August 31, 2019

Rollins Band - Life Time (1988) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Post Hardcore
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☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© 1988 Texas Hotel
AllMusic Review by Chris True
When Henry Rollins emerged from the breakup of Black Flag, many thought he couldn't be successful without guitarist Greg Ginn. If nothing else, Life Time proves the detractors wrong. With Ian MacKaye of Fugazi in the production chair, Rollins Band was able to distance themselves from Black Flag with a tight, visceral, and sometimes bluesy album. While more abrasive than later Rollins Band releases, this is worth picking up to better understand the progression of Rollins Band's unique style of emotional funk metal. Remastered and re-released in 1999, the CD has a better sound, but it sacrifices the live tracks (which appear on the original Texas Hotel CD release). The outtakes from the Life Time sessions, however -- "Do It," "Move Right In," and "Nest Time," originally released as the album Do It in 1988 -- are included.

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Rollins Band - The End of Silence (1992)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Post Hardcore
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© 1992 Imago
AllMusic Review by John Franck
With the exception of 1989's Hard Volume, Henry Rollins' solo profile had been relegated to the minor leagues following his departure from neo-punk stalwarts Black Flag. But with the 1992 release of The End of Silence, Rollins' first official effort for the burgeoning Imago label, everything changed, partly because The End of Silence was launched with the appropriate bells and whistles normally reserved for well-established acts. Rollins Band was paired with Andy Wallace, an established producer capable of bringing the Rollins vision to fruition, who intuitively placed the singer's voice at the forefront of the album's incendiary mix. The dead-on, ultra-separated, compact sound of The End of Silence went a long way toward broadening the singer's potential audience. Not only is the record a full-blown sonic assault, delivered with typical, deadpan Rollins honesty, it delivered in the songwriting department as well, making it the singer's most focused record to date. The first single, "Low Self Opinion," was bludgeoning and menacing, Rollins' visceral, introspective commentary taking no prisoners. On other songs like "Grip" and "What Do You Do" (which clocked in at just under seven and a half minutes), the singer furthered a vision that launched a hundred imitators. "Tearing," the record's excellent second single, was also a boon for the vocalist, benefiting from some substantial airtime on MTV Headbanger's Ball; it further cemented Rollins' profile with yet another audience: metalheads. Rollins released other solid records, but The End of Silence remains his best.

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Rollins Band - Come In & Burn (1997)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Post Hardcore
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© 1997 DreamWorks Records
AllMusic Review by Bill Meredith
Vocalist, public speaker, and social critic Henry Rollins wouldn't approve, but not everyone agreed with his decision to break up his band after the experimental 1997 Come in and Burn CD. Rollins has gone on record as saying that his mid-'90s unit of guitarist Chris Haskett, bassist Melvin Gibbs, and drummer Sim Cain erred in not wanting to be a standard, hard-driving rock band like Rollins' heroes MC5 and Black Sabbath. But in effect, Rollins broke up this open-minded band because of, rather than for lack of, brilliance on their best and final CD. Come In and Burn took the blueprint from 1994's far-reaching Weight CD and went even further. After the metallic opener, "Shame," the disc unveils 11 other tracks that serpentine between rock and funk, jazz/fusion, and metal. The single "Starve" featured an insistent, inside-out rhythmic pattern that showcased the strengths of both Gibbs and Cain. Haskett's Wall of Sound guitar tone is muscular throughout Come In and Burn, yet the instrumentalists' strong sense of whisper-to-a-scream dynamics is also on display. Somehow, despite Rollins' powerful yet one-dimensional vocal yells, the musicians allowed Rollins Band to go beyond rock, ultimately earning them a pink slip before Rollins recorded his streamlined yet subpar 2000 CD, Get Some Go Again. Gibbs' previous history on the New York avant-garde jazz scene might've made him a strange choice to join Rollins Band, yet his tones (underwater funk on "The End of Something"; distorted metal on "On My Way to the Cage") and further involvement are what elevate this CD past Weight. The equally brilliant Cain alternately swings and rocks on separate sections of "During a City," which segues into the calm intro (before the storm) of "Neon." Most of Rollins' strong political statements are saved for the final turn. "Inhale Exhale" features thought-provoking, philosophical lyrics ("Inhale -- what I wanna be/Exhale -- how I wanna be seen") over Cain's shuffling drum pattern; "Saying Goodbye Again" is an autobiographical tale of friends lost. But the closing track is even more ironic, ending the brief, two-CD career of this incarnation of Rollins Band, who also put on a dominating performance at Woodstock 1994. In the chorus to "Rejection," Rollins bellows "You did me a favor when you left me behind." He didn't quite burn with this intensity after.

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Keel - Keel (1987) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Glam Metal
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1987 MCA Records
AllMusic Review by Doug Odell
Onetime Gene Simmons proteges Keel were part of the mid- to late-80s pop/glam metal brigade that strived for status amongst peers such as Dokken and Ratt. In 1987, Ron Keel (once in the running for the vocalist spot in Black Sabbath) and company released a self-titled debut boasting polished production and fist-pumping choruses.

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10 Years - Feeding The Wolves (Deluxe Edition) (2010)

*Contains 4 bonus tracks. 14 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Post Grunge
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© 2010 Universal Republic Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
10 Years managed to chalk up three albums and one big modern rock hit -- 2005’s modern rock chart-topper “Wasteland” -- without quite making a name for themselves. They remained stuck in the middle of the pack, selling enough discs and tickets to stick around but not grabbing attention. 2010’s Feeding the Wolves is designed to change that. Teaming with producer Howard Benson, who shepherded hits by My Chemical Romance and Papa Roach and is not adverse to working with pop acts including such American Idol alumni as Alison Iraheta and DAUGHTRY, 10 Years trims away their excesses, suppressing their Tool-inspired menace, keeping things tight, letting ballads brood and having the harder numbers hit cleanly so they don’t leave much of a mark. The band manages some sleek anthems -- the not-quite-a-power ballad “Fix Me” hooks in -- and the digital distortion provides loudness if not weight, so Feeding the Wolves winds up fulfilling the goal of being a potential active rock crossover, yet ironically the group still sounds like part of the pack, performing their job competently but without distinction.

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Manic Street Preachers - Generation Terrorists (1992) ☠

*UK first pressing. Contains 18 tracks total.
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Hard Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1992 Columbia Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Debut albums rarely come as ambitious as the Manic Street Preachers' Generation Terrorists. Released in England as a double album (it was trimmed to the length of a single record in America), the album teemed with slogans, political rhetoric, and scarily inarticulate angst. Since the Manics deliver these charged lyrics as heavy guitar-rockers, the music doesn't always hit quite as forcefully as intended. The relatively polished production and big guitar sound occasionally sell the music short, especially the lesser songs, yet the Manics' passion is undeniable, even on the weaker cuts. While the album is loaded with a little bit too much unrealized material in retrospect, its best moments -- the fiery "Slash N' Burn," "Little Baby Nothing," the incendiary "Stay Beautiful," the sardonic "You Love Us," and the haunting "Motorcycle Emptiness" -- capture the Manics in all their raging glory.

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Gorguts - Considered Dead (1991) ☠

Country: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Death Metal
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☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© 1991 R/C Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
One has to wonder if French Canadians Gorguts didn't actually intend to name their debut album, 1991's Considered Dead, "Considered Death" (no, not "Deaf"!), as its contents surely embody the purest form of old-school death metal. Or at least old-school death metal as defined by pioneering efforts like Beneath the Remains and Arise from Brazilians Sepultura: hyperfast, very technical, ultrabrutal, but also characterized by healthy injections of melodic guitar harmonies and slower doom sections. More importantly, like Sepultura (but unlike hundreds of also-rans) Gorguts were talented enough to pull this complex death gumbo off convincingly, using the potent double whammy of "Stiff and Cold" and "Disincarnate" to kick start both their album and career in great style. Ensuing eardrum grinders like the title track and "Bodily Corrupted" aren't as immediately successful, but hardly disappoint in the long run, either; and with frequent bright spots continuing to surface throughout the disc (check out the particularly melodic instrumental "Waste of Mortality," the word-inventing "Rottenatomy," and monstrous closer "Inoculated Life," featuring a guest guitar solo from Death legend James Murphy), it's easy to see why Gorguts were considered sure-fire candidates to lead death metal into a bright future. Sadly, the band's record company, Roadrunner, felt otherwise, inexplicably dropping Gorguts after just one more album, and consigning them to a long ramble through the underground metal wilderness before eventually resurfacing, almost unrecognizable, as a death-jazz outfit five years later. Regardless of that, Considered Dead remains a notable, if not exactly groundbreaking example of death metal's glory days. [Note: Considered Dead was later remastered, reissued, and paired with its successor The Erosion of Sanity as part of Roadrunner's Two From the Vault series, in 2004.]

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Gorguts - The Erosion of Sanity (1993)

Country: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Death Metal
Style: Technical Death Metal
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© 1993 Roadrunner Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Canadian death metal troupe Gorguts delivered their second album, The Erosion of Sanity, in 1993, and given the general approval accorded their excellent debut two years earlier, expectations for this new effort to supersede it were understandably high. Too high, perhaps, as what initially appeared to be a promising start via the manic flurry of "With Their Flesh, He'll Create" and its more melodically inclined follow-up, "Condemned to Obscurity," soon gave way to a slew of technically astounding but surprisingly featureless death metal songwriting. Other than proving that not even a Franco-Canadian accent can be detected when grunted from the depths of one's bowels, Gorguts vocalist/guitarist Luc Lemay and his crew seemed overly preoccupied with showing off their incredible musicianship to focus on lifting very many outstanding moments above the billowing clouds churned up by their flailing limbs. In the process, new compositions like the title track, "Orphans of Sickness," and "A Path Beyond Premonition" forgo the discreet but crucial melodic finesse that had made the band's debut reminiscent of giants Sepultura and Death, in exchange for a no less carefully constructed but exceedingly one-dimensional sort of brutality -- the sort that was concurrently being championed by newer bands like New York's Suffocation, interestingly enough. In other words, Gorguts were probably just trying to evolve with the times, but in their case such evolution met with slightly less than satisfactory results -- a point driven home by the scant eight songs summoned for The Erosion of Sanity. Still, the album is anything but a failure -- just a questionable change of direction that Gorguts were ultimately unable to vindicate or develop after Roadrunner Records suddenly dropped them a short time later. Gorguts would eventually return half a decade hence, but in a significantly altered form that also failed to advance their career. [The 2006 reissue of the record adds two bonus tracks.]

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Gorguts - Obscura (1998)

Country: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Death Metal
Style: Technical Death Metal
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© 1998 Olympic/Slapdisc Recordings
AllMusic Review by William York
What's in a name? In the case of "Gorguts," not much -- at least by this stage in the game -- save for some preconceptions about what a band with "gore" and "guts" in its name should sound like. Obscura comes much closer to the mark, as this is simply one of the most challenging, difficult albums ever released within the metal genre. In terms of its towering complexity and unprecedented strangeness, Obscura has a lot more in common with Captain Beefheart's avant-rock monstrosity Trout Mask Replica than it does the latest Cannibal Corpse release. Not that Obscura isn't recognizably metal -- the guitar distortion, the double-bass drumming, and the blasting snare beats are all firmly rooted in death metal. What makes this album different is exactly how far Gorguts pushes this death metal foundation. The guitar/bass harmonies are extremely discordant, the guitar leads are full of alien harmonic squeals and other foreign noises (the title track, for example, features a recurring, legitimately atonal melody played via fingertapping), and the drums change tempos and time signatures in spastic, whiplash-inducing fashion. Frontman Luc Lemay's vocals are not standard death metal fare, either: he sounds like he's being put through a torture session, gasping and wheezing as he screams at the top of his lungs. The most agonizing track is the near ten-minute "Clouded," which crawls at a Melvins/Swans pace and has absolutely guttural bass playing to go along with the aforementioned dissonant guitars and painful vocals. As ugly and off-putting as Obscura may initially seem, though, it possesses an underlying sense of logic and structure that does reveal itself upon repeat listens. A number of memorable, if strange, guitar melodies emerge throughout the album and help provide a sense of order and thematic unity amidst the apparent chaos; "Earthly Love" and "Nostalgia" are especially strong examples of this. Obscura's appeal may not ultimately reach far beyond an underground niche audience, but those with the patience and curiosity to tackle this record will be rewarded with a work of great depth and vision.

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Gorguts - From Wisdom To Hate (2001)

Country: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Death Metal
Style: Technical Death Metal
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© 2001 Olympic Recordings
AllMusic Review by William York
After releasing the extremely challenging Obscura album, Gorguts left fans and critics wondering where they would turn next. Would they continue in that record's aggressively experimental direction, or tone things down to something more in line with the more standard (and less controversial) death metal of their first two albums? From Wisdom to Hate shows the answer to be "both" (or "neither," depending on how you look at it). On one hand, this music is certainly not stereotypical death metal fare, something that's clear in everything from the difficult (beyond math rock) time signatures to the discordant guitar parts, which utilize advanced harmonies rarely heard in the genre and frequently bypass traditional power chords altogether. Even the song structures themselves are unique, often based on detailed, interlocking patterns that cycle over and over (see "Elusive Treasures"), as opposed to relying on standard riff sequences or verse-chorus-verse forms. On the other hand, From Wisdom isn't quite as far-out as its predecessor. Luc Lemay's vocals, while still rather agonizing, are not the same as the abrasive, high-pitched wailing on Obscura -- they're much deeper. In addition, the tempos are steadier and less extreme, while the actual songs aren't as crammed with details, making them easier to follow. (Drummer Steve MacDonald, replacing Obscura's Patrick Robert, is less inclined to fill every space with an insane blastbeat or drum fill, which contributes to this change.) In the end, From Wisdom to Hate may not have the same epic scope or crazed intensity as Obscura but, by taking that album's experimentation and fitting it into a (relatively) more straightforward setting, it is certainly more approachable. While still not for the timid, this disc is a good introduction one of death metal's most creative, musical bands, circa 2001.

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Gorguts - Colored Sands (2013)

Country: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Death Metal
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© 2013 Season of Mist
Review by Hank Shteamer for Pitchfork.com
Like any respected underground band staging a comeback, Gorguts have a lot to live up to. In order to understand why expectations are unusually high for Colored Sands-- the first new LP since 2001 from this Quebec death-metal institution-- you have to look back to 1998's Obscura, one of the most pungently progressive albums ever made, in or out of metal. Obscura didn't just register as technical; it sounded downright excruciating, as if its shuddering blastbeats, doleful bellows, and deliriously inventive guitarwork were being torn straight from the chests of its makers.
But as brilliant as Obscura was, and as wide as its influence has spread-- it holds a hallowed place not just among discerning death-metalheads, but in open-eared jazz circles as well-- it wasn't exactly a definitive Gorguts release. The band made their name playing in a very different style. Their first two LPs, 1991's Considered Dead and 1993's The Erosion of Sanity, demonstrated impressive tightness and a flair for involved composition, but they were very much of their time-- unrelentingly intense dispatches descended from the bulging-vein aggression of 80s thrash. Conceived as early as 93, but not issued until 98, Obscura shocked longtime listeners, who couldn't believe the madness the band's lengthy gestation had birthed.
That chapter of Gorguts was short-lived, though, as guitarist/vocalist Steeve Hurdle-- a key co-architect of Obscura, who died tragically last year at age 41-- left the band in 1999. On the next Gorguts LP, 2001's sorely underrated From Wisdom to Hate, founder and sole constant member Luc Lemay streamlined Obscura's demented sprawl, yielding a less outlandish yet equally distinguished statement. This was a wise move; there would've been no way to out-weird Obscura.

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August 30, 2019

10 Years - Killing All That Holds You (2004)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Post Grunge
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© 2004 Not On Label (Self Released)
*No professional reviews available for this release.

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10 Years - The Autumn Effect (2005)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Post Grunge
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© 2005 Republic Records
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus
The Autumn Effect opens with "Waking Up," a surgically perfect union of Tool and Incubus. 10 Years vocalist Jesse Hasek wails with the earnestness of Brandon Boyd, but also draws from the persistent tension in Maynard James Keenan's delivery. Musically, 10 Years' songs do much the same thing. They feature echoey, dripping-water guitar lines that splash into giant choruses, combining the arty darkness of Tool or Deftones with post-grunge's need for a big melodic payoff. "Cast It Out" is a great example of this, as is "Half Life." Staind and Static-X producer Josh Abraham gives Autumn Effect a serviceably crisp sound, and 10 years is enamored enough of their big payoff choruses to focus more on them than the mental darkness permeating the verses. "Through the Iris" is another highlight; the band also gets ambitious with the closing title track, which clocks in at nearly ten minutes and implodes into a primordial ooze of proto-Coil gloom. But Autumn Effect could really use more of that adventurism, more ideas that challenge the alt metal/post-grunge status quo instead of fitting so ably within it. It's one thing to sound as awesome as your heroes; it's another to take what they've done further. There's promise in 10 Years playing. But in the meantime, there are lyrics like "Precious gift embedded deep within your skin/But parasitic pleasures are closer than kin" and "New grains of time will not rewind." The lines are poetic in their torment, but they're still pretty typical for alt metal, and that commonness is what ultimately saps The Autumn Effect.

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10 Years - Minus The Machine (2012)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Post Grunge
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© 2012 Palehorse Records
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger
Minus the Machine, the sixth studio effort from Knoxville, Tennessee-based post-grunge/progressive/alternative-metal outfit 10 Years is the first to be released on the band's own independent label, Palehorse Records, in conjunction with Warner Music Group's Independent Label Group. Melodic, brutal, and complex, but maintaining the same radio-ready sheen that resulted in commercial success with albums like The Autumn Effect and Division, the band "wanted to create an album that has no boundaries," adding that "When you feel like you’re being told to go through motions and jump through hoops, it takes the heart out of it. It’s better to do what comes naturally and then figure out the after-effect.”

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10 Years - From Birth To Burial (2015)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Post Grunge
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© 2015 Palehorse/Megaforce Records
Review by Jason Rhode for Cryptic Rock.com
In 1999, 10 Years formed in Knoxville Tennessee with lead singer Mike Underdown, drummer Brian Vodinh, bassist Lewis Cosby, as well as guitarists Ryan “Tater” Johnson and Matt Wantland. Independently releasing their self-produced debut album Into the Half Moon in 2001, the same year Underdown and Cosby departed from the band, thus ushering in the long standing vocalist Jesse Hasek, along with new bassist Andy Parks for a year, before Cosby returned to the fold until 2012. While the changes have been many for the band in form of lineups, the mainstays Hasek, Johnson, and Vodinh (writing & producing only since 2012) remain the catalyst of this well-oiled machine. Signed to Universal Records, the band’s 2005 album Autumn Effect garnered 10 Years their first charted album and a single, “Wasteland,” which went gold in February 2006 and was nominated for Best Direction and Art Direction at the 2006 MTV Video Awards.  Progressing from album to album, two follow-up records, Division in 2008 and Feeding the Wolves 2010, found them at the pinnacle of the Hard Rock world, providing this band was here to stay. More a band about music than numbers, they declared their independence from Universal, for more artistic freedom, and released perhaps their most in-depth record to date in 2012 with Minus the Machine via Pale Horse Records.  Now after three years of touring, their 2013 Live & Unplugged at the Tennessee Theater album, and writing, 10 years are back with new album From Birth to Burial released on April 21st. Marking their seventh overall album, and one highly anticipated by fans, many wonder what direction the band will go this time around.
From Birth to Burial is a fusion of three sub-genres many have classified 10 Years; Alt-Metal, Post-Grunge, as well as Progressive Metal, for their searing guitar work and driving drums.  Ask the band though, they probably would ignore any labeling, as they just make the music that feels right to them. For instance, the album’s title track’s intro begins innocent enough with a two-beat piano, but closer listening has a guitar playing backwards, skewing the simple acoustic sound.  Hasek’s ominous vocals creep through announcing that “you’re next to love me” as the drums shatter the tranquility. Next, “Selling Skeletons has a psychedelic intro before the bombastic drums and guitars slice with Hasek’s singing a satirical piece on media vultures looking for a person’s skeletons to sensationalize, “Everything falls apart, keep relying on dead stars. With everyone’s eye on the prize, we kiss our loyalty goodbye.  And it should come as no surprise…” “Desperately selling skeletons, until there’s nothing left of me.”  “Vertigo” sees the return of the piano intro into a Pop-like drum beat and the synthesizers giving an Orgy-esque Gothic Pop melody to follow this song of a whirlwind relationship with someone, who perhaps is bi-polar, featuring the lyrics “Around and round, we go with the rise and fall of your vertigo.”  Then, “Triggers and Tripwires is a slam dance ride of hard hitting drums with jarring, yet melodic guitar play. The next track, “Luna“, has an ethereal, laid back feel belying the dark, almost religious, love song lyrics.
As a perfect alternative to the other songs’ styling, “Crimson Kiss” talks about the delusion of youthful immortality while having an array of beauty and aggression executed by Hasek vocally. “The River is a piece parable of life’s uncertainties and includes a drumline that feels desperate to convey a message of experience. Here, Hasek’s vocals shine bright with notes that resonate in a powerful fashion, perhaps more because of the context of the words. Making piano an important part of their composition for all of From Birth to Burial, they bring Ashes to life before strong bass guitar that follows throughout the track cut by a intense lead guitar and understated, but equally important sweeping drumline. Hasek’s voice once again convey the inevitability from whence we began, so shall we return…Ashes. Meanwhile, “Survivors?” could be one of the most haunting songs on the album with roomy guitars/drums before Hasek asks a simple question to a short, but powerful song… “Are there any survivors here.”
“Miscellanea”, which was a single released before From Birth to Burial fully dropped, has a deep, eerie feeling with the pianos sliding in and out of the song towards its conclusion.  Conveying a message of seduction and selling the soul for a bit of pleasure only to to be brought down by a disease send a striking message lyrically which is matched by the sheer emotion of the song.  The final chapter in 10 Years’ latest journey is “Moisture Residue, which is almost a continuation of the prior tracks tonally as pianos dominate, accompanied by synthesized violins like a slow drip. Hasek’s vocals are silky smooth in a dreamy telling of the end of his life, and how his death affects those he is leaving behind with fading memories…”Moisture residue, slowly killing you.”
10 Years’ dark, satirical social commentary of From Birth to Burial sets the band on par with predecessors such as Nirvana, Pink Floyd, or the Dead Kennedys.  Songs like “Vertigo could be taken as a literal piece along with “Triggers and Tripwires,” “Luna,” “Crimson Kiss,” “The River,” “Miscellanea,” and “Moisture Residue with the album as a whole having a desperate need to be heard.  This could be one of the band’s heaviest album to date, in more ways than one. Inevitably, it is a cohesive piece which demands it be listened to from start to finish and not pieces apart for single serving downloading that has become so prevalent in modern society. Truly a masterpiece for this highly underrated band, CrypticRock gives From Birth to Burial 5 out of 5 stars.

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August 29, 2019

Royal Trux - Pound For Pound (2000)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Noise Rock
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© 2000 Drag City
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares
On Pound for Pound, Royal Trux's second album within a year, the increasingly prolific group revisits the laid-back, scuzzy sound of albums like Thank You and Sweet Sixteen -- albeit with a warmer, cleaner production, not unlike the sound they gave the Make Up's In Mass Mind. Touted by their label as a "party record," Pound for Pound comes pretty close to living up to that description, alternating between summery, boogie rock-inspired numbers like "Fire Hill" and "Dr. Gone" and more aggressive rockers like "Accelerator (The Original)" and "Teenage Murder Mystery." The Trux also find room for the almost-wistful summer love song "Sunshine," as well as the witchy blues-rock of "Deep Country Sorcerer" and "Small Thief," and despite the sound-effects weirdness on "Platinum Tips" and the trippy flutes on "Blind Navigator," this is their most straightforward collection of songs since their Virgin label output. Weighing in at a short and sweet ten tracks, Pound for Pound may not be as combustive or inventive as their recent output, but it reaffirms that there is plenty of room for just plain enjoyment in Royal Trux's subversive agenda.

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Royal Trux - [untitled] (1992)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Noise Rock
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© 1992 Drag City
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
With their untitled 1992 album, Royal Trux tentatively abandoned the noise aesthetic of their first two albums and began writing real songs. Surprisingly, they were strong songs, bristling with the group's love of rock sleaze and junkie culture, as well as riffs that are captivatingly tough and sloppy. And Jennifer Herrema has never sounded as scarily sexy as she does throughout the album, slurring and snarling her bleak, disease-ridden lyrics with a compelling insolence. Royal Trux are still hampered by some meandering noise, but the emergence of real songs make them a primitive indie rock band worth investigating.

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Royal Trux - Royal Trux (1988)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Experimental Rock
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© 1988-1993 Drag City
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Royal Trux's eponymous debut album is a virtually unlistenable collage of primitive guitar chords, clattering production, howled vocals, and sheer white noise. Occasionally, the music showed signs of actual song structure, as well as shards of Stonesy blues, but it generally sounded like an abrasive, self-conscious deconstruction of classic rock. Either that, or the bandmembers simply didn't have a clue how to play their instruments.

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August 28, 2019

Royal Trux - Cats & Dogs (1993)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Noise Rock
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© 1993 Drag City
AllMusic Review by John Dougan
Recorded for America's number one low-fi underground label, Cats and Dogs was the first indication that Royal Trux could do more than whip up a tornado of distortion. A little less focused than Thank You, it still has its moments of splendor, especially when it sounds as though it's going to fall apart and, suddenly, comes back together.

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Royal Trux - Thank You (1995)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock, Noise Rock
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© 1995 Virgin Records
AllMusic Review by John Dougan
I realize that this runs contrary to the beliefs of longtime Royal Trux fans, but the more Royal Trux resembles a standard rock band, the better they sound. If you want a little guitar skronk with your sci-fi surrealism (as in Herrema's lyrics), but like a little funky backbeat now and again, this is Royal Trux at their scuzzy best. It's still not for the weak, nor for those who like pretty melodies or great musicianship. But for the rest of us who like the occasional run through the jungle, songs like "The Sewers of Mars" and "You're Gonna Lose" are prime chunks of non-commercial alternative rock. It's a safe bet to assume that more '90s bands will continue to appropriate '70s rock stylings, but few will do it with the panache of Royal Trux.

tags: royal trux, thank you, 1995, flac,

Royal Trux - Sweet Sixteen (1996)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Noise Rock
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© 1996 Virgin Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Royal Trux always subverted classic rock by neglecting to learn how to play their instruments and taking the junkie myths of Keith Richards and Johnny Thunders as fact. When they moved to a major label with 1995's Thank You, they cleaned up their sound and wrote actual songs, so it makes sense that its followup, Sweet Sixteen, is where they learn how to stretch out on their instruments. Opening up with a riff lifted from the Allman Brothers, Sweet Sixteen is a sloppy mess, filled with grime, sleaze and filth -- just like the broken toilet that graces the album's cover. While Royal Trux is now able to play these blues riffs, they don't have the desire to make them palatable. At heart, they still want to tap into what originally scared people about rock & roll, and to a certain extent they do -- they are a viciously anti-social band, snarling vocals and throwing riffs out carelessly. However, they are falling into a netherworld with music that is too slick for indie and too weird for the mainstream, which means Sweet Sixteen is unlikely to appeal outside of their cult.

tags: royal trux, sweet sixteen, 1996, flac,

Royal Trux - Accelerator (1998)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Noise Rock
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© 1998 Drag City
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Not long after they received Sweet Sixteen, complete with its notorious cover of an excrement- and vomit-filled toilet, Virgin Records realized Royal Trux may not be a crossover act. They were willing to let the band go, giving them severance pay and the master tapes to their recently completed album, Accelerator, which was then released on their old home, Drag City. Listening to the album, it's hard to believe that a major label funded such an exhilaratingly noisy record. Ostensibly the third installment in their ongoing salute to particular decades in rock history -- that is, Thank You took on the '60s, Sweet Sixteen saluted the '70s -- Royal Trux deconstructs '80s rock on Accelerator, running all the instruments through some sort of electronic distortion, taking away the bass, trying to make it sound processed. Since this is Royal Trux, the result still is indebted to the Stones and astoundingly messy, but that's why Accelerator rocks like a demon, running over everything in sight. The album sounds chaotic, but there are some great songs hidden under the cacophony, like the explosive "I'm Ready," the soul vamp "Juicy, Juicy, Juice," and the soul-tinged closer, "Stevie." Royal Trux have rarely had both their songwriting and noise under control like they do here, and the result is pure dynamite -- possibly their best album to date.

tags: royal trux, accelerator, 1998, flac,

Royal Trux - Veterans of Disorder (1999)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock, Noise Rock
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© 1999 Drag City
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares
With 1998's excellent Accelerator, Royal Trux completed their rock history trilogy and returned to Drag City. On Veterans of Disorder -- the title of which attests to the band's mix of classic rock and noisy experimentation, and to their status as survivors of their own chaotic excesses -- the Trux move forward and look back at the same time. Splitting the difference between their increasingly focused yet subversive rock and their early, sludgy experimentalism, Veterans of Disorder begins with seven (relatively) radio-friendly versions of the Trux aesthetic. "Waterpark" is an almost-straightforward raw charge led by Neil Hagerty's driving guitars and Jennifer Herrema's sultry, snarling vocals; the sexy "Second Skin" follows suit, and the duo shares vocal duties on "The Exception" and "Yo Se!"'s the Glimmer Twins-style funk. Latin percussion adds a twist to "Lunch Money," while "Witch's Tit" and "Stop" show off Royal Trux's softer side. None of these songs last longer than three and a half minutes, but the group crams as many big guitars and weird ideas as they can into these "singles." The album's second half returns to Twin Infinitives-era noise jams for inspiration, especially on the shambolic "Sickazz Dog." Herrema's wonderfully sneery vocals on "Coming Out Party" serve sharp-tongued lyrics like "He's going to be a playboy in his mind/He's trying to pretend he's making friends," while "Blue Is the Frequency" mixes jazz, cock rock, and a bit of slide guitar into a nearly nine-minute workout. Though the album sounds cleaner and more focused than anything Royal Trux released on Virgin, it's the duo's closest tie to their trashy underground roots. One of their most accomplished works, Veterans of Disorder could only be made by artists as creatively and financially independent as Royal Trux

tags: royal trux, veterans of disorder, 1999, flac,