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  • Disc Reviews

    by Max Ink Staff Writers


    Light Pollution - Light Pollution

    Light Pollution - Light Pollution

    Light Pollution

    Album title: Light Pollution
    By Dan Vierck
    Posted: Sep 2008
    Label:
    (2350) Page Views

    In the vein of Midwest post-indie folk groups, or rural musical collectives, Light Pollution is a welcome beacon in our coast-less sound scape. Melancholy but vibrant, exuberant without being lighthearted and legitimately captivating whilst dodging contrition and pretentiousness, this Chicago four-to-five piece hits like a major indie label heavyweight.

    Despite transitioning band members and the death of their electric organ (as documented in the music video for “Firewood”), the band has maintained show dates and managed to put out a white-vinyl-and -download-only self-titled EP. Singer, guitarist, pianist, whatever-ist Jim Cicero is blunt about the band’s single-minded future, “Making the new record perfect [is the most important thing].”

    The music is as smooth as sailing in a row boat with a choppy wind. The movement is rolling with the punctuation and sweet feel of lake spray against your exposed skin. With the horns and strings, the music swells in front of a steady bass drum and full guitar strumming with accentuating pops and rolls from the snares and cymbals. There are more layers than the band has musicians. The sound is robust, inviting and engaging.

    As odd as it is sensible, Light Pollution owes a lot of its sound to 90’s post-hardcore groups like Rival Schools and Glassjaw, especially in the rhythm section. The odd hits and fills harken to a rawer time in underground music and the vocals harken that way as well. Cicero sounds like he’s indifferent to singing, but like it’s something deeper that he can’t control that’s driving him and coming out through his throat.

    “These songs have more string and horn arrangements,” Cicero says about the EP, “and by recording on our own terms we allowed ourselves to experiment more, incorporating found sounds, dissonant piano rolls; noise in general.” Whatever you can find in any of their songs, it always has the building quality of a ghost howling behind you, chasing you up a flight of stairs that’s really a cliff - and that’s a good thing.

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    Deadly Sins - Selling Our Weaknesses

    Deadly Sins - Selling Our Weaknesses

    Deadly Sins

    Album title: Selling Our Weaknesses
    By Dan Vierck
    Posted: Sep 2008
    Label: Dirty Mick Records
    (2232) Page Views

    Any mention of new-ish Boston punk rock outfit Deadly Sins and their full-length, “Selling Our Weaknesses” (Durty Mick, Sept. 2) will almost invariably be coupled with the information that lead singer Stephanie Dougherty was the woman who sang on Dropkick Murpheys’ “The Dirty Glass.” Here is no exception, though this marriage of information is misleading.

    With Deadly Sins it’s a much more standard approach to modern east coast punk rock than the Murpheys. Both bands have that solid, unforgiving push to their music and the shouting over singing approach to vocals. Deadly Sins, however, takes advantage of Dougherty’s sultry vocals here and there by slowing down and letting her really sing; though there’s definitely a more raw than a refined, smooth and boozy sound.

    The music itself comes closest to Alkaline Trio, but with more punch. The tight hooks are backed up with what sounds like a whole crowd yelling along behind the band. They do move around a bit more and try things out a little more liberally than most bands on their debuts, which keeps the album teetering and tottering throughout the listen. It’s refreshing to hear the difference between the straightforward opener “Grey Skies Turn” and the almost Blondie refrain of “Yard Sale,” but at the same time it keeps the record from maintaining any kind of engaging consistency.

    This record has elements from every niche of contemporary rock and punk, appealingly arranged on top of each other, each given its moment in the sun throughout the spin. Mostly though, if it’s definitively one thing, it’s a solid Boston punk rock record.

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    Black Sabbath - The Rules of Hell (Box Set)

    Black Sabbath - The Rules of Hell (Box Set)

    Black Sabbath

    Album title: The Rules of Hell (Box Set)
    By Jeff Muendel
    Posted: Aug 2008
    Label: Rhino Records
    (2376) Page Views

    There’s no denying the Ozzy-era Black Sabbath and that band’s groundbreaking sound. But, it is also undeniable that Ronnie James Dio saved Black Sabbath when he took over as vocalist in 1980. When founding members Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler chose Dio as their new vocalist, the group’s sound matured, and it gave Sabbath another two years of productiveness before the band spiraled into near obscurity as lineup change after lineup change gradually eroded away all identity. Though Dio’s time with the metal pioneers produced only two studio albums and one live release, those years added an unforgettable chapter in Black Sabbath’s history. In 1992, Dio rejoined Black Sabbath after a decade on his own to record an album called Dehumanizer. While the recording doesn’t capture the fire of the earlier releases, it nonetheless offers many fantastic cuts, and produced another tour wherein the older material could be performed again.

    Rhino Records has now released a box set that includes all four of these recordings – Heaven and Hell, Mob Rules, Live Evil, and Dehumanizer – all recently remastered for the first time. The set comes packaged in a deluxe black (how much more black could it be?) slipcase with extensive liner notes featuring new interviews with the band members. This five-disc box set sounds great and looks as evil as it should. Heaven and Hell sounds more awesome than ever with the new mastering; Mob Rules retains its status as the most under-appreciated release of the entire Black Sabbath canon; and Live Evil offers up extended jams and alternative arrangements from both albums. If you like Dio or the Dio-era Black Sabbath, this box set is a must-have.

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    My Chemical Romance - The Black Parade

    My Chemical Romance - The Black Parade

    My Chemical Romance

    Album title: The Black Parade
    By Rocky Linderman
    Posted: Jun 2008
    Label: Warner Brothers
    (2316) Page Views

    It has become hard to live in America. In a few short years we, the American people, have had to learn how to live with the constant threat of terrorist attacks. We have had to endure the loss of brave men and women who laid down their lives in Iraq. And now more recently we are learning to live with an economy that is on the decline. Things are not looking good. Americans are living in fear. Its everywhere that you look. You can feel it in the very air that you breathe. That is why My Chemical Romance’s third album, “The Black Parade” is so important to our time.

    No other album released this year has been able to capture the fear that is so prevalent in our country. Forged from the anguish of mental illness, the loss of loved ones, and the pain of knowing that all living things must die, “The Black Parade” captures the essence of what it means to be a human being. It isn’t just an album it’s a story. It’s a concept album that tells the story of a character, who is simply known as, “The Patient.”

    When the story first begins The Patient is informed that he is going to die. The album then examines the things that The Patient has endured throughout his lifetime. The first track on the album, “The End,” is an epic beginning to a stunning record that isn’t afraid to face life head on. Every song is an exploration of a particular fear. The guys of My Chemical Romance take on everything. Whether its the fear of dying, the fear of having to live without someone, the fear of addiction and the enslavement it brings, the fear of living up to your parent’s expectations, the fear of having someone walk out on you, the fear of not being accepted, the fear of a terminal illness and the pain it will cause, or the fear of eternal damnation each is represented on the album.

    My Chemical Romance takes every one of these possible terrifying situations and dives right in. It is not an easy record to listen to. My Chemical Romance do not pull their punches, but that is what makes the album so great. They are able to tell their listeners that this is how life is, it is a mortifying, paralyzing experience and it will rip you apart if you let it. But that is the key, if you let it.

    Every one of the songs leads up to a grand climax. The message that My Chemical Romance is trying to impart to their listeners is finally made clear, living life is a scary thing and all of these horrible things will happen to you, but you can’t give up. You can’t be afraid to live your life. The final song on “The Black Parade,” entitled, “Famous Last Words,” says it best, “I am not afraid to keep on living. I am not afraid to walk this world alone.”

    “The Black Parade” is a truly marvelous album that is unlike anything our generation has seen before. The only record that it is even comparable to is Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” and just like Pink Floyd was able to capture the fears of their generation, My Chemical Romance has exposed the fears of a new generation. “The Black Parade” is a towering beacon of hope in a world that desperately needs some good news. You owe it to yourself to listen to this album.

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    Spiritualized - Songs in A & E

    Spiritualized - Songs in A & E

    Spiritualized

    Album title: Songs in A & E
    By John Noyd
    Posted: Jun 2008
    Label: Fontana International/Spaceman
    (1853) Page Views

    Heavenly choirs and late-night lullabies are interspersed among sutured blues and scalding psychedelia as Britian’s Spiritualized re-emerges with another overflowing opus. A modern odyssey reflecting the scary times in which we live; “Songs,” howls, sings and mumbles its way through reverence and misery. Front man, Jason Pierce, continues to explore metaphors for war, love and drugs - stirring together a half-buried blend of blazing guitars, spaced-out harmonics and the occasional pop melody to round out the mix. A tumultuous cavalcade of passion and torment, Spiritualized bravely rises to celebrate, communicate and commiserate through hard-lived logic and clinging hope. Equally adept at portraying the claptrap of an unhinged mind and the purity of a healed heart, “Songs,” rings, rips and resonates - indulging, retracting and sorting through galactic debris.

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    Time To Kill - Insanity

    Time To Kill - Insanity

    Time To Kill

    Album title: Insanity
    By Jeff Muendel
    Posted: May 2008
    Label: Turkey Vulture Records
    (2295) Page Views

    The band Time To Kill came together at the end of 2006 in Wisconsin Rapids when guitarist K. Monville and drummer Paul Huser joined forces. They then added bass player Chad Nordman and completed the group with lead singer Nicole Williams. The resulting sound is somewhere between the thrash metal of Slayer and the aggressive punk of Suicidal Tendencies. While much of the CD has a fast meter, the group knows when to slow it to a Black Sabbath grind with songs like “Emotionless” and when to take it to the speed limit with cuts like “No Forgiveness.” Time To Kill gets bonus points for having a female front the group while retaining the sort of sound and attitude that usually subsists in all-male factions.

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    Kris Delmhorst - Kris Delmhorst

    Kris Delmhorst - Kris Delmhorst

    Kris Delmhorst

    Album title: Kris Delmhorst
    By John Noyd
    Posted: May 2008
    Label: Signature Sounds
    (2306) Page Views

    Embellished in voodoo spookiness that creeps and sweeps over open poems embracing life’s jamboree, Delmhorst’s, “Shotgun,” paints panoramas of blue skies and bayous. Playing light and breezy as easily as dark and swampy, her intoxicating voice shines like moonlight as, “Shotgun,” flickers and glows, fluttering between fiery passions, coy temptations and uncertain futures. Creating the record holed up in a cabin communing with her muse, Delmhorst eventually opened up her solo versions to several distinguished musical associates, giving “Shotgun,” a meditative freshness and outgoing friendliness. Skipping from drum machine hippie to solemn and solitary confessor, Delmhorst’s odes of appreciation for the rewards of simple pleasures are resoundingly satisfying. Always a thought-fueled songwriter, her Thoreau intentions produce transcendental results that steadily steal into your very soul.

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    In Flames - A Sense of Purpose

    In Flames - A Sense of Purpose

    In Flames

    Album title: A Sense of Purpose
    By Kirin Furst
    Posted: Apr 2008
    Label: Koch
    (2408) Page Views

    In 1990, a new genre was forged by these Swedish bands: In Flames, Dark Tranquility and At the Gates. It wasn’t until the later 90’s that melodic death metal caught on and since then In Flames has steadily grown in international popularity. Rejecting from the beginning the trademark brutality of parent genre death metal, they have increasingly moved away from the discussion of more grandiose Lovecraftian themes to those of personal despair, a change some pin to “Reroute to Remain” (2002) or “Soundtrack to Your Escape” (2004). At the same time, In Flames began incorporating influence from bands it had spawned which was a plethora of modern metal genres.

    Long-standing In Flames fans express disappointment with the band’s ‘selling out’ to an American market inundated with bad nu-metal and pussified alternative. Those particular fans will shit criticism of the newest release, “A Sense of Purpose” (April 2008). The album sparkles clean with chorus-y layered vocals (a nice touch, but highly unnecessary in such quantity), introspective, angst-sodden lyrics, and the occasional ballad-rock string plucking. Aside from these rather superficial explorations into a more highly produced, epic, yet not necessarily more mature incarnation of In Flames, the best moments often feel regurgitated.

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    Marashino - The Picture of Us All

    Marashino - The Picture of Us All

    Marashino

    Album title: The Picture of Us All
    By Kristen Winiarski
    Posted: Apr 2008
    Label: Self Released
    (2149) Page Views

    Deriving their name from a delicious and similar-sounding sundae topper, Milwaukee’s Marashino are no cherries. Since their inception in 2002, the band have performed hundreds of shows from local clubs, county fairs, Summerfest a few times, and even a few jaunts around the country. Having opened for the likes of Crossfade and Shinedown, the band appears ready for a new challenge.

    This year welcomes a new release from the band entitled, “The Picture of Us All”. Their self-released album mixes rock with impressive guitar lines as well as unique vocal styling.  Their rockin’ alternative style permeates throughout the entire album. Something really attention-grabbing about the band is the voices. Four out of the five band members sing vocals throughout the album. This exposes the listener to a greater vocal range than otherwise demonstrated by bands with a single dominating lead singer. The power of each voice has its own intensity that is felt through each lyric that is sung. This is especially evident in the song “Dilemna” as the beginning showcases a voice without music. The gravely voice is able to stand out on its own without other musical accompaniment. The listener is able to feel the desperation melt into their own soul. This demands attention to the voice alone until it is joined by the guitar and other instruments. The different periods of silence throughout the song also act to emphasize the different lines of lyric. As you listen to this album, the angst of self-discovery is combined to form a story.
    This band proves to be more than just the topper and is a stand-out against others. It is, in fact, the entire sundae.

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    Egypt Central - Egypt Central

    Egypt Central - Egypt Central

    Egypt Central

    Album title: Egypt Central
    By Kimberly E. McDaniel
    Posted: Apr 2008
    Label: East West
    (5686) Page Views

    I had never heard of Egypt Central, but their self-titled debut is actually very easy on the ears and could find a happy home on modern rock radio stations.  There is something similar to Linkin Park about this band, as they rap a little and in truth, being radio-friendly can be as much a curse as a gift these days. 

    Opening tracks “Different,” “You Make Me Sick” and “Taking You Down” are probably the most interesting tracks and are likely to be heard on the radio. Their style is catchy modern rock which is well-played as well as being well-written. If they can get past the hard-rock stigma, they might be able to get somewhere.

    The problem that they need to overcome is that they aren’t particularly original sounding.  They remind me of several different bands, and sometimes that is a good thing and sometimes it is not. If you like catchy, radio-friendly material, then Egypt Central is worth checking out.

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    Testament - Demonic

    Testament - Demonic

    Testament

    Album title: Demonic
    By Kimberly E. McDaniel
    Posted: Apr 2008
    Label: Prosthetic
    (2018) Page Views

    Testament is undoubtedly one of metal’s hardest working acts, releasing both “Demonic” and “The Gathering” in 2007 alone. The sheer output of this band is quite impressive, and for those who like the super-heavy, crunchy guitar sound and a growling vocal styling, “Demonic” is sure to be a hit.

    The first track, “Demonic Refusal,” builds to a wailing frenzy, with guitarist Eric Peterson wrenching sounds from the instrument, which seems slightly tortured.  Drummer Gene Hoglan and bassist Derrick Ramirez keep up with this crazy pace throughout the album. Vocalist Chuck Billy growls menacingly from song to song; with the one exception being “Hatreds Rise,” where he does actually sing a little.

    Truthfully, I am not the biggest fan of this sort of metal. However, I did quite like “Hatreds Rise” and there is some fairly impressive guitar work present throughout the entirety of “Demonic.”  Certainly any Testament fan already owns this. Since it seems fairly representative of their work and sound, if you are curious pick up a copy of this and get “Demonic.”

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    Repertoire - Moving On

    Repertoire - Moving On

    Repertoire

    Album title: Moving On
    By Kristen Winiarski
    Posted: Apr 2008
    Label: Self Released
    (3969) Page Views

    Singing out of the lands of Milwaukee, WI, comes Repertoire. This fusion of the styles of Jack Johnson and Dispatch has recently unleashed their second album, “Moving On”. Just from the title alone, the album is meant to give hope. Through the music, they tell you to “dream on dreamer.”  Whether or not things will get better, they make you think that it will. The album is meant to make you believe and give you hope in the world as well as hope in love.

    The band was originally formed in 2001 and released their first album, “Even Sleep” in 2003. Even after the lead singer, bassist, and keyboardist left the band in 2005, songwriter Michael O’Donnell and drummer/vocalist Michael Jaklich, were able to pull back together and assemble a new group of players to release “Moving On” in November, 2007.

    The music is also similar to Dashboard Confessional in the themes represented through the music. Throughout the album is the unique mix of vocals, guitar, drums, piano, saxophone, and violin. This mix allows the listener to both relax and identify with the wish to dream or love. The song “Moving On” showcases that violin sound at the beginning as well as throughout the piece. Their style can be described as a mix of Indie, Pop, and Alternative.

    You may have already heard their music on Milwaukee radio station, 103.7 KISS FM. Repertoire was chosen as the KISS Superstar of 2008 and their song “Dreamer” has been added to the station’s playlist. If you haven’t heard them yet, give them a listen if you’re looking for something uplifting with a fun mellow beat.

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