January 31, 2020

Child of Darkness: From The Original Master Tapes (2005) ⚓

*Second pressing issued by Vessel Records
Contains 15 tracks total. 
A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Doom Metal
Style: Traditional Doom
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© 2005-2006 Vessel Records
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato
With the release of such old-school Pentagram compilations as 2002's First Daze Here and 2006's First Daze Here Too, most fans of the Virginia cult metal band would assume that the vaults have been completely cleared out. But this didn't prove to be the case, as evidenced by Bedemon's Child of Darkness. Led by Pentagram's brief second guitarist, Randy Palmer, Bedemon also featured Pentagram co-founders Bobby Liebling and Geof O'Keefe. As a result, both bands possessed a very similar Sabbath-y sound, although Bedemon seemed to focus more on the Satanic side of things -- even more so than Pentagram. The sound quality of this 15-track release may not be exactly sonically sterling, but for longtime Pentagram fanatics, it will be quite a find, as the material is on par with both the aforementioned Pentagram compilations. Just by glancing at the song titles alone ("Enslaver of Humanity," "Serpent Venom," "Into the Grave," "Through the Gates of Hell") you see that Palmer and company were following the same lyrical path as acts like Venom and Slayer; only thing is that Bedemon pre-dated both acts by ten years. Also included is a hefty booklet, jam-packed with pictures, informative notes, recollections (Palmer passed away in 2002), and song lyrics.

tags: bedemon, child of darkness, from the original master tapes, 2005, 2006, flac,

Crass - Best Before... 1984 (1986) ☠

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Punk Rock
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☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© 1986 Crass Records
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett
Serving as the final Crass album ever, Best Before collects the band's many singles and some rarities into a convenient collection. It covers everything from its first single, "Do They Owe Us a Living?," to a version of that song that concluded the group's final show ever at a benefit for Welsh miners in 1984, with a series of shockingly good high points in between. Generally avoiding the inclusion of their single tracks on albums so as to avoid ripping off the fans, as well as allowing for more immediate responses to outside situations, Crass made the pointed, questioning protest song its own work of art, avoiding easy answers as they went. While the earliest tracks show the band as little more than loud, thinly recorded and somewhat run-of-the-mill punk with an ear for a focused rant or two, by the time the harrowing "Reality Asylum" was composed in 1979, Crass had a much more individual approach going. The song, with what sounds like De Vivre handling the blunt, anti-Christian spoken word vocals, mixes musique concrète and found-sound snippets with spacious, echoing elements and low, strange drones. A more individual approach to what "punk" was supposed to be couldn't easily be found. There are straightforward full-band eruptions that don't stop: the astonishing rip on the political hypocrisy of bands like the Clash, "Bloody Revolutions," or "Sheep Farming in the Falklands," appearing in both extant versions and packaging a revulsion of the war there into an obscenely articulate blast. Other more avant-garde tracks as "Shaved Women" and the scabrous "Nagasaki Nightmare" find them experimenting all the more. Besides all the lyrics, the lengthy booklet contains an impassioned band autobiography that details the group's goals and hopes, their successes, and sometimes cruel failures. As an overview and as an example of politicized music taken to its fullest extent, Best Before remains a worthy, unique release

tags: crass, best before 1984, 1986, flac,

January 30, 2020

Cavalera Conspiracy - Inflikted (2008)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Thrash Metal
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© 2007 Roadrunner Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
The release of Inflikted by the Cavalera Conspiracy -- composed of long-estranged Sepultura siblings Max and Igor Cavalera, plus Soulfly guitarist Marc Rizzo and Gojira bassist Joe Duplantier -- brings to fruition one of the most anticipated yet most improbable reunions in heavy metal history...well, almost. Obviously, the entirety of Sepultura's "classic" lineup (rounded out by guitarist Andreas Kisser and bassist Paulo Jr., still, unfortunately, failing to do the hallowed name justice elsewhere) would have been the ultimate dream come true for metal fans across the globe. But why quibble over details when near-miracles are at hand? Especially when Inflikted (named after the new band's original moniker) succeeds on so many levels -- not the least of them being that it's neither a belated rehashing of Sepultura, nor a mere continuation of Soulfly, despite containing ample recognizable qualities of both bands. After all, Max is Max, and as the chief songwriter for all of the above, certain idiosyncrasies simply come with the (pardon the pun) "Territory" -- who would want it any other way? These include the often simple but universal lyrical concepts (ever laced with unrepentant profanity) driving unadorned anthems of rebellion like "Hex" and "Nevertrust"; the innate musical immediacy wed to uncompromising brutality (first achieved on Sepultura's commercial breakthrough, Chaos A.D.) seen on first single "Sanctuary"; the devastating "The Doom of All Fires," and, oh yes, "UM-DOIS-TRES-QUATRO!," saved for closing blast "Must Kill." And Iggor (now with twice as much "G" power!) being Iggor, the bulk of Inflikted's material benefits from emphatic percussion, mixing traditionally metallic techniques (like his trademark death metal kick-drums and super fast hands) with off-kilter beats, liable to rescue a few cuts like "Terrorize" and "Ultra-Violent" from otherwise boring fates. As for the other two guys not named Cavalera, bassist Duplantier generally just keeps a low sonic profile and his nose out of trouble, but guitarist Marc Rizzo's contributions to the Conspiracy really can't be overstated. As has been the case on recent Soulfly releases, his otherworldly soloing and inventive melodic lines (see memorable showcases in "Dark Art" and "Hearts of Darkness") often serve as the creative catalysts responsible for the most inspired moments. So are there any out-and-out surprises, you might ask? Well, not really, but Inflikted's powerful opening title track does contain unexpected industrial nuances, which resurface discreetly on later tracks, and the spectacular "Bloodbrawl" is pretty shocking for the candor with which it addresses all those lost years of familial animosity. Arranged in accordance with the different stages of Max's and Igor's feud, "Bloodbrawl" moves across three very distinct-sounding stages: initially shaped by harsh fighting talk and furious death/thrash violence; followed by a troubled, mid-paced, mid-section contrasting obstinate grooves with tense harmonies and bitter lead runs battling for supremacy before finally culminating in mournful acoustic strummings filled with sorrow and regret. If any one song could lay bare the futility of it all and help heal Sepultura's broken body, this might be it; but we're getting ahead of ourselves. Best to stick with the present, because, given Inflikted's overall high standards, the Cavalera Conspiracy may be around for a while

tags: cavalera conspiracy, inflikted, inflicted, 2008, flac,

Cavalera Conspiracy - Blunt Force Trauma (2011)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Groove Metal
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© 2011 Roadrunner Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
One of the most unlikely reunions in heavy metal history, the Cavalera Conspiracy -- featuring long-warring ex-Sepultura siblings Max and Igor Cavalera -- was such a dream come true for heavy metal fans everywhere, that many actually seemed afraid of waking up only to find that's really all it was. But, with the release of the Conspiracy's second chapter, 2011's Blunt Force Trauma, the time for pinching oneself is over, along with the feeling of blind gratitude that would make it impossible to give a lucid assessment of the band's musical merits. Luckily, however, the Cavalera songwriting genes remain surprisingly resistant to decay, and not only does Blunt Force Trauma repeat its predecessor's (that being 2008's Inflikted) extreme metal eclecticism, but sharpens its focus to a diamond-tipped edge of devastating economy, just as advertised, come to think of it. So, among the offerings to be had, there are vicious thrash/death/hardcore blends such as "Warlord," "Torture" and "Target" that, if not for the scything lead guitar provided by Max Cavalera's longtime Soulfly sideman, Marc Rizzo, do nothing to misinterpret the album's title; more measured and melodic post-Motörhead crunchers like "Killing Inside," "I Speak Hate," and the title cut; and even a curious trilogy dedicated to shady characters (whose complex personalities seem to inspire the inventive songwriting itself) in "Ganghis Khan," "Burn Waco," and "Rasputin." On top of all this, Max's penchant for inviting guest participants is satisfied by Agnostic Front legend Roger Miret's pitbull cameo on "Lynch Mob", which coincidentally pauses for some hardcore breakdowns amid Dimebag Darrell-approved pinch-harmonic squeals (see also "Thrasher" in this regard), making it abundantly clear he still has no fear of dipping into any musical well for inspiration. And so, to fans looking for a break from Soulfly's at times overbearing world music inclinations and, well, soulfulness, Blunt Force Trauma suggests that the Cavalera Conspiracy will instead seek to provide a refreshingly brutal outlet for Max and Igor's fundamental extreme metal talents; talents that set them on their path to stardom to begin with.

tags: cavalera conspiracy, blunt force trauma, 2011, flac,

Cavalera Conspiracy - Pandemonium (2014)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Death Metal
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© 2014 Napalm Records
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger
The third studio long-player from the Brazilian brother-led metal outfit with ties to Sepultura, Soulfly, Gojira, Converge, and Stone Sour, the Napalm Records-issued Pandemonium finds the Cavalera Conspiracy falling back on their thrash roots, offering up a blistering ten-track set (an extended edition adds two bonus cuts) that dials back (a bit) on the thunderous groove-metal of prior outings in favor of a more kinetic, almost grindcore-inspired approach. Pandemonium was preceded by the aptly named first single "Bonzai Kamikazee," which chronicled the tenacity of Japanese suicide pilots during the Pacific campaign of World War II.

tags: cavalera conspiracy, pandemonium, 2014, flac,

Various Artists - Pump Ya Fist: Hip-Hop Inspired By The Black Panthers (1995)

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 1995 Avatar, PolyGram Records
AllMusic Review by John Bush
This is a varied collection of hip-hop acts (such as Arrested Development, Yo-Yo, Chuck D, and KRS-One) that unites around pro-black themes for each song. It's a great release by some of the best acts in the rap world.

tags: various artists, pump ya fist, hip hop inspired by the black panthers, 1995, flac,

Matthew Sweet - 100% Fun (1995) ☠

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1995 Zoo Entertainment
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Clocking in at 45 minutes, Matthew Sweet's third record of guitar-dominated, hook-laden power pop runs through its 12 songs at a classic speed, piling up songs that lovingly conform to the three-minute pop tradition. Richard Lloyd's gnarled guitars save Sweet's melodies and harmonies from being saccharine or sappy. Behind Sweet's bright hooks lies something darker -- the self-loathing of "Sick of Myself" and the mental manipulation of "We're the Same" aren't evident from the sound of the record, which obliterates any hidden meanings with its chiming guitars and driving rhythms. It might not have the consistent barrage of great songs like Girlfriend, yet it tames the wilder impulses of Altered Beast into an album that rocks its worries away without ever getting rid of them

tags: matthew sweet, 100% fun, 100 percent, 1995, flac,

They Might Be Giants - Apollo 18 (1992)

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Pop Rock
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© 1992 Elektra
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Although it lacks a standout single like "Birdhouse in Your Soul," Apollo 18 is a more consistent album than Flood, overflowing with ideas and pop hooks. The most noteworthy idea may have been "Fingertips," a "suite" of 21 song fragments designed to make each random play a new experience, but the meat of the album lies in pop songs like "I Palindrome I," "My Evil Twin," "She's Actual Size," and "Which Describes How You're Feeling." The album has a slightly darker feeling than its predecessors, but that just gives the album a resonance that was missing on Flood.

tags: they might be giants, apollo 18, 1992, flac,

They Might Be Giants - Factory Showroom (1996)

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock, Pop Rock
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© 1996 Elektra
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Factory Showroom, They Might Be Giants' second effort with a full band, is a stronger album than its predecessor, John Henry, boasting a more natural sound and a more diverse selection of material. However, John Flansburgh and John Linnell are still suffering from a slight creative block -- they even recycle an old B-side, "James K. Polk" -- as evidenced by the lack of memorable hooks and forced jokes.

tags: they might be giants, factory showdown, 1996, flac,

They Might Be Giants - Flood (1990)

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Pop Rock
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© 1990 Elektra
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
On their major-label debut, Flood, They Might Be Giants exchange quirky artiness for unabashed geekiness and a more varied and polished musical attack. Although the album contains two of the group's finest singles in "Birdhouse in Your Soul" and "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)," the overall record is uneven, since the group's hooks aren't quite as sharp as before and the humor is either too geeky or leavened with awkward social statements like "Your Racist Friend." Even with its faults, Flood has a number of first-rate songs, and it's a strong addition to their catalog, even if it isn't as weirdly intoxicating as its predecessors.

tags: they might be giants, flood, 1990, flac,

January 29, 2020

Elvis Costello - Spike (1989)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Pop Rock, Pop
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© 1989 Warner Bros. Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Following a pair of near-masterpieces in 1986, Elvis Costello went into semi-seclusion, separating from the Attractions (once again) and Columbia Records, emerging three years later on Warner Brothers with Spike. Mockingly billing himself as "the Beloved Entertainer" on the album's front cover, there's nevertheless a real sense of showbiz pizzazz here, as he tries on a little bit of everything. You like Costello the soul singer? Try "Deep Dark Truthful Mirror," recorded with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Costello the pop sophisticate? How about the torch song "Baby Plays Around" or "God's Comic," a tune that mocks Andrew Lloyd Webber, while aching to eclipse him. The angry young man? There's "Tramp the Dirt Down," perhaps the nastiest anti-Thatcher song ever waxed. Costello the witty wordsmith? Well, there's "Pads, Paws and Claws," a rockabilly tune overflowing with labored puns. Costello the gifted pure pop tunesmith? There's plenty of that here, from "This Town" with Roger McGuinn and Paul McCartney and the lovely "Veronica," a tune co-written with McCartney that became one of his biggest hits. So, there's a lot here -- everything except focus, actually. And Costello certainly likes to indulge himself here, throwing in the awkward "Chewing Gum" and the instrumental "Stalin Malone" for good measure. There are some moments that work quite well, but there's nothing connecting them, and if anything, he's trying way too hard -- and, for all of the overarching ambition of his early-'80s recordings, that criticism never applied before. Certainly, there are cuts for cultists to enjoy, but Spike's sprawl works against it, resulting in a maddeningly diffuse listen.

tags: elvis costello, spike, spike album, 1989, flac,

January 28, 2020

Emok - Shove Your Head Into The Ground & Feed It To The Earth (2004)

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Nü-Metal
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© 2004 Wrong Records
*No professional reviews are available for this release.

tags: emok, shove your head into the ground and feed it into the earth, 2004, flac,

January 27, 2020

Paw - Dragline (1993) ☠

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Grunge
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1993 A&M Records
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
Dragline was recorded in Madison, WI, but Paw's influences are pure Seattle. Very much a grunge album, Dragline comes out of the Nirvana/Pearl Jam school of alternative rock and finds Paw fluctuating between the musical and the forceful. On such tunes as "Sleeping Bag" and "The Bridge," substantial melodies and harmonies contrast nicely with punk-like outbursts and metallic intensity. Like Pearl Jam, Paw can bring to mind Neil Young, Black Flag and Metallica within the course of a single song. To be sure, Paw's writing isn't in a class with that of Nirvana or Pearl Jam -- Dragline is hardly a CD that one should choose over Nirvana's In Utero or Pearl's Ten. But it's generally competent, if overly derivative.

tags: paw, dragline, 1993, flac,

Running Wild - Masquerade (1995) ⚓

*German first pressing. 
Contains 11 tracks total.
Country: Germany
Language: English
Genre: Speed Metal, Heavy Metal
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© 1995 Noise
Review by "666sharon666" for Metal Music Archives.com
Masquerade is the ninth Running Wild album from 1995. Masquerade marks the beginning of a conceptual trilogy for Running Wild, with a theme on good versus evil. Some versions of the album include a couple of bonus tracks taken from the band's early days, namely the ones that appeared on the reasonable well-known Death Metal split from 1984 that also featured Helloween, Hellhammer and Dark Avenger.
While Masquerade has always seemed to be quite a big step back from Black Hand Inn for me, this is still quite a strong release from the band. I find that Running Wild became a bit more modern sounding when it comes to producing power metal with this album, opposed to the distinctly old-school vibes that they'd maintained up until this point. There are several highlights, my personal favourite being Wheel of Doom closely followed by the title track or perhaps Lions of the Sea, but overall it's just another solid release from a band doing what they do best; neither a masterpiece like Black Hand Inn or Death or Glory, but overall more memorable than an album like Blazon Stone. 4 Stars.


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Immortal - Damned In Black (2000) ☠

Country: Norway
Language: English
Genre: Black Metal
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☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© 2000 Osmose Productions
AllMusic Review by John Serba
And Immortal treks on through bitter, icy landscapes, quietly and efficiently becoming (arguably) the most inspired and important band in black metal. Damned in Black is the second album of Immortal's hellish Holy Trinity, released between creative breakthrough At the Heart of Winter and well-honed masterpiece Sons of Northern Darkness. In comparison, Damned in Black strikes one as being the family's nasty, spiteful little brother, sounding slightly rushed, unkempt, and panicky, with whirlwind blastbeats more prominent in the arrangements. But the album benefits from this approach; it's an angrier, more fiery record, especially during barnburners "Triumph," "My Dimension," and "In Our Mystic Visions Blest," which nod respectfully toward the band's speed-drenched early days, albeit with the more balanced, well-crafted songwriting skills of latter-day Immortal. "Against the Tide (In the Arctic World)," "The Darkness That Embrace Me," and the title track are more melodic and grandly epic, complex but never unwieldy. Immortal's greatest strength is their well-conceived instrumental approach -- it's never self-indulgent or fanciful, always memorable, and only living to serve the song. Producer Peter Tagtgren has seen many of his Scandinavian brethren through the doors of his Abyss Studios, but he's never gelled with any group quite like Immortal, giving the band a robust, deceptively simple, and consistently devastating mix. Ultimately, Damned in Black proves that this Norwegian trio -- still admirably clinging to their traditional evil Kiss makeup -- prays only to their armor-clad, bullet-belted metal muse. While it will most likely be overlooked considering Immortal's brightest and deadliest moments came before and after it (respectively), Damned in Black proves to be just as powerful as anything else in the band's increasingly impressive canon.

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Immortal - Sons of Northern Darkness (2002) ☠

Country: Norway
Language: English
Genre: Black Metal
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☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© 2002 Nuclear Blast
AllMusic Review by Jason D. Taylor
Immortal's Nuclear Blast debut, and this Norwegian trio's seventh album to date, Sons of Northern Darkness, marks a monumental statement that reverberates throughout the black metal community. Sons of Northern Darkness is arguably one of the best black metal releases ever put forth, as it fully articulates what many other bands of this nature fail to embrace. Thick, meaty riffs dominate the album, as guitarist Abbath shreds the competition with mind-blowing melody and relentlessly brutal power. Abbath also controls vocal duty, and though his voice is darkly sinister, it holds a slight fringe of harmony that fleshes out each song. Add to that Iscariah's fiendish bass playing underlying Sons of Northern Darkness with an evil authority, while Horge's drumming decimates the competition with jackhammer beats. The fantastical lyrics allow the band to venture into fictitious territory, and each song carries the feeling that you are witnessing a marvelous novel unfold in front of your eyes. Songs like the epic "Tyrants" build to an earth-shattering crescendo of outlandish noise, yet one is never left disappointed. Sons of Northern Darkness is a masterpiece that any fan of black metal should own, yet also has an undeniable flair that even new listeners can find appealing.

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Immortal - All Shall Fall (2009)

Country: Norway
Language: English
Genre: Black Metal
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© 2009 Nuclear Blast
AllMusic Review by Phil Freeman
Norwegian black metal band Immortal were always a little ahead of their peers; even on primitive early albums like Pure Holocaust and Battles in the North, they had a gift for anthemic melody that came through the almost bassless, lo-fi production. When they shifted into high gear with 1999's classic At the Heart of Winter, combining the hard-charging black metal of the early albums with the crushing thrash of German acts like Destruction and Kreator, they became one of the best metal bands around, regardless of genre. They released two more equally impressive albums -- Damned in Black and Sons of Northern Darkness -- then called it a day. Seven years later, they returned with a truly epic statement that's one of the best metal releases of 2009. The production on All Shall Fall is a thousand miles from the caveman blare of Battles in the North; they're making truly larger-than-life music as befits their pro-wrestler/barbarian-warrior image. They're writing even better riffs than before, too; "The Rise of Darkness" and "Norden on Fire" add a post-punk flavor, almost reminiscent of early Killing Joke, to their raucous metal barrages. The guitar solos are excellent, too, supported by crushing double bass drumming from Horgh, and the judicious deployment of sound effects (the charging horses on "Hordes of War," for example, or the blowing winter winds on "Mount North") makes the album even more dramatic and absorbing. As with all of Immortal's work, a frigid cold seems to blow from the speakers with every note. This is music of such unrelenting and merciless power, you might not even notice how vocalist/guitarist Abbath occasionally sounds quite a bit like Popeye the Sailor.

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January 26, 2020

Green Day - ¡Dos! (2012)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Pop Punk, Power Pop
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© 2012 Reprise Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Two days after the release of ¡Uno!, the first installment of an ambitious punk-pop trilogy from Green Day, Billie Joe Armstrong checked into rehab for various substance problems, problems that reached a head during an on-stage meltdown at a radio festival the weekend prior to the album's release. Needless to say, the band's complicated plans for 2012 and 2013 were adjusted, with the supporting tour scrapped and the concluding LP ¡Tré! moved up from January to December. Amidst the chaos, the one thing unaffected was ¡Dos!, which appeared according to schedule in November of 2012. While certainly cut from the same cloth as ¡Uno!, ¡Dos! has a different feel than its cousin. Green Day pushed all of their Who-inflected arena rock onto the first of the albums, leaving ¡Dos! a high-octane collection of garage pop and hooky punk. At the outset, Billie Joe declares it's "F*** Time," and he's not entirely kidding, either. This is the "Makeout Party" album, a breakneck sprint through songs about girls ("Ashley," "Amy"), wild ones, and "Nightlife," the latter awkwardly incorporating a rap from Lady Cobra. Armstrong spits out profanities as he thrashes on his guitar, pounding out hooks that dig in immediately, possibly because they recall anything from '60s frat-rock to '70s punk. In that sense, ¡Dos! recalls Green Day's terrific 2008 busman's holiday Foxboro Hot Tubs (indeed, "F*** Time" began as a FHT song), but this feels more hedonistic, even if the production is crisper and clearer than Stop Drop and Roll!!!! Maybe it's all due to the knowledge of Armstrong's post-recording breakdown, but he feels positively desperate to have a good time at all costs, grasping for a quickly fading past. Clearly, all the partying caught up to him, but while he was racing recklessly, he cut this terrific little party record.

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Immortal - Blizzard Beasts (1997)

Country: Norway
Language: English
Genre: Black Metal
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© 1997 Osmose Productions
AllMusic Review by John Serba
Blizzard Beasts, Immortal's fourth album, sounds like a rush job when compared to the rest of the band's triumphant catalog. The majesty of the group's songwriting is buried in the album's subpar production values, which render the potentially brilliant hyperspeed riffing and drum battery gutless and ineffectual. "Nebular Ravens Winter," "Suns That Sank Below," and "Frostdemonstorm" offer a few decent riffs and solid arrangements, and six-minute epic "Mountains of Might" leans toward the black-metal-by-way-of-German-thrash genius of subsequent albums -- but the rest of the record shows little progression from predecessor Battles in the North. Ultimately, Blizzard Beasts should be chalked up as a transitional album in Immortal's mighty career, being the last to feature guitarist and founding member Demonaz (he quit after a bout with tendonitis); bassist/vocalist Abbath would take over six-string and songwriting duties, ultimately leading the band out of blastbeat hell and across more broad-scoped, epic terrain. Still, it's hard to write off Blizzard Beasts as a failure; the record is brilliant when compared to similar Norwegian black metal acts mired in ludicrous "necro" aesthetics, but it just doesn't match up with Immortal's usual balance of underground credibility with high production and songwriting standards

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Immortal - At The Heart of Winter (1999) ☠

Country: Norway
Language: English
Genre: Black Metal
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☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© 1999 Osmore Productions
AllMusic Review by John Serba
At the Heart of Winter marks the beginning of Immortal's second incarnation, paring the band down to the duo of Abbath Doom Occulta and Horgh after the departure of guitarist and founding member Demonaz Doom Occulta due to severe tendonitis in his arms. Thus, Abbath alone took over six-string and songwriting duties (although Demonaz still contributed his trademark fantastical war- and winter-themed lyrics), and Immortal progressed beyond their blurry, hyperspeed, under-produced past into muscular metal maturity, melding frostbitten Norwegian black metal with the intricate riffing and tempo changes of German thrash. Which isn't to say the group abandoned blastbeats or Abbath's throaty reptilian croak; within the lengthy, creatively arranged epics "Withstand the Fall of Time," "Years of Silent Sorrow," and "Tragedies Blows at Horizon" lies a balance of battle-ready blitzkrieg and grandiose, anthemic melodies only hinted at in Immortal's previous output (see "Mountains of Might" on the preceding album, Blizzard Beasts). The material lends breathing room to the drums, with skin-pounder Horgh adding to the album's majestic feel with a diverse, organic performance. At the Heart of Winter also found Immortal forging their relationship with head Hypocrisy honcho/producer Peter Tagtgren and his Abyss Studios, which gives the album a thick, weighty mix that complements the group's inspired songwriting. The result is a clarity and focus that few purveyors of the genre succeeded at finding, a painstakingly organized assemblage of black metal's base elements into a disciplined purity of metal that prefers the power of the almighty riff instead of the occasionally overblown classical structuring of much-lauded stalwarts Emperor and Cradle of Filth or the strange experimentation that Mayhem and Arcturus would undertake. At the Heart of Winter should sway even black metal naysayers into the Immortal camp, provided they can look past the bandmembers' gimmicky face paint and silly posturing in the CD booklet photos and embrace the majestic metal within

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Immortal - Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism (1992) ☠

Country: Norway
Language: English
Genre: Black Metal
Style: Norwegian Black Metal
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☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© 1992 Osmose Productions
AllMusic Review by John Serba
Immortal's debut, Diabolical Full Moon Mysticism, presents the germ of a soon-to-be-great black metal outfit -- and, as one would expect, it's as rancid and unholy as other early Norse efforts, albeit a hair more melodic and listenable than some of its peers. Here, the group hasn't yet developed the songwriting dynamics and musicianship showcased on later efforts; the unkempt production leaves bass back in the dank caves from whence Immortal emerged, the drums and guitars boast a garage-worthy echo, and the nondescript death vocals are buried amidst the rubble. Riff-wise, Diabolical betrays an American death metal influence (before the band's truly Scandinavian heart froze), and guitarist Demonaz utilizes acoustic guitars during poorly conceptualized intros and interludes -- two elements the band would discard on the excellent follow-up, Pure Holocaust, which introduced the barely controlled blizzard-blastbeat mastery that would become the band's trademark. Still, "The Call of the Wintermoon" and epic death trudge "A Perfect Vision of the Rising Northland" are, in retrospect, a logical introduction to Immortal's (eventually) admirably unwavering vision. Black metal completists will most appreciate the raw opening chapter of this highly influential outfit's mighty saga, although one's time is much better spent with subsequent albums.

tags: immortal, diabolical fullmoon mysticism, full moon, 1992, flac,