December 26, 2020

3 Steps From Nowhere - 30° Below Funk (1993) (Reissue)

*Reissued in 1995 by So-Lo Jam Records
This reissue is contains the same track listing, track total, 
label number and audio mastering as the original 1993 release. 
Contains 13 tracks total.

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: 8117

© 1993-1995 So-Lo Jam Records
*No professional reviews are available for this release.

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tags: 3 steps from nowhere, 30 below funk, 30 degrees, 1993, 1995, flac,

December 25, 2020

2Pac - 2Pacalypse Now (1991)

*U.S. first pressing. 
Contains 13 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Conscious Rap, Gangsta Rap
Label Number: 7 91767-2

© 1991 Interscope Records
When 2Pac's full-length debut, 2Pacalypse Now, came out in 1991, it didn't have the same immediate impact, didn't instantly throw him into the upper echelons of rap's elite, as Nas', Jay-Z's, or even his biggest rival, Notorious B.I.G.'s did, but the album certainly set him up for his illustrious and sadly short-lived career. Part of its initial problem, what held it back from extensive radio play, is that there's not an obvious single. The closest thing to it, and what ended up being the best-known track from 2Pacalypse Now, is "Brenda's Got a Baby," which discusses teenage pregnancy in true Pac fashion, sympathetically explaining a situation without condoning it, but it doesn't even have a hook, and most of the other pieces follow suit, more poetry than song. The album is significantly more political than the rapper's subsequent releases, showing an intelligent, talented, and angry young man (he was only 20 when it came out) who wanted desperately to express and reveal the problems in the urban black community, from racism to police brutality to the seemingly near impossibility of escaping from the ghetto. He pays tribute to artists like KRS-One, N.W.A, and Public Enemy, all of whom he also considered to be provoking discussion and reaction, but he also has cleanly carved out an image for himself: articulate and smart, not overtly boastful, and concerned about societal problems, both small and large (and though he discusses these less and less as career progresses, he never leaves them behind). Yes, the edges of 2Pacalypse Now can be a bit rough, yes the beats aren't always outstanding, and yes, the MC's flow can be a little choppy, even for him, but it's still a great look at what 2Pac could offer, and a must-have for any fan of his, or hip-hop in general.

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tags: 2pac, 2pacalypse now, 1991, flac,

2Pac - Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z... (1993)

*U.S. first pressing. 
Contains 16 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Conscious Rap, Gangsta Rap
Label Number: 7 92209-2

© 1993 Interscope Records
On 2Pac's debut album, 2Pacalypse Now, the rapper showed himself to be a supremely passionate man, brimming over with ideas and anger and ready to voice his political and social opinions, call things like he saw them. This same kind of energy and lyrical acumen is found on his sophomore release, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z., a record that, while it begins exploring the MC's more gangsta side ("Last Wordz," for example, which features verses from Ice Cube and Ice-T), still includes the provocative, reflective lines on which he first made his name as a solo artist, and which he continued even as he became more and more popular (and, for some, more and more frightening). "Keep Ya Head Up," one of his biggest hits, and his tribute to black women, especially single mothers, is deeply thoughtful and poignant ("And since we all came from a woman, got our name from a woman, and our game from a woman/I wonder why we take from our women, why we rape our women, do we hate our women?"), expressing opinions that aren't often equated with hardcore rappers, while tracks like "I Get Around" brags about his sexual conquests. But this was what 2Pac was, anyway, a juxtaposition between tough and sensitive, social consciousness and misogynistic boasting, and Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. shows this. The angry protest songs calling out police and politicians, reminiscent of Public Enemy -- and with Bomb Squad-esque beats to boot (albeit a lesser version of) -- the screw-the-world mentality, the soft introspection, the preaching-but-not-proselytizing, and the party anthems are all here, and though the production sometimes suffers, especially in the middle of the album, where it's utterly forgettable, the record shows a continually developing MC, with increasingly complex lyrical themes, well on his way to becoming nearly unstoppable.

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tags: 2pac, strictly 4 my niggaz, for my niggas, 1993, flac,

2Pac - Me Against The World (1995) ☠

*Re-released in 1998 by Amaru/Jive Records
This pressing is identical to the original 1995 pressing in 
terms of track total and audio mastering. 
Contains 15 tracks total.

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Consious Rap, Gangsta Rap, G-Funk
Label Number: 01241-41636-2

© 1995-1998 Amaru/Jive Records
Recorded following his near-fatal shooting in New York, and released while he was in prison, Me Against the World is the point where 2Pac really became a legendary figure. Having stared death in the face and survived, he was a changed man on record, displaying a new confessional bent and a consistent emotional depth. By and large, this isn't the sort of material that made him a gangsta icon; this is 2Pac the soul-baring artist, the foundation of the immense respect he commanded in the hip-hop community. It's his most thematically consistent, least-self-contradicting work, full of genuine reflection about how he's gotten where he is -- and dread of the consequences. Even the more combative tracks ("Me Against the World," "Fuck the World") acknowledge the high-risk life he's living, and pause to wonder how things ever went this far. He battles occasional self-loathing, is haunted by the friends he's already lost to violence, and can't escape the desperate paranoia that his own death isn't far in the future. These tracks -- most notably "So Many Tears," "Lord Knows," and "Death Around the Corner" -- are all the more powerful in hindsight with the chilling knowledge that he was right. Even romance takes on a new meaning as an escape from the hellish pressure of everyday life ("Temptations," "Can U Get Away"), and when that's not available, getting high or drunk is almost a necessity. He longs for the innocence of childhood ("Young Niggaz," "Old School"), and remembers how quickly it disappeared, yet he still pays loving, clear-eyed tribute to his drug-addicted mother on the touching "Dear Mama." Overall, Me Against the World paints a bleak, nihilistic picture, but there's such an honest, self-revealing quality to it that it can't help conveying a certain hope simply through its humanity. It's the best place to go to understand why 2Pac is so revered; it may not be his definitive album, but it just might be his best.

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tags: 2pac, me against the world, 1995, 1998, flac,

2Pac - The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory (1996)

*U.S. first pressing. 
Contains 12 tracks total. 
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Gangsta Rap
Label Number: INTD-90039

© 1996 Death Row/Interscope Records
Everything about The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory smacks of exploitation. Released only eight weeks after Tupac Shakur died from gunshot wounds, Death Row released this posthumous album under the name of Makaveli, a pseudonym derived from the Italian politician Niccolo Machiavelli, who faked his own death and reappeared seven days later to take revenge on his enemies. Naturally, the appearance of Don Killuminati so shortly after Tupac's death led many conspiracy theorists to surmise the rapper was still alive, but it was all part of a calculated marketing strategy by Death Row -- the label needed something to sustain interest in the album, since the music here is so shoddy. All Eyez on Me proved that Tupac was continuing to grow as a musician and a human being, but Don Killuminati erases that image by concentrating on nothing but tired G-funk beats and back-biting East Coast/West Coast rivalries. Tupac himself sounds uninterested in the music, which makes the conventional, unimaginative music all the more listless. If he had survived to complete Don Killuminati, it is possible that the record could have become something worthwhile, but the overall quality of the material suggests that the album would have been a disappointment no matter what circumstances it appeared under.

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tags: 2pac, the don killuminati, the 7 day theory, seven, 1996, flac,

2Pac - All Eyez On Me (1996)

*U.S. first pressing.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Gangsta Rap, Pop Rap
Label Number: 314-524 204-2
             *****

© 1996 Death Row/Interscope Records
Maybe it was his time in prison, or maybe it was simply his signing with Suge Knight's Death Row label. Whatever the case, 2Pac re-emerged hardened and hungry with All Eyez on Me, the first double-disc album of original material in hip-hop history. With all the controversy surrounding him, 2Pac seemingly wanted to throw down a monumental epic whose sheer scope would make it an achievement of itself. But more than that, it's also an unabashed embrace of the gangsta lifestyle, backing off the sober self-recognition of Me Against the World. Sure, there are a few reflective numbers and dead-homiez tributes, but they're much more romanticized this time around. All Eyez on Me is 2Pac the thug icon in all his brazen excess, throwing off all self-control and letting it all hang out -- even if some of it would have been better kept to himself. In that sense, it's an accurate depiction of what made him such a volatile and compelling personality, despite some undeniable filler. On the plus side, this is easily the best production he's ever had on record, handled mostly by Johnny J (notably on the smash "How Do U Want It") and Dat Nigga Daz; Dr. Dre also contributes another surefire single in "California Love" (which, unfortunately, is present only as a remix, not the original hit version). Both hits are on the front-loaded first disc, which would be a gangsta classic in itself; other highlights include the anthemic Snoop Dogg duet "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted," "All About U" (with the required Nate Dogg-sung hook), and "I Ain't Mad at Cha," a tribute to old friends who've gotten off the streets. Despite some good moments, the second disc is slowed by filler and countless guest appearances, plus a few too many thug-lovin' divas crooning their loyalty. Erratic though it may be, All Eyez on Me is nonetheless carried off with the assurance of a legend in his own time, and it stands as 2Pac's magnum opus.

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tags: 2pac, all eyez on me, eyes, 1996, flac,

October 14, 2020

Drop Nineteens - Delaware (1992)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Shoegaze
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© 1992 Caroline Records
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett
Acclaimed upon emergence as the American response to the U.K.'s shoegazing trend, the Drop Nineteens weren't totally following in that particular vein, though it was clear that they were the first of many American bands who had played Spacemen 3 and My Bloody Valentine releases to death. Combining that version of blissout with a dollop of late-'80s indie/college rock, the quintet on its first album created a sometimes excellent, sometimes generic effort of politely queasy guitar overdrive and gentle melancholia. Lead guitarists/vocalists Greg Ackell and Paula Kelley made for a good (if clearly Kevin Shields/Bilinda Butcher-inspired) front team, the latter's singing the more distinct but the former's generally more prominent, if flatter. The presence of third guitarist Motohiro Yasue promised more crunch and drive than was actually apparent, but there's no denying the general presence of agreeable fuzz, especially noticeable on Delaware's highlight, the lengthy, lovely roil and zone of "Kick the Tragedy." The rhythm section agreeably shuffles here and pounds there, leaving it to the fretbenders to fully dictate the pace and flow of the songs. "Winona," the album's lead single, was perhaps the first of countless indie/alternative songs and bands focused on Winona Ryder, the actress; the overall performance is one of the group's best, with more energy and hooks than elsewhere. A cover of Madonna's early hit single "Angel," an intriguing prospect, fails to fully deliver, vocals dulled and the performance slow and trudging. Co-producer Paul Degooyer, who worked with the band on the overall recording, gets some reasonable performances out of the band. Outside of the screaming psychosis of "Reberrymemberer," though, there's little of the chaotic rampage that makes My Bloody Valentine such a thrilling prospect, or even the epic flow of sound from the likes of Slowdive. Delaware is pleasant, just not completely special.

tags: drop nineteens, delaware, 1992, flac,

Gorilla Biscuits - Start Today (1989) ☠

*German first pressing. 
Contains 14 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hardcore
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© 1989 We Bite Records
AllMusic Review by Peter J. D'Angelo
Vying with Minor Threat for the title of "The Godfathers of Hardcore" are Gorilla Biscuits, and Start Today is the record that demonstrates their merits. Presented with both humor and energy, this is the record that proved straight edge kids knew how to have a good time, and that they had some pretty good musical ideas as well. Focusing on the hyper rants of lead singer Civ, and pushed along with loud and chunky guitar riffs by Walter Schreifel (later of Quicksand), the record sees the band tackle topics ranging from pets to friends and even to pride in the hardcore scene. It's certainly not without its politics, but the tone is surprisingly light, and Civ is clearly giving his opinion more than he is trying to convince others of anything. From the trumpets that announce the record's start, which are immediately followed by a chugging guitar chord, Gorilla Biscuits never really let up on the listener. Unlike so much of what the group influenced, there aren't a great deal of slowed-down musical interludes and unintelligible screams, though the band's tasteful use of the half-time "mosh part" makes it clear where they might have steered some of their copycats wrong. Start Today is a terrific representation of the beginnings of hardcore music, and for those involved in the scene it is certainly required listening.

tags: gorilla biscuits, start today, 1989, flac,

October 13, 2020

Madball - Set It Off (1994) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hardcore
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© 1994 Roadrunner Records
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming
The first Madball release for Roadrunner Records, Set It Off is a document of this hardcore outfit at their most menacing, both musically and lyrically. With Freddy Cricien on vocals, Vinnie Stigma and Matt Henderson on guitar, Will Shepler on drums, and bassist Hoya rounding out the rhythm section, these NY hardcore specialists made a huge sound that was undeniably loud, rude, and confrontational. The music underground praised Madball for the unforgiving brutality and skill displayed on this 1994 offering that includes standouts like the bone-crunching "Face to Face," "Never Had It," and "Across Your Face." Slower than many familiar hardcore standards, the songs on Set It Off maintain a bruising standard with their raw lyrics and thick guitar grooves. Just another in a long list of quality Madball offerings, Set It Off should satisfy even casual fans of New York hardcore.

tags: madball, mad ball, set it off, 1994, flac,

Madball - Demonstrating My Style (1996) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hardcore
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© 1996 Roadrunner Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Madball's second album, Demonstrating My Style, finds the former Agnostic Front members navigating a similar territory that they have covered before. Usually, they have done it better, as well. There are still glimmers of their old power on the album -- they can still crank out a blisteringly fast hardcore riff -- but most of the songs are undistinguishable from each other, making it an album that only needs to be heard by dedicated fans.

tags: madball, mad ball, demonstrating my style 1996, flac,

Primordial - To The Nameless Dead (2007)

*Standard pressing. 
Contains 7 tracks total.
Country: Ireland
Language: English
Genre: Black Metal
Style: Folk Black Metal
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© 2007 Metal Blade Records
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato
While some may be quick to lump Primordial in with the oodles of other black metal bands, these natives of Ireland are certainly not your run-of-the-mill extreme metalists, as evidenced by their 2007 release, To the Nameless Dead. The group thinks in an impressively "epic" scale throughout, while successfully eschewing all the bad habits that black metal has picked up along the way. In other words, there is no high-pitched vocal screeching and no faster-than-the-speed-of-sound rhythms, and the lyrics are not straight out of A Nightmare on Elm Street. In fact, certain metal acts could learn a thing or two from Primordial -- playing as fast as your fingers will humanly allow does not always equate with the darkest and most foreboding metal. Sometimes, slow and grinding metal builds up the tension just as much, as evidenced by such standout tracks as "Gallows Hymn" and "As Rome Burns." To the Nameless Dead is arguably Primordial's finest offering to date, and is one of the more pleasant surprises among 2007 metal releases.

tags: primordial, to the nameless dead, 2007, flac,

Skinless - Only The Ruthless Remain (2015)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Death Metal
Style: Brutal Death Metal
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© 2015 Relapse Records
Reviewed by "Dr. A.N. Grier" for Angry Metal Guy.com
Brutal death metal is one of those genres where I make the band come to me. I’m extremely picky about which br00tal death bands I follow and, in a way, they have to earn my time. It seems that many of the “classic” bands from the ‘90s have lost their brootality, passing it off as “returning to their old-school sound.” Or they choose to cross over into the tech-death world where I rarely waste my time giving chase. But really my issue is probably a deep-seeded mental one that plagues me (that or a tumor, anyway). Let me give an example of the latter case: Suffocation. For years I’ve tried to figure out why I can’t stand Suffocation and the only reason I can come up is that they are from New York. Which gets me thinking about Skinless. Which makes me sad that they haven’t put anything out since 2006’s crushing Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead. Then it dawns on me that the real issue I have with the whole bru/oo/00tal death scene is that I just miss Skinless.

But lo and behold! That moldy, festering death-metal tumor of mine can feed once more. Eat, my precious, and continue your metastatic journey because fucking Skinless is back! But not only is the band back after nearly nine years, but the original lineup (plus second guitarist Dave Matthews – no, not that one) from debut Progression Towards Evil has reunited to bring the pain. But what does that mean for Only the Ruthless Remain? Have they returned to their roots or will they continue that journey set by the deathy/trashy From Sacrifice To Survival?

Honestly? Neither… No, I’m kidding. This is Skinless we’re talking about! I’d say it’s a very natural progression from where they left off in 2006, but with that old flare from the old members. While I enjoyed the vocal performance by Jason Keyser on TtW,HtD (now current vocalist for Origin and still current brother of Skinless bassist Jay Keyser), I can’t get enough of Sherwood Webber behind the mic. He is and always will be the voice of Skinless, and his performance on Only the Ruthless Remain solidifies that. He’s absolutely ball-busting when delivering his signature deep-throated, phlegm-tossing growls over the earth-shattering riffs of “Serpenticide” and “Flamethrower,” and loads up on anguish with Peter Tägtgren-esque shrieks on songs like the title track.

Also a nice treat is the return of drummer Bob Beaulac; who shows the world that he can still leave his mark on Skinless by beating his skins, well… skinless. Look no further than… errrr… “Skinless.” Combining sonic bursts with offbeat thumping, Beaulac reigns in the song before dropping a fucking mountain on its shoulders. It’s so goddamn heavy that it crushes it (and you) into the ground. It’s good to hear him behind the kit again and he does a fine job of delivering up the goods.

As you would expect, you can find plenty of moments of blistering fury, colossal breakdowns, and heavy-as-hell mid-tempo chug-chug-cheery throughout. The quintessential listens that bring together all of these elements would be the two-faced title track (that acts more like two different songs) and “Flamethrower.” The former clocks in at over six schizophrenic minutes and the latter keeps things to simplistic, beautiful brevity. Because of this, “Flamethrower” has to be one of my favorite tracks on the album. For those seeking something in the “builds and breaks” department, look no further than “The Beast That Smells Blood.” It ascends, it drops, and it finally allows you to release your bladder as it delivers the neck-breaking pleaser you prayed would drop.

As with most of the material coming out of from this genre, the compression is enough to send your brains spewing like a popped zit. Aside from that, my biggest issue is the ending. I felt “Funeral Curse” was the absolute best way to put this twenty-year-old corpse back in its grave before daylight broke. It slows the pace way down and fades out perfectly. Then closer “Barbaric Proclivity” bursts out of the soil on a mission to mule-kick every flower-dropping mourner. While it may sport one of the sickest riffs on the album, it meanders a lot and tries to do the exact same thing as “Funeral Curse” just did, but with less impact.

Overall, OtRR is a respectable return for Skinless. It doesn’t lack in brutality nor does it stray beyond the beaten path. The riffs are plentiful, the bass is heavy, and the stench of death is all around; as it damn well should be [And what the hell is your problem with New York, slick? – Steel “Strong Island’ Druhm].

tags: skinless, only the ruthless remain, 2015, flac,

October 12, 2020

Skinless - Foreshadowing Our Demise (2001) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Death Metal
Style: Brutal Death Metal
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© 2001 Relapse Records
Reviewed by "Khelek" for Metal Reviews.com
Skinless hopefully needs no introduction. Since the mid 90s these guys have been churning out some of the heaviest and grooviest death metal around. They also have a great sense of humor, which is hard to find these days. Skinless was also one of the first death metal bands I heard and was actually able to get into. Foreshadowing Our Demise is an album that I think is one of the best examples of their sound. So get ready to bang your head because this album stays heavy, not to mention cynical, the whole way through.

Right from the start you get a taste of the Skinless humor in the form of a short clip to start off the title track. The thick riffs come in fast and furious along with the low, brutal growls of vocalist Sherwood Webber. The drums are also at a fast pace, mostly keeping in stride with the guitar. The song sometimes slows down into a bass and guitar driven breakdown so you can catch your breath before another pummeling attack. Smothered is an excellent groovy song that you can really bang your head to. The riffs here are slower to start out with though the song picks up a bit for the verse. About halfway through there is another slower, very groovy riff that demands to move you. The Optimist has been one of my favorite Skinless tracks ever since I heard it. From the opening words "Life sucks, and then you die!" to the immensely groovy riffs, this song defines what the band is all about. The riffs are just enormous, crushing everything in their path. The growls of Sherwood Webber are deep and brutal although he occasionally uses some higher pitched growls. There are many different riffs used in this song, and although some of them seem disconnected, they are all extremely catchy and just fun to listen to. Salvage What's Left is a faster track that just brutalizes your ears yet still has that undeniably catchy undercurrent. Tug Of War Intestines is another of my favorite tracks. Right from the start this song is relatively fast and to the point and there is also a foreboding element in some of the riffs that add an element of darkness to the groovy fun. Enslavement starts out slow and foreboding with the usual crushing guitar work and heavy drums. Webber comes in with growls that remind me somewhat of Behemoth vocalist Nergal. As the song picks up more and more riffs are introduced until you lose count, but every single one of them hits you like a brick wall. A very catchy brick wall.

Ultimately this album isn't much for variety, but it gives you the same, excellent quality of pure death metal the whole way through. That's not to say that the songs themselves all sound the same, far from it. The riffs maybe all be crushing and groovy, but fortunately they do not all sound the same. This is one of those albums I've been listening to for years and songs still haven't gotten old, which I feel is really something special in this genre. The guys from Skinless know how to write some catchy as hell death metal and they just keep doing it.

tags: skinless, foreshadowing our demise, 2001, flac,

Skinless - From Sacrifice To Survival (2003)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Death Metal
Style: Brutal Death Metal
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© 2003 Relapse Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Already a decade into their career, New York's Skinless finally seem to be hitting their stride, and with 2003's From Sacrifice to Survival -- their third album and their second on the Relapse label -- the group takes another important step forward in their development. Building upon their previously tentative experiments with less frenetic speed-zones, the band and veteran producer Neil Kernon (Judas Priest, Cannibal Corpse) turn their attention to constructing cleverly executed time-shifting dynamics. The result is that songs like "The Front Line of Sanity," "Deathwork," and the title track find Skinless becoming increasingly successful at standing out from the mindless grindcore masses. Not that they've compromised much in the way of vicious aggression, mind you; unless you're looking for an endless (and senseless) barrage of double kick-drums and buzz-saw guitars, the album's carefully structured diversity makes for a much more interesting and surprise-filled listening experience all around. Call it a sell-out if you will, but high caliber, melodically enhanced deathcore is much more like it, and it's a fair prediction that Skinless have only just begun to tap their potential.

tags: skinless, from sacrifice to survival, 2003, flac,

Skinless - Trample The Weak, Hurdle The Dead (2006)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Death Metal
Style: Brutal Death Metal
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© 2006 Relapse Records
Reviewed by "Evan" for Metal Injection.net
I know this review is about a year over due, but I felt that it was about time someone gave this band a little publicity. SKINLESS is a bone crushing, head stomping, gut ripping and explosive New York based death metal band. Yes, I know many of you are rolling your eyes, yawning and muttering a litany of "well duh, everybody knows who they are," but bear with me for a second- this article is for the poor and unfortunate souls who have yet to experience the majesty and grandeur that is SKINLESS. I myself only discovered SKINLESS about a year ago with the release of 'Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead.' I was in the parking lot after a local metal show in Houston. I was chillin on the hood of my friend's car when all of a sudden a thundering goodness came bursting out of his car's speakers… it was SKINLESS' last album, 'From Sacrifice to Surival' and boy was it groovy. That same flesh ripping goodness permeates every riff and nuance of their newest album (even though it's a year old now.)
'Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead' combines elements of death metal and grindcore to produce SKINLESS' signature sound. Running just over 30 minutes, 'Trample' takes you on a bumpy ride through a battlefield of gritty, sweeping guitar riffs, booming double-kick bass drum driven songs and frighteningly intense vocals. This album also features SKINLESS' characteristic song introductions. From "War… it's fantastic!" to a quote from the film Patton, these audio clips add another extreme element to the mix. Anyone who is a fan of real, gritty, no-holds-barred death metal or grindcore will love SKINLESS. And for those of you who are already SKINLESS fans and haven't picked up 'Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead,' what the hell are you waiting for? You remember what your first SLAYER concert felt like, or the adrenaline induced feeling of your first mosh pit? That's what this album sounds and feels like. Buy it, love it.

tags: skinless, trample the weak, hurdle the dead, 2006, flac,

Ride - Nowhere (1990)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Shoegaze
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© 1990 Creation Records
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
Sort of being on the Suffocation roll I thought reviewing Internal Bleeding next would be very appropriate. Similarities abound. Both bands originated in the underground NY death metal scene. Both started their careers in the early 90s and issued some very influential cult demos/albums. Both had long layoffs away from the field. Both maintain an underground cult status trying to regroup and come back these days. For me personally, however, the difference lies in the fact I have never heard Internal Bleeding before, unlike Suffocation, whose old albums represent the classic of the genre for me. Well, having listened to Souls to Deny vs. Onward to Mecca, I would have to say those paths have diverged in more ways than one. And, no, I am not trying to compare and say that one album is better than the other. It is just Internal Bleeding is not even pure death metal anymore. Hardcore influences permeate the essence of the album through and through. Deathcore label is very suitable and might be even welcomed by the band’s fans.
One thing about a large number of tracks on Onward to Mecca – the approach is quite formulaic. What starts out with a kick, fast and brutal, very much along the lines of NY death metal school, tends to break down a minute or two into the song to become very rhythmic, but way slower, riff chugging. Siege in the Clouds, Far Above You, Contamination are all prime examples of the former. Just when you settle in with the fast and the furious and expect a further kick in the pants on Contamination, the band pulls the throttle back and the chug begins. Internal Bleeding, for better or worse, has mastered the hardcore breakdown art. For better, as this stuff really goes over well for moshing crowds, for worse, as I am wondering why this does not appeal to me as much. Further dichotomy lies in the fact the band can be outstanding technicians and make the listener dizzy with supertechnical, very Suffocation like, guitar runs and solos (Far Above You, Arm Our Youth). Yet rhythmic simpler pounding seems to be very much what the band prefers. At times, the tempo is slowed down to a crawl (Hateful). One thing Internal Bleeding has on many hardcore bands is their slow music sounds much darker and more ominous, just like the end of Intolerance. This is not some adolescent angst, but manly anger. The only track, and you could have guessed it is my favorite, where groove is kept without sacrificing the technicality or the speed is Infidel. Another cool, but very non-typical part, is the acoustic outro on This Day I Fight.
Jerry Lowe’s vocals are an image of the direction the band chose. He vocalizes mostly over the slower parts letting the instrumentalists in Internal Bleeding to take the center stage in the faster portions and dazzle us with their abilities. Jerry’s vocals are equal part death grunt and hardcore screams. The grunts aren’t very low, and the screams are not very high pitch, so both styles tend to blend. Bill Tolley’s drums sometimes sound hollow on the snare (Bleed by Example), but the juiciest bass by Andrew Hogan offsets that.
I don’t have the lyrics in front of me, but just looking at the song’s titles and the cover art my guess is the concept is a little less than politically correct. Kudos to that, you say what is on your mind.
In the end, Onward to Mecca panders a little too much to the younger crowd, much more hardcore inclined NYC population. Certainly the precalculated direction, this may keep the old fans on board and get new converts. Truthfully, I wasn’t a fan due to the lack of knowledge, and I am not going to become one here as the style just veers in the ‘core direction way too much. Trying to restrain myself from the Suffo comparisons, inevitably I can’t, so if I only gave 71 to Souls to Deny, this can’t be more than …

tags: ride, nowhere, 1990, flac,

Ride - Going Blank Again (1992)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Shoegaze
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© 1992 Creation Records
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
From the sounds of the cloistered, chaotic opener, "Leave Them All Behind," Going Blank Again sounds like it could be headed down the same Nowhere path. Guitars as far as the ear can hear -- not much different from the effect gained after riding a sit-and-spin for eight straight minutes -- are just as dizzying as the prior record's opener. But rather than sink into a thick underbelly of melancholy, Going Blank Again offers sunshiney melodies and gleaming, bold production. All the band's elements are more pliable, and overall it's pretty cheery. In fact, some of the album could be loosely classified as power pop. Bouncy tunes like "Twisterella," "Not Fazed," "Mouse Trap," and "Time of Her Time" each share more than a thing or two in common with the likes of Teenage Fanclub, but with more layered vocals and less-cutting guitars. Though Ride's guitars don't bite as much, there are loads of them everywhere; the band doesn't completely sacrifice their love of reverberating noise, but it's more done in the name of pop than to merely cause a blistering racket. Though the lyrics often read as overtly simple or obtuse (a common Ride foible), Mark Gardener's and Andy Bell's voices are too pretty to let this shortcoming mar things. They create enough of a mood with their proper instruments, and their sighing and random vocal intonations are undeniably lovely. No longer do they hide shortcomings with sheets of distortion, and there's a lot more focus and confidence on display throughout. Don't let a Ride fan tell you otherwise: Going Blank Again is anything but empty.

tags: ride, going blank again, 1992, flac,

October 11, 2020

Ride - Tarantula (1996) ☠

*U.S. first pressing. 
Contains 12 track total.
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Shoegaze
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1996 Sire
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
Here's where the plot got lost, an abomination of '70s/Lenny Kravitz clichés, full of third- and fourth-rate tunes and, ultimately, bad blood. Where Carnival of Light was a decent appropriation of late-'60s influences, here it's mere mimicry, going through the motions. No focus, no spirit, almost no quality songs -- Smaller Faces. Perhaps falling out of favor with the British press, only to be stomped upon by the likes of the Oasis phenomenon, nailed the coffin shut. The band even subbed for Oasis openers the Verve during one of the band's tours, before the recording of Tarantula, signifying a changing of the guard. Not helping the matter was a lack of ideas -- and a producer -- before entering the studio. Festering tension between Mark Gardener and Andy Bell came to a head, with Gardener walking out during the mixing process; just before the record was released in March of 1996, the band announced its breakup. Though "Black Nite Crash" and "Dead Man" are sub-Stones, sub-Faces and, well, sub-Ride, they're not half bad. Those are the bright spots, albeit relatively speaking. Gardener checks in with one lone song, the mediocre "Deep Inside My Pocket." And as Ride never had great lyricists, the words are just plain awful throughout, not even worth printing. Be warned: There's even a song detailing the myriad woes of life on the road. Most of the songs sound half-realized, sketches of what could only amount to decent material with the necessary retooling and enthusiasm. U.K. label Creation obviously didn't care for it, as it was deleted a week after its release. Unfortunately, it shouldn't have been released at all. Some might say it shouldn't have been recorded, either. (Ignition's 2001 U.K. edition adds the three OK B-sides off Black Nite Crash.)

tags: ride, tarantula, 1996, flac,

Primordial - A Journey's End (1998)

*First pressing. 
Contains 7 tracks total.
Country: Ireland
Language: English
Genre: Black Metal
Style: Folk Black Metal
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© 1998 Misanthropy Records
Reviewed by "Sargon the Terrible" for Metal Crypt.com
This, Primordial's third full-length, was their first real masterpiece, and where the transformed from the noisy, woodsy Black Metal of Imrama into the epic pagan beast they have become. Leaving behind the generic sound of older works, these Irish forged their own sound and have never gone back.

Opening with the odd intro, with Nemtheanga intoning the lyrics like a manifesto while the war-drums pound, the band launches right into the monumental "Gods To The Godless" like a declaration of war. "I have one desire/ let it be/ a Plague upon your lands/ a Plague upon all your houses/ it is my wish to enslave all your people/ the soil enriched with their Blood." Huge riffs, thundering rhythms, and Nemtheanga's powerful, emotional vocals. The mastery never slows, not with the power of "The Soul Must Sleep" or the massive "Children Of The Harvest", and the album's centerpiece, the blazing bonfire of "The Burning Season". This is a more melodic album than the dark and angry The Gathering Wilderness or the dense, epic To The Nameless Dead, but it is no weaker for any of that. There is a repressing that also contains the other three tracks from The Burning Season EP plus a re-recording of "To Enter Pagan". Normally I decry bonus cuts, but these fit right in with the rest of the album both compositionally and recording-wise, and so they are like adding another 30 minutes of awesome to this already grand album. This is a magnificent work by one of the great bands when they were just hitting their stride. Essential.

tags: internal bleeding, onward to mecca, 2004, flac,

Primordial - Spirit The Earth Aflame (2000)

*First pressing. 
Contains 8 tracks total.
Country: Ireland
Language: English
Genre: Black Metal
Style: Folk Black Metal
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© 2000 Hammerheart Records
Review by "Goat" for Metal Reviews.com
The third album from Irish Celts Primordial was my introduction to this most unique of bands, and it’s still the album that I consider their best despite a more or less flawless back catalogue. 2007’s To The Nameless Dead especially is little short of a masterpiece, yet in my heart at least, Spirit The Earth Aflame is better. Although in some ways as melancholic as the band’s later works, it’s equally as epic and has a real viciousness to it – the title refers to Pagans starting a new, post-Christian age, and the slaughter of enemy men, women and children forms a sizeable chunk of the lyrics, although never in a clichéd, Goregrind sort of way. After the title-track and intro, tribal drumming and a sombre statement of intent, the first ‘proper’ song Gods To The Godless opens with Nemtheanga solemnly stating ‘I have one desire... let it be: a pestilence upon your lands/A plague on all your houses’ and the grandiose call to slaughter of The Burning Season is even more effective. Although not Black Metal in the traditional sense, there are rolling moments of violence that fit best in that category, almost like My Dying Bride transplanted into Pagan lands, and in Nemtheanga’s vocals especially, the usage of harsh vocals defines the most intense moments, such as the second ‘we shall make rivers of their blood’ in the aforementioned The Burning Season.

Even when he’s not using his evil snarl, Nemtheanga’s singing voice is the foundation of Primordial. Epic yet flawed, human yet hinting at something ineffably other, his vocals rarely fail to send shivers down my spine and roll over the music like raging stormclouds, the perfect counterpart to the melancholic Folk-infused music. The music itself is never the same, always moving, always shifting... the majestic sermon of Gods To The Godless, the tormented acceptance of fate that is The Soul Must Sleep, the rush of emotion that is Glorious Dawn. As mentioned before, there is a similarity to My Dying Bride, but it’s a much richer tapestry of sounds, and feels much more alive than the gloombahs, avoiding the Gothic influences prevalent there in favour of the Folkiness that helps give Primordial such an emotional edge. All of the musicians are highly skilled, and each gives his all, helping to make moments like traditional instrumental The Cruel Sea as compelling as it is.

Without a doubt, Primordial deserve to stand proudly alongside other bands like Negură Bunget that do fantastic things with Black Metal and Folk. Spirit The Earth Aflame is Primordial’s greatest as well as most melodic album to date, and deserves a place in the collection of any Metalhead. Even newcomers to our great genre should be more than able to appreciate this shining moment in musical history; a future classic indeed.

tags: primordial, spirit of earth alfame, a flame, 2000, flac,