February 28, 2017

98° - Revelation (2000) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop, R&B
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2000 Universal Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
It's hard not to feel a little sorry for 98°, since they're often overshadowed by their peers, the towering giants of male teen pop, Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync. They've had hits as big as either group, but when it came time to release Revelation in the fall of 2000, they didn't have the grudging critical respect of the Backstreets or the cultural cache of N'Sync, who had dolls hitting toy stores the same month Revelation was unleashed. They were simply a teen pop band, capable of amiable dance-pop numbers and tuneful ballads, both of which sounded quite nice coming out of the radio. Not surprisingly, they wanted a little bit more than simply being an effective singles band; they didn't just want to hold their own with the Backstreets and N'Sync, they wanted to escape their shadow. The title of Revelation (much like the title of the Sync's 2000 release No Strings Attached) is a tip-off to their goal: They want to provide doubters with a revelation that they can indeed deliver strong music. If Revelation doesn't actually hold any, well, revelations, that shouldn't be held against the band, since they do wind up turning out a perfectly acceptable mainstream dance-pop album. Apart from the infectious opening cut, "Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche)," a song clearly influenced by Ricky Martin, and maybe "Dizzy," which adopts Cher-like vocoder tricks, they never stretch the boundaries of the music too much, preferring to just serve up straight dance-pop and sweet ballads. They lean a little heavily on the ballads, thereby aligning themselves with the Backstreet Boys' classy crooning rather than N'Sync's charged adolescent pop. That wouldn't be a problem if the songs were just a little better constructed, so that the melodies stand out prominently on the first listen, but ultimately, the album feels a little samey. Not bad, necessarily, but a little familiar, especially since the peppier songs have stronger hooks and attitude. The preponderance of ballads weighs down the album a bit, even if some of them hold up quite well on their own, and they make Revelations seem like it has more filler than it actually does. Ultimately, it's a good singles album, which may not be enough to make 98° hold their own with the Backstreets or Sync, but it is enough to make for a solid teen pop album.

tags: 98 degrees, revelation, 2000, flac,

98° - 98° & Rising (1998) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop, R&B
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© 1998 Motown Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Really, 98° is a great idea for a teen-pop band: take an attractive boy band in the vein of Take That or N'Sync and have them sing Boyz II Men crossed with the Backstreet Boys. 98° followed this formula on their eponymous debut and were more or less successful. However, they've mastered the sound on their second record, 98° and Rising. Like any teen-pop with chart aspirations, 98° and Rising is far from a perfect album, as it alternates sure-fire hits with filler cut from the same mold, but that should be expected. What's nice is that songs like "The Hardest Thing" and "True to Your Heart" are well-crafted radio singles, with memorable hooks and excellent production. That same production -- which makes the ballads smoove and the dance-pop infectious -- carries weaker moments of the record, but at the end of the day, it's the singles that make 98° and Rising entertaining. And for many fans, that will be quite enough indeed.

 tags: 98 degrees, 98, degrees and rising, 1998, flac,

98° - 98° (1998 Reissue)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop, R&B
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© 1997-1998 Motown Records
AllMusic Review by Leo Stanley
98°' eponymous debut album is an appealing mixture of urban soul and pop-oriented hip-hop, all targeted at teens. It may lack a set of consistently engaging songs, but the best cuts suggest that the group is capable of some dynamic contemporary soul. [98°' debut album was reissued in the spring of 1998, with the Diane Warren composition "Was It Something I Didn't Say" added as a new track. The song was included after it received exposure in the film Fame L.A.]              

 tags: 98 degrees, 98, degrees album, 1997, reissue, flac,

Madonna - Bedtime Stories (1994)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop
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© 1994 Maverick Recordings
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Perhaps Madonna correctly guessed that the public overdosed on the raw carnality of her book Sex. Perhaps she wanted to offer a more optimistic take on sex than the distant Erotica. Either way, Bedtime Stories is a warm album, with deep, gently pulsating grooves; the album's title isn't totally tongue-in-cheek. The best songs on the album ("Secret," "Inside of Me," "Sanctuary," "Bedtime Story," "Take a Bow") slowly work their melodies into the subconscious as the bass pulses. In that sense, it does offer an antidote to Erotica, which was filled with deep but cold grooves. The entire production of Bedtime Stories suggests that she wants listeners to acknowledge that her music isn't one-dimensional. She has succeeded with that goal, since Bedtime Stories offers her most humane and open music; it's even seductive.

tags: madonna, bedtime stories, 1994, flac,

February 27, 2017

Mourn - Mourn (2007 Reissue)⚓

*Reissued and remastered in 2007 by Rise Above Records
Features the 1993 Demo recordings plus a track featured in the 1996 
 Dark Passages II compilation as bonus tracks. 
Contains 13 tracks total.

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Doom Metal
Style: Traditional Doom
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© 1995-2007 Rise Above Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Despite their extremely competent musicianship and solid songwriting skills, obscure doom metal outfit Mourn is perhaps best remembered for the presence of a female singer within their ranks, a true rarity in the doom metal field. Carried forth by singer Caroline Wilson's highly operatic style, the band's doleful anthems of woe acquire an even more dramatic quality, particularly reminiscent of early Candlemass. Powerful, but not all that flexible, her voice still manages to provide an interesting contrast for the group's ungodly de-tuned riffs, a combination which is best exemplified on the surging "Iron Sky" and the almost overwhelmingly heavy "Children of the Circle." Somewhat less inventive tracks like "Drowning" and "Through These Eyes" see the album taking a nose-dive, quality-wise halfway through, but Mourn manage to recover in time for a strong finale, delivered via the surprising acoustics of "After All" and yet another excellent riff-wielding behemoth called "Forever More." All in all, a pretty solid doom metal album for serious fans to seek out.

tags: mourn, mourn album, mourn band, 1995, 2007, reissue, remaster, flac,

February 26, 2017

Pentagram - Review Your Choices (2008 Reissue)

*Reissued in 2008 by Season of Mist. Contains 2 bonus tracks.

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Doom Metal
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© 1999-2008 Season of Mist
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Obviously disturbed by the unauthorized release Human Hurricane, which presented much of his band's long-lost, early-'70s material in positively sub-sonic bootleg condition, Pentagram main man Bobby Liebling called upon longtime collaborator (and sometime Raven drummer) Joey Hasselvander to aid him in setting the record straight. The result was 1999's aptly named Review Your Choices, containing newly recorded versions of many of the aforementioned lost classics by Liebling, and the multi-talented Hasselvander performing all instruments. Purists may therefore balk at these late-'90s renditions, but there's no denying their overall quality, nor the musicians' reasoning for doing them. Having said all that, it is nice to hear the unbelievably fierce "Burning Rays" finally given a proper studio version after nearly two decades in bootleg obscurity. Further resurrections of ancient favorites like the title track, "Downhill Slope," and "Forever My Queen" are no less potent for their updated guise. On a trivia note, old favorite "Living in a Ram's Head" is not the strange satanic reference some might imagine, but rather a light-hearted allusion to the D.C.-area venue which was one of the band's regular haunts back in the '70s. As for the newly minted material, "Megalania," with it's Sabbath-inspired dirge, and "Change of Heart," with its crushing afterthought of a riff, are probably the lone standouts.

tags: pentagram, review your choices, 1998, 2008, reissue, flac,

Papa Roach - The Connection (Deluxe Edition) (2012)

*Contains 2 bonus tracks.

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Alternative Rock
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© 2012 Eleven Seven Music
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar
Papa Roach's seventh studio album, The Connection, finds the California band finally striking a balance between its early roots as a nu-metal/rap-rock outfit and its more recent interest in '80s-style Sunset Strip hard rock. Featuring production from Sixx: A.M. frontman James Michael as well as Goldfinger's John Feldmann, The Connection includes some creatively slick sounds that flow from buzzy, processed distortion to pulsating, atmospheric electronic flourishes. In some ways, The Connection is perhaps the band's most contemporary-sounding album, though it still remains reverent to the nu-metal sound of the late '90s when it comes down to the overall feel of each tune. In that sense, this disc fits well next to the works of similarly inclined nu-metal journeymen -- such as Incubus, Filter, and Linkin Park -- who've found ways to adapt their sound to an ever-changing pop landscape. Still centered around the high-energy yawp of vocalist Jacoby Shaddix, Papa Roach are never at a loss for something to shout about, and The Connection is no exception. Here, we get the anthemic statement of purpose "Still Swingin," which features Shaddix flexing his rap muscles, as well as the similarly defiant rocker "Give Me Back My Life." Elsewhere, Papa Roach delve into cinematic electronic balladry with the passionate "Before I Die" and the equally as yearning "Leader of the Broken Hearts." Of course, there are also plenty of straightforward electric guitar rock cuts here, and tracks like the fiery "Where Did the Angels Go," "Breathe You In," and "Not That Beautiful" should definitely appeal to the band's more belligerent, fist-pumping fan base.

Papa Roach - Metamorphosis (2009)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Alternative Rock
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© 2009 DGC/Interscope Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
At the dawn of the decade, Papa Roach were one of many angst-ridden, tattooed alt-metal bands who mixed in rap with their grim guitars. At the close of the 2000s, the quartet has shed the rap and the angst, ditching all the alt-metal accoutrements to become a knowing update of an '80s Sunset Strip sleaze rock outfit. This is indeed the Metamorphosis hinted at in the title of their fifth album, and while it's possible to debate whether this transformation was inspired by creative or commercial motivations, there is no denying one key fact: Papa Roach may be all about parties now but they're still kind of grim. Maybe it's down to the decision to bring back producer Jay Baumgardner, who helmed their 2000 debut, Infest, but Metamorphosis has a dire determination to its purported good times, its riffs grinding instead of greasy, its rhythms clenched where they should be loose. While Papa Roach is a long long way from the depths of Hinder -- that decade of work does give the band a professional snap, plus it never quite seems that Jacoby Shaddix's heart is into slagging that "Hollywood Whore" he berates on the album's first single -- they miss the whole point of this kind of rock & roll raunch: it should be more fun to listen to than it is to take out on the road.

February 24, 2017

Papa Roach - Getting Away With Murder (2006)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Alternative Rock, Alternative Metal
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© 2004 Geffen Records
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus
Howard Benson, Chris Lord-Alge, Papa Roach. It's gotten to the point where you can fill in the last name with another combo of mascara-eyed angry men jockeying for position in the bubbling ooze of the post-rap-rock (yes, that's a term) universe. Producer Benson and mixer Lord-Alge are professionals both, masters of compression and punching up the radio mix. This is what they offer Papa Roach -- a promise that the band's Getting Away with Murder will sound both raging and properly marketable. To that end, "Not Listening" rewrites the 2001 Roach hit "Last Resort" without the rap, while the big title-track single is built around a mechanistic Korn bass throb and a carnival funhouse lead guitar line. (The better to scare you with, see.) On the latter, Jacoby Shaddix (the name change still stands) incorporates the affected whisper, the vengeful yell, and the vague lyrical cocktail of depression and S&M ("I'm a glutton for your punishment/You're the master/And I'm waiting for disaster"). Fill in the bruised blanks. His railing against alcoholism in the bashing, amplified rocker "Be Free" (as well as throughout the album) does seem genuine. But still, it's off-putting how much Shaddix sounds like Trent Reznor. Seriously, where's Papa Roach inside Getting Away with Murder's production and brand positioning? "Scars" is a midtempo power ballad of sorts, again about the ills of drinking; with tweaking it would fit on a Good Charlotte album. Album opener "Blood" (Empty Promises)" does suggest the harder screeds of 2002's lovehatetragedy, but it doesn't go far enough, and that tense edge is dulled by repetitive glowering ("I lit my pain on fire/And watched it all burn down!") and muddled genre posturing once the album fully starts. With Getting Away with Murder, Papa Roach offer fans of this sound an appropriately hard (yet painstakingly layered -- thanks Howard and Chris!) punch in the face. But there's a hollow sound as the bones collapse, because all that's supporting it is expensive art direction and a big scaffold of clichés. If your scream sounds like everyone else's, does anyone really hear it?

tags: papa roach, getting away with murder, 2006, flac,

Pagan Altar - Lords of Hypocrisy (2002)⚓

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Doom Metal
Style: Traditional Doom
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© 2002 Oracle Records
Review by Adam for MetalReviews.com
The New Wave of British Heavy Metal forever changed the landscape of metal music. Its heyday in the late 70's and early 80's gave rise to some of the biggest names in metal history. Yet for every success story from this era, there is a band who faded into obscurity. For every Iron Maiden, there is a Satan. One of the bands who falls into the latter category of criminally unknown is Pagan Altar. Though they formed in 1978, their first release was 20 years later in Volume 1, a collection of widely bootlegged tracks from their early years. Since that time, their brand of traditional and bluesy doom had been building an underground fanbase. I cannot tell you why this band went unnoticed by the majority of the metal community for so long, but I can tell you that you would be hard pressed to find a traditional doom band in the vein of Black Sabbath that is as consistently kickass as Pagan Altar. If you, like many, are new to this band, their second full-length The Lords of Hypocrisy is as good a place to start as any.
Since inception, Pagan Altar has been the brainchild of founding relatives Terry and Alan Jones. Other members have come and gone (alot, in fact), but Terry's nasally vocals and Alan's wonderful array of riffs have always been the soul of the band. The title track on The Lords of Hypocrisy is prime evidence. After a cryptic organ intro, Alan swoops in with a breathtaking riff that will burrow its way into your head and stay there for days. Seriously, if this riff doesn't have you nodding your head, you have problems. The production is vintage sounding enough that if I told you this album was released in 1984 instead of 2004, you would have no reason to doubt me if you had no prior knowledge. As I said before, Terry's vocals are nasal sounding and unique if nothing else. I suspect this will be the main complaint for first time listeners. If you are one of these, give them some time. I was not crazy about the vocals the first time I heard them, but over time I have come to appreciate what they bring to the overall sound. They fit very well with the aura of this band, and while they don't stand out, they also don't detract from Alan's superb riffing, which should be the focal point anyway.
The Lords of Hypocrisy contains music composed in the earlier years of the band, and is said to be the completion of a long planned concept album lyrically dealing with mankind's inhumanity to itself. The band's official biography on their website contains the full story on the frustrating process of recording the album and is an interesting read for fans. Since these songs are not really new, anyone lucky enough to catch one of Pagan Altar's legendary live shows many moons ago will likely recognize many of the songs. I can only imagine witnessing firsthand the epic track Armageddon accompanied by the stage props and atmostphere used by the band (hooded monk robes, coffins, and altars to name a few). To date the longest track put to record by Pagan Altar, Armageddon contains many instances of wonderfully composed back and forth between Terry and Alan. Vocal passages are soon countered by a searing guitar lead from Alan's seemingly endless supply. Not many bands can claim the audible chemistry found on this album as a weapon in their arsenal, and it shines brightly here.
I do not intend to bore you with my prolonged gushing over the quality of the guitar work on this album, as I could go on for awhile. Every song, aside from the short and strange acoustic segue track The Devil Came Down to Brockley, has multiple memorable guitar lines. The last track I do want to highlight is The Masquerade. Building in crescendo-esque fashion off of an acoustic intro, Alan unleashes perhaps his best solo around the halfway point, setting the table for a second half which takes a heavier and more guitar oriented doom approach as the smooth guitar riffs weave in and out effortlessly.
Pagan Altar may have finally begun to get some much needed exposure in doom circles within the last decade, but there are still far too many in the metal community who know little or nothing of this band. If you can manage to find any of their albums for a relatively reasonable price, be sure to check them out, particularly if you are a fan of old Black Sabbath or Witchfinder General. Hopefully, the future will see Pagan Altar obtain the notoriety they deserved almost 30 years ago.

tags: pagan altar, lords of hypocrisy, 2002, flac,

February 23, 2017

Pentagram - First Daze Here: The Vintage Collection (2002) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Doom Metal, Psychedelic Rock
Style: Traditional Doom
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© 2002 Relapse Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Ever wonder how it felt for blues historians to uncover the lost 78s containing Robert Johnson's timeless Depression-era recordings? Well, if there's a heavy metal equivalent to this experience, then First Daze Here may well be it. Yet another Pentagram collection gradually unearthing this once amazingly obscure band's rare singles and even rarer studio recordings, it's not the most comprehensive, nor is it definitive, but it boasts the best selection and certainly the best sound quality. Most of these tracks were recorded between 1973 and 1974 at various low-budget sessions in the Washington, D.C., area by the group's original lineup, and digital remastering has done wonders to resurrect their original power and appeal. What most people don't know is that Pentagram's early work was hardly dominated by the Sabbath-heavy proto-metal which would characterize their mid-'80s releases. Rather, while this was certainly a core component of the band's sound (see "When the Screams Come" and "Review Your Choices"), their love for the '60s-based psychedelic hard rock of Blue Cheer was just as pronounced, especially on offerings like "Lazylady," "Hurricane," and "Last Days Here." Barnstorming opener "Forever My Queen" is probably their best-known early single, and with reason, as it remains a career high watermark; but it's long-forgotten gems like "Living in a Ram's Head" and the awesome "Be Forewarned" (later given a more traditionally metallic treatment in the early '90s) which will prove especially thrilling to fans of the '70s' sonic aesthetic. For them, as well as most serious metal historians, this is an essential purchase.

Pentagram - First Daze Here Too: The Vintage Collection (2006)

*Contains 2 C.D.'s
Country: U.S.A
Genre: Doom Metal, Psychedelic Rock
Style: Traditional Doom
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© 2006 Relapse Records
Review by Keith Bergman for Blabbermouth.net
So you're telling me that we're supposed to shell out money for another odds-and-sods collection of demos from this seminal doom rock band? That disc one, the only seven decently recorded tracks here, contains two covers and a well-loved but already-released gem? And that in the liner notes, drummer/band historian Geof O' Keefe spells out, in blunt and forthright terms, why the band never made it big in the 1970s?
Yes, yes, and yes. PENTAGRAM is one of those bands whose near-mythical past and scattershot body of work ensures lots of those twists and turns in the discography that so delight and frustrate record collector nerds. Relapse is remedying the situation, slowly but surely, with this series of albums compiling demo versions of many songs laid down by the band's '70s lineup. Most of these songs were never properly cut in a studio, which makes their demos — rough and raw as they may be — well worth release and collection by the faithful.
The seven tracks on disc one will satisfy any denim-swaddled doom freak — even the ones where O'Keefe admits (in the liner notes) that the band was blatantly trying to appeal to the record labels. "Teaser" finds the band writing some frankly pandering lyrics and adding a little cock-rock swagger to their sound, but they put it over — it's no worse than your average THIN LIZZY radio rocker, and it ends up being pretty damned catchy. Their cover of ROLLING STONES chestnut "Under My Thumb" is a relatively sedate cut, but they kick the hell out of THE YARDBIRDS' "Little Games". And "Wheel of Fortune" is one of those "worth the price of admission" cuts, opening the album with a ferocious roar that reminds you why PENTAGRAM was so damn cool to begin with, and had all the ingredients to become hard rock icons on the level of a SABBATH or PRIEST.
Disc two archives rehearsal demos — stuff never intended for release at the time, literally the sound of the band evolving in their practice space. Hell, you want lo-fi? Vocalist Bobby Liebling never owned a real PA system, according to O'Keefe, and often plugged his mic into a spare guitar amp! The results can drag a bit (as anyone who's sat through someone else's band practice can well imagine) — but there are some amazing songs here, and if this is the only way we can get 'em in their original form, I'll take them.
O'Keefe's liner notes beg one question — when is this poor S.O.B. gonna write a book? Taking an unflinching look at where the band stumbled on their vain quest for the big time, he documents studio squabbles with BLUE ÖYSTER CULT producer Sandy Krugman and a disastrous audition in a friend's living room in front of Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. He also casts an unsentimental eye on the band's own songs (calling Liebling's work on one track "amazing. Dumb, but amazing") and admits when they were writing with one eye on the brass ring.
Overall, fans couldn't ask for a better, more exhaustive document of unearthed treasures. Casual fans should start with the first disc in this collection, by all means — it hangs together better, and is about as close to a best-of as PENTAGRAM can achieve, given the limits of the '70s lineup's source material. But for the diehard denizens of the ram's head, reviews are moot — there's only the freaked-out doom rock eccentricity of PENTAGRAM, and every crumb from their table is well worth collecting and enjoying. One of the all-time underrated, unfairly-passed-over rock and roll bands, well deserving of the cult that's sprung up around them since those relatively innocent days.

tags: pentagram, first daze here too the vintage collection, 2006, flac,

Battle Beast - Bringer of Pain (Limited Edition) (2017)

*European limited edition. Contains 3 bonus tracks. 13 tracks total.

Country: Finland
Language: English
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 2017 Nuclear Blast Records
Review by Luke Smith for Metalwani.com
Battle Beast have returned to the scene with their fourth studio album, ‘The Bringer of Pain, the follow up to 2015’s Unholy Saviour’, and the first release since Anton Kabanen – the group’s main songwriter – left the band. I for one was interested in seeing how they did without him…and it didn’t end well.
The opening track “Straight to the Heart” came in screaming with Noora Louhimo, and some lovely sounding synth keyboards, although it’s not until the chorus where Noora unleashes the full power of her vocals. The song has a good, high-tempo with new guitarist Joona Björkroth inserting a nice solo in the middle of the track that keeps the pace up. Noora is the stand-out performer on this track, and throughout the whole song she shows the extent of her vocal range. It’s a strong opening, but then we can’t expect any less from this band.
Next up was “The Bringer of Pain”. A much faster tempo is the most noteworthy feature of this song, but it gives it a blink-and-you-miss-it quality to the track. It’s short, sharp and keeps the album moving along nicely, but there’s nothing particularly impressive about the titular track of the album.
“King for a Day” was the first single from this album, and right from the start you can see why they chose this song to introduce their new work to us. Although it’s not as high-tempo as the first two tracks of the album, it’s actually nicer to listen to; there’s a story being told with the lyrics of this song, which have a distinct political overtone. The whole band seems to really come together on this track, with some impressive backing vocals complimenting everything very well. It’s a very well rounded song, which really shows what the Battle Beast are capable of, and if you enjoy the song as much as I do you’ll be listening to it on repeat for a while. Full review here.....

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Papa Roach - Lovehatetragedy (2002) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Alternative Metal
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2002 DreamWorks
AllMusic Review by Robert L. Doerschuk
Within the context of its times, lovehatetragedy is a gamble of sorts, as Papa Roach abandons their affiliation with rock/rap fusion (except for one highly effective moment on "She Loves Me Not") and hies back to their original pure metal- and punk-inflected hard rock stance. Lead singer Coby Dick certifies the change by reverting to his birth name, Jacoby Shaddix, but in other respects his performance sticks to its formula of gut-busting delivery and lyrics whose candor can get a little embarrassing. (On "Decompression Period," for instance, he essentially tells his band as well as his beleaguered wife that he's sick of being around them.) A few tracks, most notably "Singular Indestructible Droid," struggle toward metaphor, with mixed results. What can't be denied is that Shaddix's woes connect directly to a large and equally confused audience, and that nobody this side of Kurt Cobain communicates them with as much power. As always, his message rides a turbulent current of guitar/bass riffs whose militaristic precision only enhances their intensity.

tags: papa roach, lovehatetragedy, love hate tragedy, 2002, flac,

Papa Roach - Old Friends From Young Years (1997)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Nü-Metal
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© 1997 Onion Hardcore/B Squared Records
AllMusic Review by Jason D. Taylor
Papa Roach's first full-length album, Old Friends from Young Years, documents a band in their formative years, and although it saw limited release and has since become a collector's item of sorts, it contains some of the group's best material. Having been recorded by the band themselves, one should not be surprised at its rudimentary production, yet the scratchy recording allows one to envision the band in a live setting much better than the more streamlined production of Infest. Frontman Coby Dick relies on a scattershot rap approach heavily doused in hardcore intensity, spitting lyrics with vehement fury before lapsing into subdued spoken word/singing. Amidst street-smart rap lingo, Dick exudes emotion when contemplating life ("Orange Drive Palms"), spousal abuse ("Liquid Diet"), drugs ("829"), and a variety of other personal topics. Musically Papa Roach is captured here with a much more underground hardcore approach that relies solely on crunchy guitars and blistering drums, which may surprise those more accustomed to Papa Roach's later, more accessible mainstream rock style. Old Friends from Young Years also contains what may possibly be the most infamous Papa Roach song with "Peewagon," a song which deals with the inability to control one's bladder and a song that the band later refused to play at live shows despite fan encouragement. While nothing on this album is written as well or as slick as the band's Infest material, it remains earlier fans' favorite from the band and gives newcomers a chance to understand why Papa Roach was considered one of the independent scene's top contenders long before Dreamworks signed them.

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Papa Roach - Infest (2000) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Nü-Metal, Alternative Metal
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2000 DreamWorks
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Papa Roach's debut album Infest quietly became a Top 20 hit in the first half of 2000, slipping underneath the radar of most pop critics and fans. It's easy to see why the pop elite passed them by, since the quartet just isn't hip, and since they are pushing an amalgam of every heavy sound that was popular in the late '90s. Basically, Infest is pitched somewhere between the classic grunge/industrial of the early '90s with hints of late-'90s behemoths like Korn and Limp Bizkit. There's singing, but it's balanced by rapping, and the heavy riffs are run through effects boxes that give it the controlled distortion common to alt-metal; it's loud, but you can hear each note being articulated. Lyrically, there's a lot of angst here, directed at everyone from parents and society to themselves. Strangely, each member thanks their families and God in the liner notes, but that's sort of beside the point, since this has the form and feeling of angst-ridden, post-grunge, rap-riddled alt-metal. Is it good? Well, if you're not into this stuff, this won't change your mind, but the band does work up some energy, sounds pretty muscular on most of the album, and has some good hooks, even if they tend to overplay their hand by throwing too many hooks into the riffs or screaming just a bit to much. Still, that's par for the course with alt-metal. So, it winds up that Papa Roach doesn't really distinguish itself from the pack in terms of sound, but they do stand out in terms of capability and consistency. Infest is a pretty solid alt-metal record, circa 2000, both for better and worse. It's a little generic, yes, but as far as the genre goes, it's not bad.

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February 20, 2017

Madonna - Madonna (1983)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop
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© 1983 Sire Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Although she never left it behind, it's been easy to overlook that Madonna began her career as a disco diva in an era that didn't have disco divas. It was an era where disco was anathema to the mainstream pop, and she had a huge role in popularizing dance music as a popular music again, crashing through the door Michael Jackson opened with Thriller. Certainly, her undeniable charisma, chutzpah, and sex appeal had a lot to do with that -- it always did, throughout her career -- but she wouldn't have broken through if the music wasn't so good. And her eponymous debut isn't simply good, it set the standard for dance-pop for the next 20 years. Why did it do so? Because it cleverly incorporated great pop songs with stylish, state-of-the-art beats, and it shrewdly walked a line between being a rush of sound and a showcase for a dynamic lead singer. This is music where all of the elements may not particularly impressive on their own -- the arrangement, synth, and drum programming are fairly rudimentary; Madonna's singing isn't particularly strong; the songs, while hooky and memorable, couldn't necessarily hold up on their own without the production -- but taken together, it's utterly irresistible. And that's the hallmark of dance-pop: every element blends together into an intoxicating sound, where the hooks and rhythms are so hooky, the shallowness is something to celebrate. And there are some great songs here, whether it's the effervescent "Lucky Star," "Borderline," and "Holiday" or the darker, carnal urgency of "Burning Up" and "Physical Attraction." And if Madonna would later sing better, she illustrates here that a good voice is secondary to dance-pop. What's really necessary is personality, since that sells a song where there are no instruments that sound real. Here, Madonna is on fire, and that's the reason why it launched her career, launched dance-pop, and remains a terrific, nearly timeless, listen.

tags: madonna, madonna album, 1983, flac,

Madonna - Like a Virgin (1984) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop, Synth Pop
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1984 Sire Records
Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine for Allmusic.com
Madonna had hits with her first album, even reaching the Top Ten twice with "Borderline" and "Lucky Star," but she didn't become a superstar, an icon, until her second album, Like a Virgin. She saw the opening for this kind of explosion and seized it, bringing in former Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers in as a producer, to help her expand her sound, and then carefully constructed her image as an ironic, ferociously sexy Boy Toy; the Steven Meisel-shot cover, capturing her as a buxom bride with a Boy Toy belt buckle on the front, and dressing after a night of passion, was as key to her reinvention as the music itself. Yet, there's no discounting the best songs on the record, the moments when her grand concepts are married to music that transcends the mere classification of dance-pop. These, of course, are "Material Girl" and "Like a Virgin," the two songs that made her an icon, and the two songs that remain definitive statements. They overshadow the rest of the record, not just because they are a perfect match of theme and sound, but because the rest of the album vacillates wildly in terms of quality. The other two singles, "Angel" and "Dress You Up," are excellent standard-issue dance-pop, and there are other moments that work well ("Over and Over," "Stay," the earnest cover of Rose Royce's "Love Don't Live Here"), but overall, it adds up to less than the sum of its parts -- partially because the singles are so good, but also because on the first album, she stunned with style and a certain joy. Here, the calculation is apparent, and while that's part of Madonna's essence -- even something that makes her fun -- it throws the record's balance off a little too much for it to be consistent, even if it justifiably made her a star.

tags: madonna, like a virgin, 1984, flac,

February 19, 2017

E.Town Concrete - The Renaissance (2003)⚓

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hardcore, Rapcore
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© 2003 Razor & Tie
AllMusic Review by Kurt Morris
Brimming with a passion not usually known within the ranks of the hardcore hip-hop scene, E-Town Concrete's debut for the Razor and Tie label presents 11 tracks trailing along some of the same lines as the rest of the hardcore or rapcore scene, but with plenty of unique flair. Taking cues from the life in the foursome's hometown of Elizabeth (or E-Town), NJ, E-Town Concrete tends to utilize a guitar attack similar to Hatebreed with some ferocious metal vocals ("Metroid") that can just as easily go back to hip-hop rhymes. Yet the life they live is evidently full of culture, as the Latino roots are showcased on "Let's Go" as well as "So Many Nights," which has all the makings of a hit radio single for the alternative radio markets. Along with some reggae and prog rock influence, it makes for a musically full plate, yet isn't overwhelming. Lyrically, the bandmembers speak out against domestic and child abuse and do their best to share their struggles growing up in a hard-nosed city. Overall, it's remarkably positive without being preachy whatsoever. Considering the tendency of many music fans to become jaded and annoyed with either the negativity or the lack of depth of many rapcore bands, E-Town Concrete seems like a welcome breath of fresh air for those searching for something with stylistic diversity that can still pack a punch.

 tags: e town concrete, e. town, the renaissance, 2003, flac,

The Order - Son of Armageddon (2006)

Country: Switzerland
Language: English
Genre: Heavy Metal
Style: Melodic Heavy Metal
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© 2006 Dockyard 1
Review by Jeff for MetalStorm.net
Maybe that some of you remember Gurd, this really good band of groovy Thrash Metal from Switzerland. To be honest I remember their albums "Down The Drain" released in 1998 and "Encounter" (2003) but I totally lost them after this last album. For the information, Bruno Spring their guitarist left the band in 2004 to form a new project with a different musical orientation, The Order was born!
Don't worry if The Order is more into Hard Rock than Thrash, Bruno still knows how to write kick ass guitar riffs! That's simple, The Order plays melodic Hard Rock but with some big "Thrashy" killer riffs. The result is really good and for sure all the songs are hyper catchy. From the really rock "n" roll track "Not Satisfied" to the thrash influenced one "Son Of Armageddon" all the songs are powerful as hell and never lack of rhythm. Also, like on all the best Hard Rock release we also have a nice melancholic bluesy ballad, "Love Died". As you can see nothing is missing on this release, "Son Of Armageddon" with its really good compositions is a good album of Hard Rock.
Also, you must know that the excellent singer of Pure Inc, Gianni Pontillo, completes the line up. With his really beautiful hoarsy voice, Gianni was probably the best choice to do the vocals on this album. That's simple his voice his just perfect for Hard Rock and it's good to see that Mr Gianni is also able to sing on some powerful songs like this famous "Son Of Armageddon". But to sum up, with The Order anyway we cannot say that we have a problem with the musicians, at the opposite they're all perfectly doing their job.
The production of "Son Of Armageddon" is good, the songs are good, the musicians are good and it's nice to see that even if Bruno Spring wanted to do something really different he didn't forget to add some great guitars riffs in the music. The first album of The Order is maybe not revolutionary but it's damn promising for the future of the combo, and damn I'm sure that the band will kick a lot of asses during their live performances. Don't miss "Son Of Armageddon" if you just pretend to love classy Hard Rock!

tags: the order, son of armageddon, 2006, flac,

ThemeAddict: WWE The Music Vol. 6 (2004)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Theme Music, Heavy Metal, Hip-Hop, Alternative Rock
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© 2004 Columbia Records
*No professional reviews available for this release. 

tags: wwf, wwe, theme addict, the music vol 6, volume 6, 2004, flac,