picturing a Helmut Newton, Rob Zombie, and Manson collaborated gothic style dominatrix naughty Halloween party.  The female vocals are throaty and sexually gritty, the guitars are raw with that nasty grind quality, and the drums and bass back it all up with that back alley energy that’s both scary and unstoppable.  This CD, unlike many others, comes in pairs like butt cheeks.  One butt cheek (the first half of the CD) has the nasty, rip your clothes off roughness, and the other cheek (the second half of the CD) is a more lacy tantalizing tease.  There are a few songs on the CD I feel pull the energy level too far down with their 180° style tangent from rough grinding metal to industrial techno rave dance party.  I’ve listened to many CD’s over the last couple years and I honestly can’t recall any other band with two distinctly different musical personalities on the same CD.  Song number 3 “Devil In a Bottle” has strong possibilities on hard rock and metal playlist’s, and song number 8 “Cum Junkie” has strong possibility on the techno dance playlist.  I’m a little bummed out though I got the advanced media copy because it lacks all the full CD artwork.  Checking out the band pictures on their MySpace I can only image how over the top decked out in leather and latex dominatrix these guys and dolls are.  This is the first time I’ve come across Genitorturers and from what I’ve heard and seen I’d say these guys and doll will be musically and visually stimulating live for both sexes.

Rating 4 ½ (careful with that riding crop)

Note:  I need to move this review up to “4 ½”   I’ve had this playing in my truck for a week and even though there are some songs I feel could have been replaced 90% of the CD is quite good. 

H.E. Miller

“Apocalyptic Dreams”

www.apocalypticdreams.com

Style (Indie / Folk)

I don’t know if the U.S. military has any napalm still on hand but if they’re looking to unload some I’d suggest this dudes recording equipment.  This music is horrendously awful!!!  If given the choice to hear these songs again or to listen to a rooster crowing while using a jackhammer, I’d pick the rooster every time.  It was to be expected this stuff would suck given Mr.Miller is credited with playing all the musical instruments.  Might I suggest the next musical instrument be the silent cotton ball, although I’m sure he’ll suck at playing that too.  There are 14 songs too many on this 14 song disk which are absolutely pure misery to listen to.  And if the music wasn’t bad enough, Mr.Miller decided the songs needed some crappy low resolution 64kb first generation camera phone snapshots to help bring down the quality even lower.  Everything related to this chicken scratch has me picturing this hillbilly living out in the middle of nowhere sucking back mushrooms and moonshine.  Then I read on the website Mr.Miller is actually thinking about taking this trash on the road.  All I can say is I feel sorry for those craft shows and county fairs.  My sympathy goes out to the pigs and cows because at least the people can run away from the train wreck that is “Apocalyptic Dreams.”

Rating 0 (by far one of the worst CD’s I’ve ever heard)