August 31, 2020

Uncle Tupelo - Still Feel Gone (1991) ☠

*First pressing. 
Contains 13 tracks total. 
A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Country
Label Number: ROCK 6070-2
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1991 Rockville
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming
Uncle Tupelo clearly defined their nervy Gram Parsons-meets-the Minutemen sound on their debut album, 1990's No Depression, and their 1991 follow-up, Still Feel Gone, found them branching out into new variations of their previously established themes. While No Depression was dominated by breakneck tempos with the occasional slow, contemplative number thrown in for variety, Still Feel Gone found Uncle Tupelo taking a closer look at the middle ground, as evidenced by the high-strung acoustic guitars of "Still Be Around," the measured but powerful Crazy Horse stomp of "Looking for a Way Out," the lonesome shuffle of "True to Life," and the stark atmospherics of "If That's Alright" (the latter of which in retrospect sounds like the first dawning of the ideas Jeff Tweedy would explore with Wilco). But plenty of what made No Depression so impressive is still on view here, including the brutal stutter-step of "Gun," the simple but powerful declaration of "Watch Me Fall," and the heartfelt tribute to an obvious influence, "D. Boon." And if anything, the band sounds even more powerful this time out, and the broader picture of their abilities only confirms how strong a combination Jay Farrar, Jeff Tweedy, and Mike Heidorn really were. If Still Feel Gone isn't as immediately impressive as No Depression, a few plays confirms it's still the work of a gifted band at full strength, and this reissue gives the album the special treatment it deserves.

tags: uncle tupelo, still feel gone, 1991, flac,

Adorable - Against Perfection (1993) ☠

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Shoegaze
Label Number: K2-81416; 0777 7 81416 2 4
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1993 SBK/Creation Records
AllMusic Review by Roch Parisien
While followers of the sound will have no difficulty playing spot-the-influence, adorable turn out gleamingly memorable fare in the bittersweet "Sunshine Smile," and the yearning "I'll Be Your Saint, " and the mournful "A To Fade In." They work up a frantic, angst-driven edge with "Favorite Fallen Idol, " "Sistine Chapel Ceiling." Like a shimmering rose, adorable offer an inviting bouquet bearing sharp thorns likely to prick the unwary listener.

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Five For Fighting - The Battle For Everything (2004)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Pop Rock
Label Number: CK 86186
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© 2004 Aware/Columbia
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Five for Fighting was struggling along, another nominal adult alternative pop/rock band led by a singer/songwriter, until something unexpected happened. A song from their second album, recorded for their second major label in a row, became an overnight hit, staying on the radio for months. Of course, things weren't quite as simple as that. The song was "Superman (It's Not Easy)," and the reason it was hit is that millions of listeners found that the song captured their hearts in the tragic, turbulent days following the terrorist attacks of 9/11. This would be a mighty heavy thing for an established artist to grapple with, but for John Ondrasik (who IS Five for Fighting; he chose a group name rightly believing that it was catchier and easier to remember than his name) it was a trickier thing, since he made his breakthrough with a song that moved many listeners at a very vulnerable time in their lives. Following up a career-making single like that is not easy, and Ondrasik took his time to deliver Five for Fighting's third album, slowly working with producer Bill Bottrell (best known for his work with Sheryl Crow) and eventually releasing The Battle for Everything in February 2004. The extra time was a smart move, since the delay between releases helped lower expectations while giving Ondrasik time to craft a record that's at once more assured and supple than its predecessor.
Though he throws in some rock elements, like the elastic bluesy slide guitar of "Infidel," he's unashamed about embracing the mantle of middlebrow adult alternative singer/songwriter, and he's turned in a very accomplished, professional record that illustrates he has more ambition than such younger peers like John Mayer. Where Mayer comes across like a cute collegiate singing to impress the girls, Ondrasik is deadly serious, as his song titles alone illustrate -- "Devils," "God," and "Angels" are all named, and he sings about "Dying" and an "Infidel." His music is appropriately somber and self-serious, reminiscent of the gloomy introspective side of Dave Matthews crossed with the cinematic scope of mid-'70s Billy Joel and the pompous narcissism of Sting, whose high careening voice was clearly an influence. Musically, this can result in some nice craftsmanship, and if judged merely on a sonic level it's one of the more interesting, detailed adult alternative records of recent years. But that pompous narcissism is his Achilles' heel, the thing that keeps wary listeners at bay. It was there on "Superman (It's Not Easy)," a song where he was wondering why other listeners didn't appreciate his talents, and it's scattered all over this record, as he makes references to "Superman" being sung at "Disneyland" and frames everything according to how it relates to him ("If God made you, he's in love with me"). This attitude undercuts his quite tangible musical skills, and while this record works well enough for most fans to give him a pass, it means it will win him few new ones unless he tempers his self-regard in the future.

tags: five for fighting, the battle for everything, 2004, flac,

Mint Condition - Life's Aquarium (1999) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1999 Elektra
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
With their fourth album and first for Elektra, Mint Condition tightens up their songwriting substantially, making Life's Aquarium one of their best efforts to date. The group's melodies and instrumental interplay are focused and confident, and that assurance is also apparent in the album's tone: Where past Mint Condition releases were highlighted by smooth romantic material, the high points of Life's Aquarium tend to be in the form of sexy loverman come-ons. It's refreshing to hear the group broadening their range somewhat, but the album's real strength is simply the fact that Mint Condition has cut down on the aimless meandering that often cluttered their past releases, helping to make the songs more consistently memorable.

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Marc Nelson - Chocolate Mood (1999)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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© 1999 Columbia
*No professional reviews are available for this release.

tags: marc nelson, chocolate mood, 1999, flac,

August 30, 2020

Something Coporate - Ready... Break (2000)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Pop Rock
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© 2000 Coach House
*No professional reviews are available for this release.

tags: something corporate, ready break, 2000, flac,

Llama - Close To The Silence (2001)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Pop Rock
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© 2001 MCA Records
AllMusic Review by Rob Ferrier
If you ever wondered who was buying all those Dave Matthews boots, look no further. While admittedly not original, anyone on the Phish tip might just give these guys a listen. They work hard, they write solid songs, and who knows? On the next record they just might become whoever they think they are. Seriously, though, their hearts are in the right place and if you have a hankering for the sort of Hendrixy-type jamming of such songs as "To Believe," you might just have yourself a new band to listen to.

tags: llama, close to the silence, 2001, flac,

Five For Fighting - Two Lights (2006)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Pop Rock
Label Number: 82796 94471 2
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© 2006 Aware/Columbia Records
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger
Five for Fighting's John Ondrasik is a straight, clean, post-9/11 version of "Daniel"-era Elton John. He's got exquisite pipes, a knack for the big key changes, and a true star's sense of emotional entitlement that masks itself as introspection. If 2004's Battle for Everything saw a more assured and concise Five for Fighting reacting to its surprise success of 2001's "Superman" single, then 2006's Two Lights represents Ondrasik's complete transformation from somber troubadour into adult alternative mother-ship. With the now branded Five for Fighting, there is no hint of danger, no chance for controversy, and no way that at least half the record won't end up supplying brow-creasing melodramatic film moments and high school year-end slide shows with forced poignancy for years to come. It only takes a few minutes into the elegiac opening cut "Freedom Never Cries" to revisit the 9-11 angst/patriotism that won Ondrasik the majority of his initial public favor ("I only talk to God when somebody's about to die/I never cherished freedom/freedom never cries), a song he deftly follows with the super earnest and wistfully upbeat "World," and later "Riddle." From there it's a real hodgepodge, with detours into murderous Springsteen-esque road trips like "California Justice" and "65 Mustang." For the most part, Two Lights is a serious record about hard-working people in hard times -- only the jaunty "Johnny America" and the dumb but infectious "Policeman's Xmas Party" echo early press comparisons to the more whimsical sides of Ben Folds and Billy Joel -- but it's not saying anything that hasn't already been beaten into the masses since the confessional that used to house self-absorbed singer/songwriters became open to the public.

tags: five for fighting, two lights, 2006, flac,

Best Kissers In The World - Been There (1993) ☠

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Power Pop
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 1993 MCA Records
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
On their major label debut, Best Kissers In The World continue their guitar rock assault, letting noisy guitars dominate the tracks, but giving each track a simple, attractive melody. And, since they have a better sense of humor ("She Won't Get Under Me Till I Get Over You" is the lead-off track), the listener is invited to pay attention to the lyrics. That also threatens to make them seem lightweight in competition with their peers, but that's okay: things in Seattle have been way too serious lately anyway. (The junk culture anthem "Miss Teen U.S.A." earned college radio play.)

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Unleashed - Odalheim (2012)

Country: Sweden
Language: English
Genre: Death Metal
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© 2012 Nuclear Blast
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Never underestimate the desire for revenge as a motivating factor. Not unlike Dave Mustaine, whose ouster from Metallica gave rise to an improbably long career with Megadeth, most of it stacked against frankly incredible odds, Swedish headbanger Johnny Hedlund turned his ejection from Nihilist (the formative version of death metal legends Entombed) into the driving force behind Unleashed. Also like Megadeth, Unleashed now find themselves in the unexpected position of having out-recorded, if not outsold, their nemesis -- thanks largely, no doubt, to a thirst for vengeance and need to prove themselves that's helped Hedlund and company maintain a much more consistent sonic blueprint through the years, and a raging, burning ambition to boot. How else to explain the astonishing death metal fury displayed by Unleashed's 11th career full-length, Odalheim, which could arguably challenge 1991's Where No Life Dwells debut as the group's most violent creation...ever! (Odalheim also doubles as Unleashed's first concept album, its 11 songs based on the chapters in a Norse saga about the aftermath of Ragnarök written by Hedlund.) Opening number "Fimbulwinter" storms the shores of Valhalla with devastating blastbeats worthy of black metal, and when subsequent bashers like "Gathering the Battalions," "Rise of the Maya Warriors," "By Celtic and British Shores" (which quotes liberally from Winston Churchill), and "Germania" aren't remorselessly slaughtering each other's armies, the bloody screeds of "White Christ," "The Great Battle of Odalheim," and others of their ilk keep the enemy ever on their heels. Not even the frequent acoustic guitar intros scattered across the album linger long enough to forestall the snowballing sonic apocalypse, and neither the central story line nor the wanton savagery that propels it ever tampers with Unleashed's trademarked big choruses and Hedlund's clear enunciations -- still a rarity in death metal. Rarer still are the Swedish death metal warriors of old who remain forces to be reckoned with, and thus, this latest triumph probably deserves a toast: here's to Unleashed...and here's to revenge!

tags: unleashed, odalheim, 2012, flac,

Unleashed - Dawn of The Nine (2015)

Country: Sweden
Language: English
Genre: Death Metal
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© 2015 Nuclear Blast
Review by Kip Wingerschmidt for Metal Sucks.net
We’ve likely all had the experience of telling someone outside of the scene that we listen to metal and receiving a less-than-forthcoming, perhaps even aghast response. And admittedly, maybe there should be some level of understanding afforded to laypeople uninitiated to heavy music who simply view metal as a one-dimensional genre of loudness.
But aggressive music can (and usually does) extend far beyond scary dudes blasting their guitars at top volume and a beastly frontperson screaming in your face about something of a dark Satanic ilk. Sure, to many of us these attributes are absolutely some of the most important components of heavy music, but for tons of metalheads the genre represents so much more diversity — both personally and musically, although I am talking about the latter at the moment.
However, there are plenty of bands that really do symbolize the stereotype un-heavy folks think of when they hear the word “metal”. And in many ways, perhaps these kinds of groups typify a more traditional and (dare I say) pure form of sonic aggression that will probably make us all want to throw devil’s horns in the air.
Unleashed is one such band, and on Dawn of the Nine, the Swedish death metallers’ twelfth studio album, there is a plethora of unbridled yet straightforward thunder to get the devil’s juices flowing.
From the tracklist alone, it is obvious that these guys mean business in an undeniably tr00 metal sense. Song names like “They Came To Die,” “Let The Hammer Fly,” and of course “Welcome The Son Of Thor!” aren’t pretending for a second like they don’t have every intention of kicking your ass.
And naturally, they do. From opener “A New Day Will Rise” on, there is minimal respite from the full-on, brutal assault of uptempo, ultra-precise tech-death drumming and expert riffage/shreddy guitar soloing that will melt just about any face. No, this isn’t the smartest collection of tunes you’ll hear this year, but it certainly ain’t the dumbest either, and there is a tasteful simplicity to the album’s stripped-down songwriting.
Plus, the dark, dramatic yet earnest musings of vocalist/bassist/band founder Johnny Hedlund somehow perfectly straddle the line of being over-the-top while commanding your undivided attention and respect (save for his almost spoken-word shennanigans on the album’s title track, which falls a little further on the silliness end of the spectrum).
Fun fact: Hedlund was almost the vocalist for Dave Grohl’s Probot project until the Grohlster (or his scapegoat producer Matt Sweeney) got spooked by allegations that Hedlund was a Nazi sympathizer — which Hedlund quickly debunked by saying “Unleashed praises nature, beast and man…regardless of background, place of birth or color of the skin.”Unleashed aren’t necessarily breaking the mold on Dawn Of The Nine, but this is an album chock full of solid, substantial metal with a capital M that is very well put together for what it is by highly experienced musicians. Almost every song here will get you seriously amped and induce the desire to drink mead (or blood) out of a hollowed skull, pledge allegiance to our dark lord, and single-handedly fight an army of the undead.Which we could all use a bit more of in our lives.

tags: unleashed, dawn of the nine, 2015, flac,

Unleashed - The Hunt For White Christ (2018)

Country: Sweden
Language: English
Genre: Death Metal
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© 2018 Napalm Records
Review by Jay H. Gorania for Blabbermouth.net
For many, "Swedish Death Metal" is automatically synonymous with the country's popular, and sometimes even commercial, melodeath style popularized by the likes of AT THE GATES, IN FLAMES and DARK TRANQUILLITY. But the Scandinavian nation was responsible for a much grittier and darker side of death metal that predated the aforementioned, comparatively more melodic style, which has run amok concurrently and to this day. Two seminal bands in particular stand out due to the quality of the corrosive content and because they spawned several notable bands. CARNAGE was the precursor to DISMEMBER and ARCH ENEMY. And Johnny Hedlund left NIHILIST and launched UNLEASHED, as the remaining members of the band reformed as ENTOMBED. There haven't been significant stylistic shifts from album-to-album, but UNLEASHED has certainly become a more polished beast over time. It shouldn't surprise anyone that the tenacious Swedish band has continued along the same path with its thirteenth long-player: "The Hunt for White Christ".
UNLEASHED was one of the first metal bands to delve into the barbaric tales of the Vikings, but that hasn't been a perpetual and exclusive focal point. "The Hunt for White Christ" is the fourth album to carry forth Hedlund's tale of the World of Odalheim that originally surfaced on 2010's "As Yggdrasil Trembles". There's enough clarity and enunciation in Hedlund's delivery of the story line for fans to easily appreciate, and his raspy growling is as likable as ever. It's the buzz-saw riff assault and thoughtful arrangements that prove to be most memorable.
UNLEASHED wastes no time diving right in with the rapid, pummeling opener, "Lead Us Into War". Sure, it's almost black metal-like sense of darkness helps paint a picture of epic battles, god-like figures and magnificent longboats to the extent that the music is effectively the soundtrack for the tales inspired by Nordic mythology, but the infectious and catchy nature of songs like "Stand Your Ground", replete with a massive, stadium-friendly chorus, might render non-metal fans to utter, "Hmm. This isn't too bad." UNLEASHED can be quite melodic as it is with this track, in a much bleaker manner compared to its melodeath peddling countrymen; however, it's also groove-laden to the point that UNLEASHED now has the capacity to recruit groove metal fans while sacrificing a certain portion of fans of its early material. The title track winds toward a full-on metalcore-esque breakdown, in fact. "Gram" and "Terror Christ", on the other hand, are much bleaker and serve as an updated take on the unit's classic material.
The slick production and sound quality present another potentially divisive conundrum. While a band's development is admirable—here, UNLEASHED exhibits a grandiosity comparable to BEHEMOTH—at what point is it the same band if some of its core traits are long since abandoned? A band has the right to do whatever it wants, which is true to the spirit of metal. However, bands are regularly seen through the prism of a purist and conservative hive mind, which is simply the reality of metal. In spite of some obvious meandering on tracks like "Vidaurgelmthul" and possible derision from the old guard, "The Hunt for White Christ" is ultimately a good album from a band that's been resiliently wielding the sword and axe for three decades now.

tags: unleashed, the hunt for white christ, 2018, flac,

August 29, 2020

Five For Fighting - America Town (2000)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock
Label Number: CK 63759
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© 2000 Aware/Columbia
AllMusic Review by Zac Johnson
A clean and bright effort that delivers some heavy themes, America Town is a very American-sounding album: drifting from song to song is like driving through the Midwest from town to town, each town offering its own stories, not all of which are happy. Singer/songwriter John Ondrasik tackles topics like suicide on "Easy Tonight" and the desire to belong ("Superman", which became an anthem for post-9/11 Americans one year after the album's release) but still manages to see the silver lining in the areas of family ("Easy Tonight") and idolatry ("Michael Jordan"). The songs are sung in a fragile growl, a little like Eddie Vedder singing a lullaby, and backed with some very straightforward acoustic guitar and piano-led rock. The focus is clearly on the lyrics, which are well written and effectively sung.

tags: five for fighting, america town, 2000, flac,

August 28, 2020

Marcy Playground - MP3 (2004)

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock
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© 2004 Reality Entertainment
Review by XAQuiri Daiquiri for Everyview.com
Five years would come and go before Marcy Playground would release a follow-up effort to their 1999 album, “Shapeshifter.”  Marcy Playground’s 3rd studio album, titled “MP3,” was highly anticipated by fans, despite the fact that the band would not deliver a tour to support or hype the album’s release. Couple that with the fact that there was virtually no radio air time for any of the four released singles and it’s easy to see why this album is almost virtually unknown to anyone who isn’t a die-hard Marcy fan.

Review:
“MP3” delivered a radical evolution in the band’s overall sound when it was released. The quirky, mellow, often psychedelic acoustic rock with the occasional children’s song undertone was replaced with an almost entirely electric, far more poppy sound with a hint of punk rock or grunge.
While that may sound like a drastic change on paper, when you listen to and compare the albums the change feels natural. This is because lead singer John Wozniak’s voice is an extremely versatile tool he uses to present every song with a unique feel.
Aside from simply becoming more aggressive in sound, the music gains new layers of depth in “MP3.” More instruments such as beautifully composed piano and stringed instrument sections are incorporated more often to give songs a more melodic and higher quality feel than we heard in previous efforts. Guitar solos are another thing rarely heard in past Marcy songs, and they are definitely a welcome addition. These additions give “MP3” a much more professional sound and a higher quality than is found in the previous releases.
The thing that is definitely missed, however, is the mellow charm and vast diversity found in the other two albums. The entire album has a set style that can be easily recognized as American Rock with undertones of punk or post-grunge. The thing that made me fall in love with Marcy Playground was their ability to mash genres together and contain a vast amount of styles into a single album, all while being easily distinguishable from any other band. All tracks have their own personalities at least, which is something Wozniak has always been able to accomplish with his songwriting.

The four singles the album spawned were “Deadly Handsome Man,” “Punk Rock Superstar,” “No One’s Boy,” and “Blood in Alphabet Soup.” Some people may have heard “Deadly Handome Man” from it’s role in “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” under it’s original name of “The Devil’s Song.” But arguably to most popular song on the album was “Punk Rock Superstar,” which was featured on the re-released Xbox 360’s playlist.

Final Words:

All-in-all, Marcy Playground’s third album is definitely it’s own creature. It defied the mold that was previously crafted by the band and presented its own unique sound and style. It carried no successful singles and failed to outsell either of the band’s previous albums, but it is nothing short of a successful effort in the eyes of those who know it exists.
And if you’ve never heard of this album but plan on picking up “Leaving Wonderland… In a Fit of Rage” then you are in luck. For a limited time, anyone who buys the band’s highly anticipated fourth album will recieve a free download of “MP3,” which is awesome. Two great albums for the price of one!
Score: 8.9/10 (Amazing)

Lyrics: 9.0/10 (Amazing)
Music: 8.75/10 (Great)
Entertainment Value: 9.0/10 (14 tracks and one hidden track… which is just a bad joke. Literally) 


tags: marcy playground, mp3, mp3 album, 2004, flac,

Asphyx - On The Wings of Inferno (2000)

*First pressing. 
Contains 9 tracks total.
Country: Netherlands
Language: English
Genre: Death Metal, Death-Doom
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© 2000 Century Media
Review by Alvin Wee for Chronicles of Chaos.com

If good, brutal old-school death is what you're hankering after, what better merchants to turn to than a legendary Dutch troop who's grown up with the likes of Pestilence? "Death, the brutal way!!!" is what the trio claim to offer, and shunning the machine-gun speedrumming of Krisiun or Mortician has yielded terrifying results. All but the most inattentive of death metal fans will know that Asphyx have advocated mid-paced, heavy-as-fuck death since their humble beginnings with _The Rack_, and _OtWoI_ is no different. Wannes Gubbels' (on loan from countrymen Pentacle) typically torrid Dutch cries evoke fond memories of Martin van Drunen days, and provide an anguished counterpoint to Eric Daniels' plodding, pounding riffage. It is this combination which makes the title track the most massively heavy death metal since Brutality's _Screams of Anguish_. Slow, crushing and inexorable, the monumental riffs plod menacingly onward as Wannes' tortured cries presage your doom! An exercise in heaviness unparalleled by the lightning-fast bands of today, despite the intro riff having (apparently) been taken straight off Bolt Thrower's "Final Revelation". Just throw on _War Master_ and you'll see! And like old Bolt Thrower, Asphyx seldom lose their composure, preferring a strictly rhythmic, almost martial tone throughout the album. If you've been pining for some old-fashioned pounding death the way it hasn't been done for years, _OtWoI_ is just the cure for you. All 29 minutes of it. 

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Unleashed - Midvinterblot (2006)

Country: Sweden
Language: English
Genre: Death Metal
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© 2006 Steamhammer
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato
While a new breed of death metal bands reared their collective heads shortly after the dawn of the 21st century, there was still a healthy amount of veteran acts in existence that miraculously weathered the '90s (an era which proved to be a bit harsh on the genre). Case in point, one of Sweden's longtime death metal exports, Unleashed. Their first release for the Steamhammer label (and eighth overall), 2006's Midvinterblot, shows the band continuing to stick to their metallic guns. Iron Maiden-like twin guitar harmonies and vocal growls abound, while you know what you're in store for with such song titles as "Triumph or Genocide," "Psycho Killer" (not to be confused with the classic Talking Heads tune of the same name), and "Valhalla Awaits." Brutal and punishing, Unleashed remain at the top of the death metal heap with Midvinterblot -- and should get extra bonus points for doing it as long as they have.

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Unleashed - Hammer Battalion (2008)

Country: Sweden
Language: English
Genre: Death Metal
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© 2008 Steamhammer
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
There are some artists who love to be chameleonic and yank the rug out from under their fans; Prince, David Bowie, and the late Miles Davis are three of examples of risk-takers who had no problem coming out with albums that jolted fans right out of their comfort zones. But others make a career out of finding a comfortable groove and pretty much sticking with it -- AC/DC, for example -- and Unleashed are clearly of that mindset. The Swedish death metal veterans have maintained an "if it isn't broke, don't fix it" outlook, which is why 2008's Hammer Battalion doesn't sound radically different from their early-'90s recordings. Unleashed's basic recipe -- thrashy death metal with Viking themes and a lot of ultra-fast, mosh pit-friendly tempos -- hasn't changed radically over the years. They have picked up more of a black metal influence along the way; black metal's onslaught-of-doom harmonies sometimes find their way to Hammer Battalion. But all things considered, this 44-minute CD is quite faithful to the band's history and does nothing to alienate or frighten away longtime fans -- and if Hammer Battalion is somewhat predictable, it is predictable in a good way. One expects Unleashed's albums to be brutally heavy but not devoid of musicality; Hammer Battalion fits that description. Johnny Hedlund's lead vocals are intelligible -- unlike a lot of death metal vocalists, he doesn't render the lyrics impossible or difficult to understand -- and the Swedes are relatively melodic on Viking-themed tracks such as "Black Horizon," "Your Children Will Burn," "Entering the Hall of the Slain" and "Long Before Winter's Call." Hammer Battalion doesn't pretend to reinvent the wheel, but it's a solid, reliable effort from a band that has spent many years in the death metal trenches.

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Unleashed - As Yggdrasil Trembles (2010)

Country: Sweden
Language: English
Genre: Death Metal
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© 2010 Nuclear Blast
AllMusic Review by Phil Freeman
Swedish "Viking metal" band Unleashed have been plowing their particular groove since the dawn of the 1990s; indeed, they were the first band to marry the downtuned Stockholm sound of Entombed, Dismember, et al., to swords-and-longships lyrical themes. On their tenth studio album, very little has changed. Lyrical references to Yggdrasil (the Norse "tree of life"), Thor, and the Einherjar (dead warriors who live in Valhalla, waiting to fight at the final battle, Ragnarök) abound. On other songs, bassist/vocalist Johnny Hedlund's concerns are more earthbound -- combat, basically. While the songs all fit into a basic mold of downtuned riffing, punk-thrash drums, and hoarsely shouted vocals, there are occasional eruptions of instrumental virtuosity. Lead guitarist Fredrik Folkare offers fluid, coherent solos and even adds some moody, almost psychedelic introductions to a few songs. Perhaps this album's greatest virtue, one common to Unleashed's catalog, is that within the parameters of Swedish death metal, it's pretty catchy. The riffs are a midtempo chug rather than offering the staccato bludgeoning of more technical styles, and the band rarely downshifts into ultra-slow sludge-noise, preferring to keep the music moving forward. Some death metal has moved almost entirely beyond the realm of blues-based rock, mutating into some sort of electrified modern classical music with blastbeats. Unleashed, for all of their distorted guitars and thundering rhythms, retain an essential rock-ness that keeps their music accessible.

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August 27, 2020

Marcy Playground - Shapeshifter (1999)

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock
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© 1999 Capitol Records
AllMusic Review by Michael Gallucci
On their second album, this faceless alternapop trio tosses together more harmless songs that don't have much to say yet manages to lumber along anyway. The mannered climb toward the tunes' peaks isn't nearly as labored here as it was on their snooze-worthy debut, but leader John Wozniak, given more creative freedom, fashions Shapeshifter as a trip through sonic fields of wonder; there's yodeling, underwater echo, and even epic storytelling, but it all blends into a mush of fuzzy guitars and detached vocals by the end. And Wozniak's post-grunge guitar chops and melodramatic musings --"I've got some kind of disease/And there are no remedies" he sings all Cobain-like on the opening "It's Saturday" -- seem a bit old-fashioned by late-'90s standards.

tags: marcy playground, shapeshifter, shape shifter, 1999, flac,

August 26, 2020

Asphyx - God Cries (1996)

*U.S. first pressing. 
Contains 9 tracks total.
Country: Netherlands
Language: English
Genre: Death Metal, Death-Doom
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© 1996 Century Media
Reviewed by Death Metal.org
A common mistake in modern art is to confuse symbolic popularity with truth. In this case, a lack of any real direction caused the reformed band with new lineup to seek a crowd-pleaser, choosing self-pity because any form of compassion, empathy or commiseration appeals to those who have given up on themselves. However, for art to endure it must express something larger than the sum of its parts. God Cries cannot do this: it wallows in a one-dimensional emotion, and underscores it with death metal riffing infused with chording and melodies from the emo movement that was gaining momentum contemporarily. Doom metal riffs mixed with surprisingly light heavy metal choruses while a half-crying voice carries it along, this album has nowhere to go so its starting and ending states are the same. Personnel shakeups and death of a beloved father wracked this band, but this excremental album put their career on hold despite being universally praised by labels and the press for its "sensitivity."

tags: asphyx, god cries, 1996, flac,

Asphyx - Embrace The Death (1996)

*First pressing. 
Contains 14 tracks total.
Country: Netherlands
Language: English
Genre: Death Metal, Death-Doom
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© 1996 Century Media
Reviewed by Death Metal.org
Like heavy metal itself, death metal originated in reverberant detuned sound at a funeral pace, which Asphyx translate into this doom/death hybrid that because it thinks more like death metal, uses its slowness for contrast to both raging phrasal tremolo riffs and contemplatively glacial melodic culminations that sound like a Lord of the Rings soundtrack rendered in guitars and barely present drums.
Emerging from the chaos of early heavy metal, the first album Asphyx record -- which did not see release until 1996 -- emphasizes this potent mixture as the language of death metal. Faster riffs mix the tempos of punk with the elaborate riff shapes of heavy metal, and songs develop like anarcho-primitive progressive rock, using structures that fit the content and the contrast between riffs, then as the song builds it flowers into strikingly mature summations that capture the dynamic topography through which it leads us as if on a sonic adventure both outside and deep within our selves.
Instrumentation follows a path of less precision and more of an organic feel, as in how the distortion crumbles between drawn-out chords, and the vocals of Theo Loomans while possessed of more bass than those of Martin van Drunen to follow lack the forceful delivery between beats that escaped a sense of plodding on later works. Nasccent, the alert sense of writing songs by uniting obliquely similar riffs into a passage of discovery that uncovers slowly what a song describes, and the glacial texture which suddenly rips into motion, show their power as much as potential.
While this work is in style comparable to early Incantation, Obituary and Infester, it requisitions a niche for itself in the ability to build far-reaching compositions from riffs of two clotted chords which unfold into an explanation of primal conflict. Mostly overlooked because its later release pitted it against more instrumentally mature contemporaries, Embrace the Death shows Asphyx as their most imaginative and foreshadows the ripening of this potent doom/death mix.

tags: asphyx, embrace the death, 1996, flac,

Unleashed - Hell's Unleashed (2002)

Country: Sweden
Language: English
Genre: Death Metal
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© 2002 Century Media
Review by Borivoj Krgin Blabbermouth.net
Never known as one of the genre's more inventive outfits, Swedish death metallers UNLEASHED established a niche over the course of their previous five full-length albums that has ensured the group a die-hard and loyal following while simultaneously rendering much of their output virtually interchangeable.
Despite a five-year break that followed the release of the group's last studio offering, 1997's Warrior, UNLEASHED appear to have made little headway in the musical department and have picked up exactly where they left off, opting to stick to the same kind of straight-ahead, no-frills death metal that has made them one of the genre's most consistent and reliable entities.
At their best, UNLEASHED still deliver this kind of stuff with a fair amount of conviction, with Johnny Hedlund's distinctive growls fortifying the group's seemingly endless arsenal of by-the-numbers death metal riffs, a lot of which have an air of familiarity to them that is difficult to shake off.
As has been the case with the group's past offerings, the Stockholm quartet seem to be going through the motions and rehashing previously-charted territories without elevating the quality of the material to a standard one would expect to hear from a band that is considered to be one of the pioneers in the genre, particularly as it pertains to the Swedish scene. Songs like "Don't Want To Be Born" and "Demoneater", while packing a potent punch and not without their redeeming qualities, ultimately fail to ignite the kind of spark necessary for a band like UNLEASHED to make a mark in the year 2002, especially when compared to such innovative acts as IN FLAMES and SOILWORK, both of whom have evolved without compromising the essence of their respective styles.
Unless you are a death metal purist with a penchant for workmanlike performances that are short on originality and lacking in creativity, it's difficult to imagine Hell's Unleashed being viewed as anything else but a predictable, unexciting effort that is all but certain to go down as one of the least impressive efforts of UNLEASHED's recording career.

tags: unleashed, hells unleashed, 2002, flac,

Unleashed - Sworn Allegiance (2004)

Country: Sweden
Language: English
Genre: Death Metal
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© 2004 Century Media
Review by Tony Daley for Blabbermouth.net
After five years of stomping around in the wilderness from 1997-2002, UNLEASHED are back hacking out albums and on a roll again. While this is undeniably a good thing for death metal in general, it wouldn't necessarily be the second coming of (the anti) Christ as musical comebacks go.
This is based on the train of thought that UNLEASHED weren't entirely the pick of the growling hordes first time around. Yes, a riotous, rough-hewn, no-frills mix of SLAYER and VENOM and the like — topped off by a frontman always willing to whip out a hollowed horn full of mead to toast the power of metal — but not essential listening by any means.
Time away has obviously served them well, however, because "Sworn Allegiance" is without doubt the best thing they have laid to plastic thus far. A rampaging opener always gets the juices flowing nicely, and "Winterland" is most certainly that — galloping along in the spirit of NIHILIST (frontman Johnny Hedlund's classic pre-UNLEASHED outfit who turned into ENTOMBED upon his departure), then breaking into a face-melting middle riff and solo. "Follow that!" you find yourself shrieking, and on this occasion they do with "Destruction (of the Race of Men)", another traditional chugger that cuts through like a freshly sharpened rapier. Where once the Swedes seemed slightly bereft of magic beyond the basics, this time the catchiness is there and the lead guitar work from Fredrik is at times scintillating, taking the art of old school fret-mauling into — dare we say it — places of melodic pleasantry. Talking of NIHILIST, there a few more references to the visionary outfit before "Sworn Allegiance" is finished. Take "I Bring You Death", which fulfils the promise of its title on a controlled blastbeat and fat, obnoxious chords.
Fourteen tracks, though, is a big ask in terms of maintaining consistency and, as we all know, all good shredding sprees must come to an end. On "Helljoy", Johnny delivers the kind of hammy performance that VENOM's Cronos would when his tongue was planted firmly in his cheek — and so the riffs fall suitably into line behind it. Further in, "One Night In Nazareth" simply isn't up to scratch against the album's explosive start. But what really doesn't do them any justice is "Metalheads" — three-minutes-thirteen of solid cheese with a cheese fondue piped onto the top. The fact that this metal-hailing anthem features the line "Hell yeah, that's how it goes — rock hard and heavy at every show" should tell you that you it was made for the "skip track" button.
Nevertheless, UNLEASHED are largely back better, brasher and more potent than ever. Raise your horns to their Viking power.

tags: unleashed, sworn, allegiance, 2004, flac,