September 19, 2019

Thornley - Come Again (2004)

Country: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Post Grunge
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© 2004 Roadrunner Records
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus
After Big Wreck dried up in 2002, Ian Thornley returned to his native Toronto, where he hooked up with pal Chad Kroeger of incredibly huge blather rock outfit Nickelback. Thornley signed with Kroeger's vanity imprint, tapped producer Gavin Brown, and secured backing help from the studio musician ranks. The result is Come Again, a slick, straightforward post-grunge effort with an ear for melody and slight twinges of psychedelia. Cuts like "Falling to Pieces" and the title track are greased-up chest bumps of well-executed 21st century active rock, akin to types like Lo-Pro or the similarly Gavin-produced Three Days Grace. It rumbles appropriately and teems with generic yearn -- it's numbingly indistinct music, but damn if it doesn't sound good loud. Thornley makes a more lasting impression with material like "So Far So Good" and "The Going Rate (My Fix)," which lets him stretch his wily vocals over instrumentation that shifts from acoustic to electric, and from plaintive to powerful. Contrasting the muscular stomp of "Easy Comes" with the more atmospheric, melodic "All Comes Out in the Wash," Audioslave becomes Thornley's closest stylistic peer. They both showcase powerful singers with whisper-to-a-screech range; both groups are a bit older and like tempering their full-on rock rip with some gray-hairs-in-the-sink introspection. Come Again should find fans of this sound, as well as Thornley supporters left over from his Big Wreck days.

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Finger Eleven - The Greyest of Blue Skies (2000)

Country: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Post Grunge
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© 2000 Wind-Up
AllMusic Review by David Reamer
With their second release on Wind-Up Records, Finger Eleven attempts to establish itself as legitimate rock stars in an already saturated market. Like fellow Canadians Our Lady Peace, Finger Eleven relied on a lone single from its debut album to hit it big with alternative radio outlets and springboard its career. And like Our Lady Peace's "Starseed," "Quicksand" did just that, bringing the band's name into households throughout North America. In fact, comparisons between the two Ontario-based bands go beyond simply location and career path. Their musical styles are also remarkably similar, built upon simple electric guitar work and their lead singers' extremely flexible voices. The Greyest of Blue Skies marks a bit of an evolution from the sound established on Finger Eleven's first album, Tip. The Greyest of Blue Skies is quite pensive and features more prominent guitars than its predecessor, but it is also pleasantly harmonic at times. The songs have a polished feel to them, regularly breaking into catchy, but far from cheesy, refrains that will have all but the most stoic listeners singing along. The band is able to pull off fast and heavy pieces like "Suffocate" (first released on the Scream 3 soundtrack) as well as deeper, more ponderous songs such as "Sick of It All" without appearing hypocritical in the slightest. In the end, the album is an enjoyable listen that stays away from the fluff and filler that often plague alternative rock bands. For fans of Canadian rock, Finger Eleven is the next logical step from "that other band."

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Strata - Strata (2004)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Post Grunge
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© 2004 Wind-Up
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus
Strata garnered their share of label interest from the beginning, as the San Jose combo's post-grunge sound is quite comparable to past Cali scene successes like Trapt or Hoobastank. They eventually signed with Wind-Up, and have issued this self-titled debut. Throughout, Eric Victorino's vocals are capable of both gutsy soar and tear-choking flutter, while his mates are adept at putting a melodic face on Tool. The vague claustrophobia of Radiohead surfaces here, too, but it's usually channeled through peels of Deftones-ish distortion, ultra-clean splash cymbal drumming, and gimmicky processed vocals. (Screams seem broadcast on AM; Strata likes layering meaningful whispers underneath the main vocal.) Opener "Piece By Piece" follows this template, as do "Never There" and "You Are Eternal." Longtime Strata fans will recognize quite a bit of the material on this release, as tracks like "The Panic," "We've Changed," "Today," and "When It's All Burning" have been re-recorded from previous demos or Internet releases. And Wind-Up was nice enough to let their new signees produce their own record, even if there's a lengthy list of additional knob-twiddlers and engineers. The result is a capable slice of post-grunge rock. It's furiously midtempo, occasionally hooky, and full of punctuating drum fills and guitars that shift from pensive to powerful at the click of a foot pedal. If you like that sort of thing, and the success of Hoobastank proves many do, then Strata just might be your next crush. Buy a band-branded wristband from the enclosed merch card, and show your love.

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Hum- Fillet Show (1991) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Shoegazing
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1991 Twelve Inch Records
*No professional reviews available for this release.

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Hum - Electra 2000 (1993) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Shoegazing
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1993 Cargo/Twelve Inch Records
AllMusic Review by Jason Anderson
Independent recordings like Hum's self-released Electra 2000 usually benefit from their low-budget rawness and immediacy. In the studio, the first take is almost always the emotional keeper, and without major-label funding, who can afford to waste hours trying to get it just right? This studio abandon ensures a personal sound that adds greatly to the charm of independent releases. This is not the case, however, with Electra 2000. Some serious rethinking of the mixes and drum performances would have been an enormous benefit to the album. The loud/quiet band aesthetic is mismatched with a loud/loud drumming approach whose dynamic limitations are exceeded only by its wavering meter. It's rare that such a technical problem overshadows otherwise decent material, but between this rhythmic tragedy and the poorly recorded vocals (which on occasion sound like simple mumbling), Electra 2000 is a bit of a flop.

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Hum - You'd Prefer An Astronaut (1995)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Shoegazing
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© 1995 RCA Records
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett
Having partially created what many felt was a template for the Smashing Pumpkins to become successful, Hum found itself in an unenviable spot when the lead single from its major-label debut, "Stars," became a hit precisely because of that sound. There's certainly a similar connection at points, what with some fierce, chopping feedback and crisp drum slams, but the lyrical portrait is less solipsistic and somehow the whole song feels more inspirational and dreamy for it. Like the song itself, then, You'd Prefer an Astronaut is, for all the similar love of psychedelic volume in service of emotion, its own beast, most specifically because of the singing. Talbott's lead vocals are much more restrained than Billy Corgan's aggro screams, bearing more immediate comparison with, say, Mark Kozelek of the Red House Painters or Stephen Immerwahr of Codeine. Sounding crushed and regretful amid the surge and flow of the music, his singing generally feels very approachable, reflective rather than declarative. When he does let loose with screaming here and there, it's nowhere near as strained as Corgan, something which a lot of people might be terribly happy about. As for the music, the quartet can work up a thick head of steam without cloning Corgan or James Iha's metallic rampage, just that little more dreamier and muted around the corners. Songs like "The Pod" and "I'd Like Your Hair Long" certainly recall the chunkier punch of such Pumpkins numbers as "I Am One" and "Cherub Rock," but, again, they easily stand on their own. Elsewhere, the slow building shimmer and then release of "Why I Like the Robins" is very much the band's own individual creations, as is the soft, hurt drawl on "The Very Old Man" and the downbeat start of "I Hate It Too," for all things fire up towards the end.

tags: hum, youd prefer and astronaut, you'd, 1995, flac,

Hum - Downward Is Heavenward (1997)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Post Grunge, Shoegazing
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© 1997 RCA Records
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett
Having scored their fluke hit with "Stars," Hum hunkered down and created a follow-up album that went nowhere, leading to the band's splintering. An unfortunate result all around, because, arguably, Downward Is Heavenward isn't merely the group's best album, but a lost classic of '90s rock, period. Taking their sense of the epic and the equal but opposite sense of the tender and personal to striking new heights, the quartet finds a remarkable balance throughout between world-shaking arrangements and gentle connection. Opening track "Isle of the Cheetah" sets the tone, Matt Talbott's singing the still center of a just wonderful, huge rock-as-symphonic-burst song. Other individual highlights abound: "Ms. Lazarus," which turns from a tight little post-punk skip into a tempo-shift-arrested rock-out, "Afternoon with the Axolotls," and its amazing balance between Talbott's delivery and skyscrapers of feedback and drums, the squirrelly interaction between the watery guitars and Talbott on the verses of "Dreamboat" before another bomb blast. What's especially nice on Downward Is Heavenward is that, while sounding as detailed and precise as possible, even when completely letting go, there's none of the Brian Wilson fetish that ultimately overdetermined so much end of the millennium rock with indie leanings. No orchestral touches, horns, or the like -- keyboards, yes -- but otherwise the band relies on the traditional rock lineup to come up with its results. Ironically there are a couple of hints of bands inspired by the Beach Boys -- "If You Are to Bloom" has the same feel of 1992-era Boo Radleys -- while in turns pointing the way to the work of 12 Rods. But ultimately, this is Hum as Hum, catalyzing the calmest of singing and delivery via some of the biggest sounding music around. All this and no cheap attempt to rewrite "Stars" either -- Hum, clearly, had something special

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September 18, 2019

Otep - Sevas Tra (2002)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Nü-Metal
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© 2002 Capitol Records
AllMusic Review by Charles Spano
Sevas Tra stands for "art saves," a philosophy written all over Otep's debut full-length, an album that yanks itself from the jaws of suffering with rage, anger, doom, and a sound heavier than Slipknot. Female lead singer Otep, whose name is an Egyptian suffix meaning "creative offerings," growls, screams, and throws in the occasional hip-hop sound ("Battle Ready" and "Sacrilege") as she wipes the slate clean of any preconceptions of how intense a female-fronted metal band could be. Marilyn Manson has said, "That girl scares me," of Otep, not surprising when you hear the eerie, pained opening of "Emtee" or frightening whine of "Blood Pigs." Sevas Tra is a record that raises the high watermark for goth metal.

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Otep - House of Secrets (2004)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Nü-Metal
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© 2004 Capitol Records
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger
The sophomore effort from art house nu-metal practitioners Otep only briefly flirts with the genre's anarchic political leanings ("Warhead"), focusing instead on the medium's most revered theme: angst. The lupine howl of a shattered youth proclaiming that "I hate my life" is nothing new, so when frontwoman -- and namesake -- Otep screams the phrase endlessly throughout "Buried Alive," she's channeling everyone from post-rock mouthpieces Gordon Gano and Exene Cervenka to pop/rock tunesmiths like Roger Waters and Ricky Nelson. This would be all fine and dandy if the music contained a mere particle of the cathartic spirit of the aforementioned artists. When House of Secrets isn't pummeling the listener into submission with predictable riffs and distorted vocals, it's leading the listener into a sterile waiting room -- bereft of even the most mundane periodical -- of spoken word poetry wrapped in tedious post-Nine Inch Nails soundscapes. Otep is at her most genuine on the title cut, an atmospheric dirge that finds the artist assuming a sultry Chrissie Hynde-like croon, but it's merely a deviation from an exercise that in its entirety is mediocre at best.

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Otep - The Ascension (2007)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Metal
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© 2007 Koch Records
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek
The sticker on the front claims, "The long-awaited new album." The question is, by whom? On The Ascension, Otep Shamaya and her cohorts fool a bit with texture, trying to create a sense of dynamic tension on songs like "Crooked Spoons," "Noose & Nail," and "Perfectly Flawed," but usually end up in the same place: with some blend of post-rock and new and industrial metal. It's of little consequence, because the pummel and punish with age-old riffs and competent but unimaginative bashing saturate the band's "songs." To be fair, there are some other attempts here, such as the long balladic reach of "Invisible" and the creepy-crawler metal of "Communion." But even these tracks descend into the tried and true -- and therefore quite boring -- trademark Otep sound. Given that it's been three years since House of Secrets, one would have hoped that, while capitalizing on their strengths as a band, Otep would have progressed somehow musically and extended their ambition and aesthetic reach a bit further. Alas, it's not so.

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Otep - Smash The Control Machine (2009)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Nü-Metal
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© 2009 Victory Records
AllMusic Review by Jason Lymangrover
With the return of original drummer Moke and guitarist Rob Patterson, both of whom last played on 2002's Sevas Tra, for Smash the Control Machine, Otep seem more determined than ever, but with a dated sound rooted in crunchy nu metal and alternative metal from the mid-'90s, and a proclivity for extreme melodrama, it might be hard for listeners to take them seriously. As far as reference points go, Korn are an obvious touchstone here, especially in vocalist Otep Shamaya's delivery, which directly mirrors Jonathan Davis' myriad voices. While growing more comfortable with her range, Shamaya bounces from pseudo-raps to squelching metal yelps, and even tries a breathy ballad along the way ("Ur a WMN Now"). Lyrically, she also takes more risks. Influenced by her time doing poetry readings on HBO's Def Poetry, she confronts society's ailments head-on, addressing the overabundance of pill-popping, media brainwashing, and apathetic behavior in American culture. Of course, it's not all so provocative. When she gasps the line, "Take my temperature baby/This is what you taste like," it comes across more creepy than sexy. Of course, as an album that will probably get heavy rotation in the Hot Topic stockroom, creepy might be exactly what she and the band are going for.

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Otep - Atavist (2011)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Groove Metal, Alternative Metal
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© 2011 Victory Records
AllMusic Review by Gregory Heaney
Their fifth album, Atavist finds Otep delivering another heaping helping of nu-metal. True to the title, Otep continues to feel like a throwback to the breakdown heavy nu-metal of the late 90s and early 2000s that was pioneered, and subsequently done to death, by bands like Korn. While Otep are by no means an untalented band technically, it feels as if there’s a definite lack of innovation here. Once again, singer Otep Shamaya, whose frantic vocal style ranges from bellowing death growls to creepily sweet, does the bulk of the heavy lifting on the album, putting her vocal talents to work over top of a collection of boilerplate nu-metal jams that are almost indistinguishable from anything that would’ve been released a decade earlier. In a way, the approach makes sense. Otep have never been as heavy as Korn or as progressive as System of a Down, but what they do have that sets them apart is Shamaya, who is able to put on a dynamic performance regardless of how stale the music may be. While this may not help the band win over any new fans after all this time, it will certainly please anyone who has stuck with the band since the turn of the century.

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September 17, 2019

Warfare - Pure Filth (1984)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Heavy Metal, Speed Metal
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© 1984 Toxic Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
When Warfare's debut full-length Pure Filth was released, the band had yet to perform its first concert; but this was hardly an issue thanks to the members' prior apprenticeship in a number of punk and metal combos (Angelic Upstarts, etc.). Quite prolific (two EPs had already hit the streets earlier in 1984), the Tyneside trio seemed hell-bent on dragging the New Wave of British Heavy Metal back to its punk rock-inspired origins, but this led to as much confusion as it did crossover between these different fan factions. Warfare's song titles didn't help in this matter, either, as evil titles like "Total Armageddon" and "Rabid Metal" absolutely screamed heavy metal, while anarchic ditties like "Breakout" and the title track similarly shouted punk rock. But the answer was clear to anyone who actually bothered to buy the friggin' record and listeners soon discovered that Warfare sounded like a slightly slower Motörhead (or Tank, whose leader Algy Ward acted as producer) jamming with the screamer from Venom. Singer/drummer Evo did indeed recall the ubiquitous Cronos in most every way, but judging from the latter's guest recitation on the chaotic and predictably tasteless "Rose Petals Fall From Her Face," there were clearly no hard feelings between them. Warfare's songs were certainly more approachable than their black metal-founding labelmates, and further album highlights included "Let the Show Go On," "Dance of the Dead," and "Limit Crescendo." All of them were so simple in nature that many cynics were tempted to quickly dismiss Pure Filth as just that, but after a few extra listens, most found themselves converted by Warfare's straightforward delivery and crude charms. Years on, Pure Filth retains this duality and has aged quite well because of it -- perhaps because simplicity often equates to timelessness.

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Warfare - Mayhem, Fuckin' Mayhem (1986)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Speed Metal
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© 1986 Toxic Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Boasting one of the most unattractive cover arts of all time (to go along with its consumer-friendly title), Warfare's third full album, 1987's Mayhem Fuckin' Mayhem, was pretty much all bark and no bite, and showed signs that the group's incredible momentum out of the gate had finally begun to wane. The recent departure of founding bassist Falken was handily resolved by having their old pal Cronos from Venom help out in the studio, but offensive time-wasters like the intro "Abortion Sequence" and the even "classier" "Projectile Vomit" were proof positive that the barrel's bottom was officially in the scraping. Likewise, rather lackluster numbers like "Generator," "Atomic Slut" (huh?), and a mundane take on the Kinks' "You Really Got Me" fared no better, and sporadic highlights were saved for the slightly more well-conceived "Ebony Dreams," as well as the undeniably energetic "Machine Gun Breath" and "Murder on Melrose." Still even these better tunes paled in comparison to what had come before, and it was rather shocking when Warfare got it together to muster a small recovery on the next year's A Conflict of Hatred.

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Warfare - A Conflict of Hatred (1988)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Heavy Metal, Speed Metal
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© 1988 Neat Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Anyone who thought Warfare's utter demolition of Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love" (a project so foul and base that lawyers quickly quashed its release) had signified the nadir of the band's not unimpressive tactics to shock, confuse, and amaze -- all at the same time -- may have had second thoughts once faced with 1988's truly oddball A Conflict of Hatred album. Packed with countless celebrity guests (most of them now long-forgotten), the trio's fourth album was also the first to display a concerted effort to evolve, but at what price? For starters, "Dancing in the Flames of Insanity," "Deathcharge (Doomsday)," and "Rejoice the Feast of Quarantine" stretched their inscrutable lyrics (including bizarre recitals) and increasingly complex arrangements to heretofore unheard-of five- and six-minute lengths. But arguably the biggest surprises were saved for the likes of "Order of the Dragons" and the seemingly chapter-closing "Noise, Filth and Fury Requiem," where ample keyboard use and haunting female backup singers come as a baffling proposition. Amazingly, A Conflict of Hatred became the band's biggest hit yet, going on to become Neat Records' biggest seller ever to boot, by some accounts. A remarkable feat to be sure (even considering Neat's rather pathetic sales record), this couldn't forestall the album's severe dating as a decidedly flawed and now forgotten example of '80s progressive metal.

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Macabre - Grim Scary Tales (2011)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Death Metal, Grindcore
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© 2011 Willowtip
AllMusic Review by Phil Freeman
Macabre have longevity and persistence on their side, that's for sure. This Chicago-based death metal trio has been around since the '80s, and like ZZ Top, the band has never had a single membership change. They're fixated on serial killers and other psychopaths; their 1993 album Sinister Slaughter featured 20 tracks, each named for a different famous maniac, including Ted Bundy, Richard Ramirez, John Wayne Gacy, and on and on. Their 2000 album Dahmer, by contrast, was a concept album telling the story of Jeffrey Dahmer from beginning to end. Grim Scary Tales is more akin to Sinister Slaughter, as each track is the story of a different villain, but this time, the figures are historical in nature -- the Roman emperor Nero gets a song, as do French aristocrat and serial killer Gilles de Rais, Vlad the Impaler, Lizzie Borden, Countess Bathory, and many others. The music is primitive death metal, occasionally erupting into nursery rhyme or cartoon-theme melodies, and the vocals go back and forth between guttural growls and high-pitched, hoarse shrieking. Longtime Macabre fans, who find depth in the band's lyrical fixations, will doubtless be thrilled at their heroes' return. Most metalheads, and everyone else, can safely skip this one, though.

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September 15, 2019

Seether - Isolate & Medicate (2014) ☠

Country: South Africa
Language: English
Genre: Post Grunge
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2014 The Bicycle Music Company
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
At 15 years old, Seether are starting to slide into middle age and, appropriately, their music is beginning to mature on Isolate and Medicate, their sixth studio album. Once again working with Brendan O'Brien, the grunge-era superstar who helmed Holding Onto Strings Better Left to Fray, Seether gravitate toward the melodic, a shift apparent in both the verses and the riffs, although there's still a tendency to grind out thick neo-grunge guitar workouts both slow ("My Disaster") and fast ("Suffer It All"). These bursts of heaviosity are the exceptions to the rule, though, for much of Isolate and Medicate finds Seether uncannily re-creating the sound and style of Nickelback, to the point where "Nobody Praying for Me" seems to follow the cadences of "How You Remind Me." This is where O'Brien provides a huge assist to Seether. A dexterous, nimble producer, he gives Isolate and Medicate considerable color and variety, letting Shaun Morgan's growl and guitar breathe in equal measure, often giving the impression that the songs are a little more melodic than they actually are. Despite the creeping Chad Kroegerisms -- they're not just there on "Nobody Praying for Me," but on many of the record's boldest songs -- Seether often one-up their former tourmates because Morgan isn't a bellower, either as a vocalist or writer; he prefers muscular melodies to brute force, and sometimes they do hit hard on Isolate and Medicate.

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Seether - Poison The Parish (Deluxe Edition) (2017) ☠

*Contains 3 bonus tracks. 15 tracks total.
Country: South Africa
Language: English
Genre: Post Grunge
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2017 Fantasy/Canine Riot/The Bicycle Music Company
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger
One of the most enduring acts to come out of the post-grunge boom of the early 2000s, South Africa's Seether have managed to remain true to their Nirvana/Soundgarden-loving roots while maintaining just enough forward-thinking momentum to stay relevant. Poison the Parish is the band's seventh studio long-player, and their first to be issued via frontman Shaun Morgan's label imprint Canine Riot Records -- he also handles all of the production duties. A much beefier affair than 2014's perfectly meaty but slick corporate Isolate and Medicate, the 12-track set -- there is also a deluxe edition that adds three more cuts -- is by far the group's heaviest outing to date, but Seether have always leaned harder on the alt-rock side of the post-grunge spectrum, so as per usual, all of that might is tempered by hooks aplenty. Opener "Stoke the Fire" does just what its title implies, delivering slow burn grooves and a circuitous lead melody that falls somewhere between Alice in Chains and Load-era Metallica. Follow-up "Betray and Degrade" fares even better on the earworm front, as does the stripped-down lead single "Let You Down," but things start to bleed together as the LP reaches its mid-section, with competent, yet largely forgettable midtempo offerings like "Against the Wall" and "Let Me Heal" hitting the breaks on what was initially a pretty wild ride. Luckily, things pick up again with the punishing "Nothing Left" and the unabashedly Nevermind-esque "Count Me Out" -- the brooding, acoustic-led closer "Sell My Soul" gets by on mood alone. Poison the Parish doesn't deviate too far from the structural blueprints of prior outings, but it's hardly the work of a band just going through the motions. By attaining autonomy, Seether seems to have rediscovered their vitality.

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Sad Lovers & Giants - The Mirror Test (1988) ☠

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: New Wave
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1988 Midnight Music
*No processional reviews available for this release.

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Sad Lovers & Giants - Headland (1990)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: New Wave, Ballad
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© 1990 Midnight Music
*No professional reviews available for this release.

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