Disc Reviews

by Max Ink Staff Writers


Six Organs of Admittance - Burning The Threshold

Six Organs of Admittance - Burning The Threshold

Six Organs of Admittance

Album title: Burning The Threshold
By John Noyd
Posted: Mar 2017
Label: Drag City
(1837) Page Views

Dispatched with placid mastery, wistful intricacy and evocative serendipity “Threshold,” unscrolls exquisite hobo road-trips extracting ecstatic patters from synaptic guitar acrobatics to form floral chorals merging in thorny harp-like flights tastefully laced with river-running percussion.  White-water otters tramping in railroad-gypsy mystery, bewitched pixie proficiency and intuitive cruise-controlled industry, San Francisco’s Six Organs of Admittance blurs the lines between disciplined imaginations and improvised compositions; transcendental sentinels camping at heaven’s gate drizzling vigorous country-jazz arabesques over teeming, bohemian dreams. Enigmatic instrumentals sparkle among musical tarot-card readings weaving pastoral ballets entwined in sublime serpentine post-folk hypnosis; meditative cave-ins whose budding buddhic grooves greet shadow-chasing incantations dancing in the wind.  Full of surprises, the band’s live performances are incredible. Catch them playing Milwaukee’s Colectivo Coffee’s Back Room April 12th.

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The Dig - Bloodshot Tokyo

The Dig - Bloodshot Tokyo

The Dig

Album title: Bloodshot Tokyo
By John Noyd
Posted: Feb 2017
Label: Roll Call Records
(2187) Page Views

As a quartet with three songwriters and two vocalists; The Dig’s albums enjoy a cohesive diversity whose seamless intrigue is fascinatingly balanced in a flashy crash-course of craft, cunning and clout. Doused in playful danger and buffed to a mouth-watering gloss, the slinky ministers of coy nocturnal joys ooze in musical ruses; moon-lit night-crawlers fed hearty helpings of glam-pop showbiz. Exposing unspoken hope behind feigned disdain, the cavalier, “Bloodshot,” plots love-doctor rock with percussive struts and balcony-pelted promises. Flirtatious hooks planted between impatient bass, tweaked keys and bedroom harmonies roam in dramatic undertones as edgy after-hours elegies peddling shadow-seeking jealousies sneak back-seat speeches past thorny romance, heartsick visions and bruised egos. The Dig plays Milwaukee’s Shank Hall March 31st along with Nico Yaryan and Kolars.

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Sepultura - Machine Messiah

Sepultura - Machine Messiah

Sepultura

Album title: Machine Messiah
By Sal Serio
Posted: Jan 2017
Label: Nuclear Blast
(2728) Page Views

‘Machine Messiah’ marks the 14th studio album by Brazilian masters of thrash metal Sepultura, and emphatically could be their best release since 1989’s ‘Beneath The Remains’. Thanks to the inventive arrangements by the band, and the superbly crisp engineering by Jens Bogren at the Swiss Fascination Street Studios, the Sepultura vision is razor sharp and painstakingly realized on their new 2017 effort.

The opening title track begins with quiet, intricate, guitar picking by Andreas Kisser and the calm, reassuring vocals of Derrick Green, building to a soaring lead guitar solo at 1:45, and by the 2:50 mark becomes more angry as the tempo builds and Green instructs the listener to “bow down to the Machine Messiah”. The next track, “I Am The Enemy” is a brief 2:27 blast of intensely brutal thrash attack. “Phantom Self” is colored by detailed and insanely tight drum fills courtesy of Eloy Casagrande, and features orchestration doing battle with the guitar fills as Green is “transformed in to his Phantom Self”.

The instrumental “Iceberg Dances” is seriously epic and thematic heavy metal, yet is filled out by keyboards and classical guitar! This 46 minute metal manifesto comes to a close with pure, unadulterated classic Sepultura: the fierce statement of “Cyber God”. Not even 2 weeks in to 2017, this release gives me great hope for the promise of powerful musical moments to come.

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London May - Devilution: The Early Years

London May - Devilution: The Early Years

London May

Album title: Devilution: The Early Years
By Sal Serio
Posted: Jan 2017
Label: Cleopatra Records
(2595) Page Views

One of the most unusual but highly intriguing releases of 2016 is the London May ‘Devilution: The Early Years’ compilation (CD pressing limited to 1,000 copies). May is a punk rock drummer and actor who began in Baltimore thrashing out the beat for bands like Rat Patrol and Reptile House, which led to work with Washington D.C. punk icons Dag Nasty. Eventually the road led May west to California and gigs with some of punk’s biggest names like Samhain and the Circle Jerks.

Quite a few of these tracks are unreleased, including the selections by the Circle Jerks (live rehearsal of “Wonderful”), Samhain (live), and two Dag Nasty songs. Also included are several songs seeing the first light of day in a digital format. Especially cool is the inclusion of the song “Nuthin” by Lunch Box, which is the only release by this legendary punk band that later included guitarist Ron Emory of T.S.O.L.

Most of my favorite selections from this excellent high-energy compilation are from the more obscure bands like Voice Of Doom, Dead White & Blue, DogPile, and Distorted Pony. There is a commonality running through these 15 songs (by 11 different groups) which of course is London May’s rock steady drum pulse, but also a raunch ‘n roll catchy punk attitude that is easy to swallow, reminiscent of some of the most tuneful punker groups like CH3, T.S.O.L., and Social Distortion.

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The Raptor Trail - Devil On An Indian

The Raptor Trail - Devil On An Indian

The Raptor Trail

Album title: Devil On An Indian
By Sal Serio
Posted: Jan 2017
Label: MBM Entertainment
(2391) Page Views

The third release from North Carolina’s melodic prog rock trio The Raptor Trail is a full-on concept album written by multi-instrumentalist Matt Mayes, which details an internal clash between Native American spirituality and 21st century white Christian morality, and inevitably results in an apocalyptic conclusion.

While the theme is intense and demands a certain amount of rapt attention, the music is an overall uplifting and diversely varied experience, featuring instrumentation ranging from the conventional guitar/bass/drums, to the more esoteric guijo, banjo, and various keyboards/effects/percussion. Combining the fascinating storyline with this creative and extremely high level of musicianship results in a special mixture that brings to mind the best works of rockers like Rush or Max Webster, along with the roots music and poetic activism of Bruce Cockburn and John Trudell. The vocals of Matt Mayes, John Meyer, and special guest Edwin McCain keep the proceedings enjoyable and accessible to fans of a multitude of rock music genres.

While the ‘Devil On An Indian’ concept is best taken in as a whole, there are also several tracks that stand on their own strength. My recommendations are “Quaker Pets”, “Froth Squelch”, “The Vanishing Point”, and “Red Giant”.

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Foxygen - Hang

Foxygen - Hang

Foxygen

Album title: Hang
By John Noyd
Posted: Dec 2016
Label: Jagjaguwar
(2221) Page Views

Recorded and mixed entirely on two-inch tape without a computer in sight, “Hang,” retro-wrangles singular pinnacles from the shoulders of old-school giants with bold homage bathed in brass, back-up singers and Bowie-disposed burlesque. Employing a forty-plus piece orchestra on every track as well as recruiting fellow extroverts from The Lemon Twigs and Flaming Lips, the proverbial kids in the candy store produced tightly-wrapped bombast that’s a total gas. Mixing solid gold seventies chemistry alongside heartfelt soul explosions, Foxygen’s starry-eyed carnies boast Lugosi-toasted vocals exalting a pole-vaulted vaudeville whose giddy symphonies by melodramatic patsies attach unabashed razzmatazz to theatrical malice and cavalier sneers to guileless choirs. Don’t miss out when the electric circus comes to town for some cool tomfoolery April 1st at Madison’s Majestic Theater.

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The Transgressions - Fucked Up

The Transgressions - Fucked Up

The Transgressions

Album title: Fucked Up
By Brian McKay
Posted: Dec 2016
Label: It's Alive Records
(2191) Page Views

The new Transgressions album, Fucked Up, is a great coming of age pop punk record.  Channeling The Ramones with short and sweet songs that will hook you after a single listen of the album.  It takes a more positive outlook with songs where the loser gets the girl but compliments and contrasts with themes of just wanting to get high and leave everything behind.  Each song catches the listener immediately with Ben’s sneering vocal hooks.  This record definitely shows growth not just in songwriting, but in life.  It shows how punks of a generation removed have become disillusioned yet somehow regain a sense of positivity.  Most songs clock within the 1 to 2 minute range and are just the short burst of energy we’ve come to expect from The Transgressions.  “Holey Fuck” is a catchy anthem about worn out clothes and the apathy that it comes with.  “You’re the One” is the quintessential pop punk love song, combining a love for The Ramones with a love for opiates into a perfect match in this catchy tune.  “Fucked Up” tells the tale of punk rock growing up but not giving up.

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Harvey Mandel - Snake Pit

Harvey Mandel - Snake Pit

Harvey Mandel

Album title: Snake Pit
By Sal Serio
Posted: Dec 2016
Label: Tompkins Square
(1875) Page Views

Musician Harvey “The Snake” Mandel has always been a hard one to categorize, but one can never deny his unparalleled level of excellence on the guitar. Detroit-born, Chicago-raised, and San Francisco-influenced, Mandel consistently seemed to be a couple steps ahead of the trends, being an early innovator of two-handed fretboard tapping, and distinguishing his sound with a mastery of syncopated phrasing, razor-edged sustain, and a genius touch when it comes to command of his effects pedals, as well as such natural phenomena as volume/feedback control.

Mandel, who has been battling illness in recent years, is back with his first studio album in ten years, the aptly titled ‘Snake Pit’, and it is a gross understatement to say it was merely worth the wait. These 10 instrumentals span blues to jazz, hard rock to jammy improv, and show enough chops, licks, and Snake’s unique signature style, to make any lover of the guitar stand up and take notice. ‘Snake Pit’ rivals any of the classic 1970s Mandel releases, and proves unequivocally why “The Snake” is one of rock’s most revered and formidable axe masters. It’s impossible to pick any individual track to study on ‘Snake Pit’, as they are all intense and inspirational in their own way, which truly illustrates what an amazing body of work this is.

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KidsonFire - KidsonFire

KidsonFire - KidsonFire

KidsonFire

Album title: KidsonFire
By Sal Serio
Posted: Dec 2016
Label: 616050 Records DK
(2186) Page Views

Press play, and the first thing you hear is a hellion youngster saying “We’re going to fuck this motherfucker UP!”, and that pretty much sets the tone for these four ruckus compositions that bristle with attitude, confidence, and immediacy. KidsonFire is a new project by bass player Danny Smash (of The Last Vegas) and claims Grand Rapids, Michigan, as it’s home base, although lead singer Karina Zephyr is from Chicago. Their two guitar / pummeling drum assault makes their debut E.P. leap screaming from the stereo speakers. This CD E.P. was released in mid-to-late 2016 as a follow-up to their 2015 single “Coup D’etat”.

You’ll experience an in-your-face heaviness with KidsonFire, but there’s also a tunefulness, a pop sensibility mixed in to their aggressive rock structure, that owes it’s presence to the engaging vocals courtesy of Karina. Songs like “Mother’s Little Monster” and “Anymore” will remain in your head for days. The centerpiece though (included here as both explicit and radio-friendly) is the anthem song “Kids On Fire” with it’s rebellious messages of “No more books and no more bells, I pledge allegiance to myself”, and “We’ll always disagree with you”.

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Popa Chubby - The Catfish

Popa Chubby - The Catfish

Popa Chubby

Album title: The Catfish
By Sal Serio
Posted: Dec 2016
Label: Popa Chubby Productions
(2030) Page Views

By my count, ‘The Catfish’ is the 19th studio album by Bronx blues man Ted Horowitz, aka Popa Chubby. That in and of itself is damn impressive, but consider that this is also one of his finest recorded efforts. From the get-go, on the songs “Going Downtown See My Old Gal Sue” and “Good Thing”, the modus operandi is boogie woogie hip shakin’ with dive bomber wah-wah drenched lead solos. Chubby’s grunt and grind vocals coax the listener through the grooves straight to the trippy downtown honky tonks.

I adore this album’s three instrumentals. Chubby assigns “Bye Bye Love” a reggae persona, flavored by Dave Keyes’ organ fills on the off-beat, which drives the Caribbean calypso rhythm. “Wes Is More” showcases the Wes Montgomery/Chet Atkins/Les Paul finger picking technique, and “Blues For Charlie” is true-blue blues, with chorus-clean singing/stinging guitar notes: crisp, clean, and mean.

“Slow Down Sugar” is the street smart urban blues number, akin to Los Lobos, punctuated by Tipitina Horowitz’ trumpet and Chubby’s gravely Tom Waits-like spoken rap that keep the beat down on the street. The rocker of the album is “Motörhead Saved My Life”, clocking in at 2:41. “Too damn ugly for the limelight. Who wants Ace of Spades? Who wants to get laid? Who wants to get high? Live fast ‘til you die”.

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Sad13 - Slugger

Sad13 - Slugger

Sad13

Album title: Slugger
By John Noyd
Posted: Nov 2016
Label: Carpark Records
(1775) Page Views

In the aftermath of a year fraught with personal loss and challenges, Sadie Dupuis took a break from fronting Speedy Ortiz, moved to Philly and mapped a path into trippy, bedroom-pop that harks back to her pre-band days when she found her bliss in upbeat demos where her rambunctious imagination could run wild. Sounding like a playground princess taking schoolyard bullies down a notch while throwing a Mad Hatter’s tea party for all her friends, Sad13 piles crunchy alt-rock waltzes atop frothy Jenga benders, dovetailing rubber-bullet hooks with frittering synths synched to giddy, gritty double-dutch funk. Fueled by full-throttled optimism spliced inside squishy riffs, “Slugger,” scores and floors, rocketing posh tolerance in frilly thrills spun from subtly bubbly pajama-party caroling and happily scrappy seesaw gloss.

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Testament - Brotherhood Of The Snake

Testament - Brotherhood Of The Snake

Testament

Album title: Brotherhood Of The Snake
By Sal Serio
Posted: Nov 2016
Label: Nuclear Blast
(1950) Page Views

Some bands are just reliable. Like strong coffee on a dark, cold morning; you just KNOW it’s going to provide the jolt that you desperately need. Chuck Billy and Testament are like that, and a new Testament record is similar to a visit from the oldest and truest of friends. Familiarity, yes, but always with a couple new tricks up their sleeves as well.

‘Brotherhood Of The Snake’ marks 11 studio albums in to Testament’s molten metal legacy, and emits a sound as fresh, vital, relevant, and incendiary as ever. Perhaps even more so, as these ten new songs have a sense of urgency about them that is relentless and inescapable. The staccato tempos (Gene Hoglan) and jackhammer riffs (Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson) make pretty much anything the “Big 4” bands have done this past decade seem bleached and sanitized by comparison. Yet, as brutal as this soundscape terrain is, there is still an embraceable and engaging vibe. Meaning that the heaviness does not push the listener away. Rather, these five brothers of the snake weave a sinewy, slithering, snakepit vortex that pulls all into it’s teeming viper’s nest. But don’t be afraid of this beast’s bite. This time it’s brotherly venom.

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