Welcome back to yet anotha issue. This time around we're going to have a special report on the New Jersey Metalfest which we attended the first week of April. As you may know, there is lots of video footage available that we shot, especially of bands who made their appearance in America for the first time in their existence. Most notably of these was the outstanding performance by Diamond Head.

Here's the address for sending stuff to us. Thanks again go out to Metal Maniacs Magazine, who were kind enough to ink some extremely kind words raving about our music magazine. The issue in question should still be on sale at newsstands around the country, so please do check it out.

Vibrations of Doom Magazine
c/o Steven Cannon
P.O. Box 1258
Suwanee, GA 30024-0963 USA


ABSU "Tara" (Olympic Recordings) SCORE: 53/100

I was a little hesitant at approaching this, especially since I didn't like the Proscriptor side projects at all. But I figured this being more black metal oriented might help. As you can see from the score, it didn't. My main beef is the vocal department, and while Proscriptor's blackened shrieks are nothing terrible in and of themselves, the actual vocal delivery sounds rushed and as if he's trying to cram as many words into sentences as possible. The instrumentation as well never seems to deviate much from the constant speed and overall it makes for a rather stale listening experience. Reading the lyrics to a song like 'Manannan' didn't help either, especially once I realized what he was saying, it sounded quite silly. 'She Cries The Quiet Lake' showed some really bad chorus structures, and the power metal styled vocals, which are only heard on one track 'Stone Of Destiny' sounded really out of place. To be fair, however, some of the guitar riffing was quite adequate, and I even enjoyed the Slayer styled riffing on 'The Cognate House Of Courtly Witches...' The bagpipe instrumentals, which covers the first and last tracks, were really nice, as was the acoustic instrumental 'Bron,' but overall, the formula was much the same. 'Four Crossed Wands' and it's successor 'Vorago' had some vicious chorus work, and were probably among two of my favorites. I can't say this is a lousy album, but my disinterest in many of the tracks presented here gives this a score that puts it a few points above dead average...
Contact: Olympic Recordings, 1658 N. Milwaulkee Ave. #245, Chicago, IL 60647
Web site:

ARCTURUS "The Sham Mirrors" (The End) SCORE: 91/100

Though on Voices Music & Entertainment overseas, this is exactly the kind of release I would expect to find on The End. Long stalwarts of the black metal scene, Arcturus has always been different and somewhat cutting edge when it comes to redefining and reshaping the genre, but this time they have exceeded all boundaries. Like Enslaved, they have progressed along more melodic and experimental paths, but where Enslaved failed miserably with their last full length, Arcturus shines mightily. To be sure, the more singing style of one "Trickster G. Rex" may turn some off, in fact the higher ended range Rex goes for at times can be dangerous waters to tread. Most notably in the song 'Ad Absurdum' is the "Whoo-oooh-ooh's" that end this song, bringing the point count down a notch. The black metal styled vocals are all but gone, save for ONE song 'Radical Cut,' and "spitting" vocal style duties here are handled by none other than Ishan from Emperor, proving once again that there is still life in the black metal god. 'Collapse Generation' is the first fast paced song you hear on "The Sham Mirrors," and it does feature some downright dynamic synth and guitar work. You'll also hear some nice classical piano styled notations starting out 'Star-Crossed,' and some great spacey ambient/techno atmospheres closing out the lengthy 'For To End Yet Again,' which does a great job of creating amazing atmosphere, something I've seen many bands in the ambient genre fail to do time and again. Trumpets are found here too, and nothing it seems is taboo for Arcturus. The blackened vocals and singing combination are a strange and almost unsettling pair, but overal there isn't a whole lot to complain about. Black metal's boundaries just got pushed further into the future, though one might see very little that resembles "all things black."
Contact: The End Records, 556 S. Fair Oaks Ave. #101-111 Pasadena, CA 91105
Web site:

AXEL RUDI PELL "Shadow Zone" (Steamhammer) SCORE: 89/100

Originally known for his appearance in the 80's metal band Steeler, Axel Rudi Pell has carved out quite a niche for himself in metal history. This is now his 13th album I believe, his solo career going all the way back to 1989! And from the amazing music he creates here, it's as if he never left it! Timeless and classic 80's metal is to be found inside, though most of his tunes are updated quite a bit so they don't sound as if they're 80's relics only. After a nice melodic intro, we go into 'Edge Of The World,' which is the trademark of all the things I love about metal: catchy choruses, amazing vocal work from Johnny Gioeli, great guitar riffs, and just a straightforward approach that works really well. 'Coming Home' continues things in the same fashion, with choruses that hit really hard. 'Live For The King' reminds me a bit of Angel Dust's cover of 'Temple Of The King,' except it's a bit harder hitting when the heavier guitar work kicks in. A long song but definitely worth it. The main gripe I have is with the excess of ballads, something I cringe at now when I listen to a lot of 80's metal bands. 'Heartbreaker' was one of those, starting things off with some synth breaks, though I did like the multi vocal pieces. 'Under The Gun' as well suffered except the synths opening this one sounded kinda cheesy, and it's more hard rock oriented when it finally cranks up. 'All The Rest Of My Life' was the third ballad, though this one did strike my interest a bit more because of the more dominant vocal work done here. I'll say one thing for Axel, he doesn't spend 90 percent of the CD showing off his million notes a second riffage, he is content to let the band members do their thing, but his solos are amazing, played with real feeling and emotion rather than just wanking at light speed. For this, I must recommend this album to anyone who misses the powerful and catchy days of pure 80's metal.
Contact: SPV/Steamhammer Records, P.O. Box 72 1147, 30531 Hannover GERMANY
Web site:

BARBATOS "War! Speed And Power" (ISO666) SCORE: 41/100

What really pisses me off about this seemingly one man thrash unit from Japan, is that the guy can actually crank out some killer 80's styled thrashy guitar riffs, but the vocals are so awful it makes for a tough listen. Even worse are the lyrics, which suffer from REALLY bad Japanese to English translations; you only have to read the words to 'Teenage Slut,' 'G-Point,' or even 'Into The Battlefield' to see this. He sings songs about Japanese sake (a type of alcohol Japanese enjoy), which I find rather a non metal topic, and likening the sex act to a war ('G-Point') which I found rather stupid. The vocals remind me of a whinier Iron Monkey style, and it's at it's worst on 'Into The Battlefield,' where the instrumentation doesn't hide the vocal work. A few tracks feature guest vocals from Damian of Ritual Carnage, which helped on a few songs, but overall this is just really bad. Like I said, though, Yasuyuki does know how to play guitar to an extent (after all he is wearing an At War T-shirt on the back cover, though he's smoking a cigar???) and you can hear some killer thrash guitar work on 'Prophecy Of The Evening Star' and 'Defeated General,' which keeps this CD from going even lower on the score. The Bulldozer influence is felt in the lyrics to a point, after all sex and alcohol were some of Bulldozer's lyrical stances, but at least A.C. and company had the decency to do a decent translation. There's a useless instrumental track called 'World War 2,' which is some really bad Japanese ritualistic music over some radio vocal samples, and the last track on here was halfway decent, in more of a straightforward metal style, though the vocals sort of pissed me off. All this makes me wonder if he should let someone ELSE handle the microphone and stick to the thrashy guitar work that saves this from being a total toilet score.
Contact: ISO666 Releases.
Web site:

BLOODSTORM "Ancient Wraith Of Ku" SCORE: 79/100

Upon first glance, I was very intrigued by the cover, and dazzled by the lyrics. Much of the songs read like a science fiction story at first glance, though deeper glances will reveal a sort of spiritual overtones that mentions references to Lovecraft and the Cthulu mythos (more info can be found in the interview, also this issue). Bloodstorm's sound is quite primal, in fact it's that very vicious essence that makes this CD what it is. There are some songs that get off to rough starts, like the rushed vocal delivery on 'Quantum Nihilism' and 'Possession By The Ku,' which had an awkward vocal/guitar sound combination. Overall, the concept is done quite well, if not muddied at times. The Celtic Frost touches were a nice addition, which you can most definitely hear on 'Cold Flesh Of Space.' There are 4 tracks that make use of backwards vocal samples, upon my reversal of these I heard some interesting revelations. The vocal work is always quite vicious, and with the slight echo effects, his delivery sounds like it's coming from the coldest and deepest regions of space. Despite it's limitations, the biting viciousness and the freshness of the lyrical content make this a CD black metal fans will find a welcome addition to their collection.
Contact: Metal War Productions, P.O. Box 5996, Philadelphia, PA 19137 USA
Web site:

BOULDER "Reaped In Half" (Tee Pee) SCORE: 18/100

Here we go again. Yet another band Metal Maniacs has raved about that I find absolutely horrifying. The vocals are the main culprit this time, lead screamer doing just that, mainly a screaming/yelling delivery and when he actually sings, it sounds really whiny and just plain annoying. None of the songs here really have much going for them instrumentation wise, though the lead guitarist can REALLY crank out some amazing lead riffs. He's wasting his time and his talent here. Songs like 'Ripped In Half,' 'Should've Seen Blood' and 'Yellow Fever' don't do much for me instrumentation wise either, and the tune 'Back For The Show' could have been a great anthemic hit if not for the terrible vocal work. 'Krank It Up,' likewise, is another potential hit ruined by bad vocals. I had to listen to this several times to see if the instrumentation was noteworthy, because the vocals (dare I say it again) were so bad they made it hard to concentrate on anything else. More like heavy rock, I wouldn't dare waste a tag like stoner rock on this mess. Avoid at all costs.
Contact: Tee Pee Records, P.O. Box 20307, New York, NY 10009
Web site:

CARPATHIAN FOREST "Morbid Fascination Of Death" (Avantgarde) SCORE: 86/100

Misanthropic black metal for sure, but these crazy warriors of the macabre definitely do NOT approach black metal entirely old school. More on that later, let's just say that the album starts off with some militaristic styled drums, adding very morbid and eerie synths and guitar riffs with some twisted black metal vocals and lyrics. Carpathian Forest don't mind slowing the pace down a bit, nor do they mind experimentation, but all of it is done with a black spirit. Heavy guitar work and anti christian lyrics coupled with some really cool blackened vocal work are found on 'Doomed To Walk The Earth As Slaves Of The Living Dead,' but still no blazing speed. The title track does offer up some speedy guitar riffs though, proving that they haven't forgotten their roots at all. Tchort of Green Carnation fame is working with this cult of black metal bands, which is seemingly strange in a way but it makes me wonder if his influence created 'Nostalgia' and 'Cold Comfort,' which is one of my favorites. Let me explain: 'Cold Comfort' starts off with some melancholic pianos and saxophones, alongside some vicious black metal vocals that are almost done up in a whisper style, adding a very cold and kick ass atmosphere. It's amazing that a band like this that is supposed to be raw and old school black metal can evolve without changing their entire sound around. 'Nostalgia' starts things off with acoustic guitars and saxophones being the only instruments you hear, alongside the vicious blackened vox work. One of my other favorite tracks is 'Knokkelmann,' all sung in their native language (not sure what that might be though), and though rather midpaced, they really crank up the speed and heaviness on the choruses. Only a few tracks I didn't care for, and I think that it's mainly some of the ultra slower riffs on 'A World Of Bones' that tend to drag on a bit, and 'Warlord Of Misanthropy' I didn't care much for, neither did I like their other experimentation piece 'Speechless' with guitars and pianos. Not much to hate about this CD, and another good album from the crew that brought you the ever so black title "Of Chasms, Caves, and Titan Woods" and their last full length "Strange Brew."
Contact: Avantgarde Music.
Web site:

CRYSTAL BALL "Virtual Empire" (Nuclear Blast Europe) SCORE: 88/100

Here's something to get pissed off about: This record will NOT be worked by Nuclear Blast here in America. I only found out about it from an internet friend of mine who, ahem, "gave" me a copy. Regardless, this is the kind of thing that is obviously very popular in Europe, and the States I guess is expected to never have an interest in melodic power metal that borders the styles of melodic hard rock and progressive rock as well. This is a fantastic example of a band that plays music true to what they want to hear and make, not bowing to the industry, and this record does sound like it could have been made in the 80's. After the electronic intro, 'Hands Of God' comes out with some strong power metal styled guitars and a vocalist that is crisp and clear, but you can tell English is not his native language only by a slight accent on a few words. The chorus work here is most outstanding on nearly every track, and the instrumentation is quite dynamic through and through. 'Savage Mind' and 'Dance With The Devil' are two of their heavier cuts, but they don't toss melody out the window entirely. 'Blind Side' sounds like it would have been written by Rhapsody or Labyrinth, and the multi vocal choruses work well here. The title track has some faster guitar pieces, sounding like the riffs were lifted straight off a Royal Hunt album! (And you all know how much I dig Royal Hunt!) There were some rough spots though, and I have seen many reviews put the score close to what I'm giving it. 'Look In My Eyes' is a ballad, not really my cup of tea, as it sounds a bit too fruity. The eerie synth lines surrounding the chorus on 'When The Night Is Over' sounded a bit odd and a tad overbearing, seemingly trying to layer on the more horror type atmosphere through sound, indeed not a thing a band of this caliber should try. 'Private Visitor' wasn't a bad track either but I think the vocals, especially on the higher end, take a bit more away from the choruses than I would like. All in all, though, a very fun, catchy CD that I have found has been in my car more times than most. It's a bit lighter edged for what some might consider power metal with touches of hard rock and progressive rock, but I recommend checking it out anyway.
Contact: Nuclear Blast Europe.
Web site:

DIM MAK "Intercepting Fist" (Olympic) SCORE: 17/100

I think I hated this CD a bit more than the Boulder one. When Jim at Olympic told me about the new Dim Mak coming out he said that the production on this would be much better than their last release on some overseas label the name of which escapes me now. This is just lousy death metal with a vocalist that kinda sounds like a weak cross between hardcore and death metal, though more on the hardcore side. 'Phoenix Eye Fist' starts the disc off with some fast and furious instrumentation, but the songs really go nowhere, and you'll end up listening to the choruses repeated over and over again. 'Shambling' does things a bit slower, and it really doesn't surprise me that this is produced by Erik Rutan of Hate Eternal fame, because I didn't like Hate Eternal either. A few guitar riffs here and there caught my ear, like the ones on 'Mindgate,' and I will admit for some reason 'Essence Of The Northern Fists' I dug more than any other song on here, possibly because of the slower instrumentation and thrashier guitars and overall better lyric structure. You'll get some fast instrumentation, some slow stuff, and this screeching background vocal work which I'm assuming is some band members very weak attempt at black metal, but most of all the instrumentation is boring, the vocal work is nothing inspiring, and I'm STILL not interested in the band at all. Hey man, why waste time and space?
Contact: Olympic Recordings.

DOWN "A Bustle In Your Hedgerow" (Elektra) SCORE: 94/100

Okay, this is mainly major label material, but fuck it, I highly enjoyed their debut "NOLA," so I thought it fitting to do this one. The CD starts with 'Lysergic Funeral Procession' and 'There's Something On My Side' doing the heavy thing, the latter track really shows off some heavy hitting bass guitar licks, before the familiar heavy, almost yelling style of Pantera screamer Anselmo kicks in. From there, things start to get a bit more melodic, and the biggest surprise was on 'Stained Glass Cross,' with the killer Hammond organ styled riffs that sounded just as heavy as melodic, and the multi vocal choruses that are still fun to sing along to. This is an album that makes it obvious to me the boys were having a damn good time with this and it shows all the way through. There's a funny "Which one of y'all motha *beep* drank all my *beep* kool aid?" piece (beeps done on the record, censored I think on purpose just for effect), plus the various vocal quips here and there. 'New Orleans Is A Dying Whore' was another rippin' tune, and indeed one of my favorites, though they are all pretty much enjoyable. 'Landing On The Mountains Of Megiddo' is a beautiful acoustic tune with some great multi vocal harmonies and great singing chops by Anselmo, proving that he does more than just scream his way through an album. Likewise, you can hear 'Learn From This Mistake' provide an almost stoner like feeling, getting heavier at the end and showing us what a diverse and dynamic album this really is. Didn't care for 'Man That Follows Hell' in some spots, Phil's yelling getting a bit too much over the top and higher pitched, and 'Dog Tired' seemed to lack in both guitars and vocal departments. Even with the funny vocal sample in the beginning, 'Flambeaux' was really a throwaway track with the odd percussion bordering on tribal and the wierd moans and wails. Despite very few bad parts, this is a rock solid album and one I enjoyed greatly. Don't expect NOLA part two however.
Contact: Elektra Records.
Web site:

ENTWINE "Time Of Despair" (Spikefarm) SCORE: 54/100

Damnit all to hell, I really want to like this band, especially since the strengths of 90 percent of their material lies in the catchy chorus work and melodic mood that sometimes has a strong edge to it, but this CD has a lot less going for it than the last album reviewed from them a few issues ago. This time around there are only a few out and out rocking tracks, the rest get washed down with gothic melody, which I might otherwise be able to like better were the vocals primarily female. The male vocals here tend to be overtly gothic style, complete with what I term "breathing melodies," where he seems to be taking a breath at the same time he's changing pitch or tone. It makes songs like 'Falling Apart' and 'Learn To Let Go' lose a lot of what they could have. The lyrics too lend a lot to the atmosphere of this album, singing about love, and some depressionary topics to enhance the moods. They do pepper the songs with some heavier guitar work, trying to enhance the gothic and somewhat etherial atmosphere, though on a track like 'Safe In A Dream,' one wonders if this is an effect that sounds out of place. Keyboards run amok in this album, as if you couldn't guess, though oftentimes they are indeed a highlight. I did enjoy the way the album started off, 'Stream Of Life' takes off where the last album had most of it's strengths. 'Until The End' had some of the most beautiful female vocals I've heard in awhile, and it's a shame this couldn't have been more than a one song deal for her. There is a cover of Paul Stanley's 'Tears Are Falling,' yes, THAT Paul Stanley from Kiss, and it's just as syrupy as the rest of them. 'Burden' was another track I enjoyed due to the dynamics of the choruses, which I have stuck in my head now. Their chorus work is often the highlight on many tracks, but the overtly romantic and gothic overtones drown the rest of the disc and make me wonder if the next album Entwine puts out can possibly be any good.
Contact: Spikefarm Records, P.O. Box 212-00181 Helsinki, FINLAND
Web site:

FLOWING TEARS "Serpentine" (Century Media) SCORE: 68/100

Gothic inspired metal is what this is supposed to be billed as, with a female singer who, surprisingly, also dips into the lower range. This doesn't always have good effect, and it makes opener 'Starfish Ride' rather painful to sit through, though the choruses are fantastic. Many of the tracks here, roughly 6 out of 12, are great. 'Serpentine,' the title track, has some great piano notes and showcases a trademark that Flowing Tears does very well: catchy choruses and instrumentation that actually evokes strong emotions, whether dominant or melodic. My favorite tune is also one of their heaviest in 'Breach,' the guitar work is quite amazing. The problem comes in that the other half of the album ranges from mostly substandard to downright quirky, check out the lower toned singing on pseudo-ballad 'Portsall,' which was rather weak both vocally and instrumentation wise. The last three songs of this album as well were somewhat throwaway tracks to me, though 'Merlin' did have some nice atmospheric instrumentation but failed to deliver on the choruses and the main vocal lines. Still, there's quite a bit to enjoy, however having to skip over 6 tracks doesn't make for a consistent listening experience. 'The Carnage People' too I enjoyed, but as I said, you might want to listen to the worse tracks as well as the good ones, for buying this album would not give you complete value for your money (unless you bought it used, traded for it, or managed to pick it up in a pawn shop). Gothic metal that's a bit heavier than what generally is out there, though.
Contact: Century Media Records.
Web site:

FROSTMOON ECLIPSE "Gathering The Dark" (ISO666) SCORE: 91/100

Vicious as all hell. Fast paced old school black metal that employs acoustic touches ala Opeth but no singing vocals! For those of you (myself NOT included in this category however) that found Opeth's latest offering covering too many melodies and clean vocals, this is what you will be seeking. Frostmoon Eclipse show maturity and development while choosing NOT to abandon the harsh and speedier elements of the early days of black metal. 'Where No Light Burns' is a great example of how the disc starts off: The first thing you hear is the insanely fast drumming that will become a landmark on this disc, and the vicious black metal screams that dominate and obliterate what's left of your senses. They also know how to vary the instrumentation found within; don't be surprised to hear them slow things down as well as go into speed riffing. There is even a few melodic instrumentals thrown into the mix, in 'Astes,' 'Ruins,' and 'Cold Silvery Eye,' the latter track being a bonus tune (along with three others) pulled from a rare 7 inch EP. 'Dragon Millenium' was another highlight tune, featuring some slight synth passages that I didn't detect the first few times around. 'I Am My Worst Enemy' had some thrashy riffs, and was a favorite tune of mine, so much so that I had to play it on the radio show. Only a few problems with this disc, however. 'Son Of Scorn' had some really bad guitar work, the tone just hit the wrong nerve with me, and 'Dusk To Exalt My Triumph' had some guitar passages that sounded a tad off. Vocally, there's no problem with this CD, though it seems the 7 inch material is not quite as crisp as the rest of the CD. Very promising and powerful black metal from Italy of all places!
Contact: ISO666 Releases.

HONCHO "Corporate Rock" (Water Dragon) SCORE: 98/100

Damn if this CD didn't come right out and kick me square in the ass! Chris Miller, who is rather new to the stoner rock genre (who also stars on my radio show), also really digs this CD as well, so there you go. Stoner rock? Well, that's the tag that this band will probably get lumped under, which isn't alltogether unfair, considering there are some slow moving songs, like 'Loco Steam' and 'Dark Tunnel Of Love.' However, there are some really rippin' fast tunes, like 'Snake Eyes,' which is also catchy as hell, and 'Hide Behind,' which is one of the HEAVIEST tunes they've penned on this disc. 'Grebo Mentor' and 'In The Woods' start this CD out explosively, rocking all the way to the bank! The vocals are absolutely perfect as well, soaring when they need to soar and laying low and mellow when the instrumentation calls for it. This is damn near a perfect disc, except for 'Industrial Lane,' which, being a slow track, was quite off for me, especially with the odd sounding instrumentation and the vocal work that was off in spots. This CD flat out jams, even the hidden track, a blistering instrumental that will leave you shaking your heads and begging for more! Can you believe these guys are out of NORWAY of all places? Wonder if these guys gave up the corpse paint in a former life?
Contact: Water Dragon Records. (And you BETTER go after this one!)
Web site:

KALMAH "They Will Return" (Century Media) SCORE:98/100

They have most definitely done it again. Returning after putting out a barn burning "Swamplord," this is easily their most defining work to date. HIGHLY melodic guitar work amidst a framework of vicious black metal screams and a new twist this time around: some slightly death metal influenced vocals. Thankfully they don't go too far with this last acquisition, as it's my strong opinion that what they did last album they can do here as well. The album starts things off quite nicely with samples of someone stomping through a swamp, but the lyrics take a different path this time around, speaking of do nothing idealists and the concept of hangers-out in bars congregating together as a family. 'Skin Of My Teeth' is a nicely done Megadeth cover, and the whole album is absolutely brilliant. 'Human Fates' was one of my favorite tracks, starting out with some very cool and mellow synths, showing that their M.O. of the day is not always to blaze away at top speed. 'Swamphell' has some catchy but simple chorus effects, and our swamp screamer really lays the aggression on with his vocal work. The only song I wasn't too pleased with was 'My Nation,' it is slowed down quite considerably, almost ballad style, with a whispered vocal delivery that somewhat takes away from the feel of the song, but the choruses kick back in with vicious vocal work and redeem this song a tad. The guitar work shines throughout, and the vocal work is just as vicious as ever, but of course you can't deny those keyboard riffs that make this whole thing shine. Great job, yet again, guys.
Contact: Century Media Records.

KHOLD "Phantom" (The End) SCORE: 24/100

Usually I don't have a problem with much of what The End licenses these days, but this overseas offering from Moonfog Records didn't strike me as anything I'd want to return to. It's slower, much slower paced black metal than what most are used to, and it definitely has a "kold" feeling, but that doesn't help me much. Most of the instrumentation seems to drag along at a painful pace, though not slow enough to evoke feelings of true doom, if anyone can comprehend what I mean. The vocals too are nothing outstanding, they are basically just THERE. Gard's vocals never get overtly vicious or even long winded, they're just rather samey, what you hear on track one, 'Dodens Grode' you hear on 'Vandring,' the last track. I will admit some of the guitar work on 'Hekseformular I Vev' were interesting, citing a bit of a Celtic Frost vibe, while 'Phantom,' the title track, hinted at a blackened doom metal combination that, had it been worked out better, might have been an interesting and unusual style for this disc. Instead, we get horrible twangy guitar work on 'Skjebnevette,' said guitar riffs being mostly of the higher end variety, and mostly not much variety in the song structures overall. I can understand the appeal of this CD, as very few black metal bands I know would want to creep along at a snail's pace, however this is not one I can recommend. Get Arcturus' new CD instead.
Contact: The End Records.

LANA LANE "Project Shangri-La" (Limb Music) SCORE: 39/100

I must admit I haven't heard much from Lana Lane, but the last album from her I got to hear, "Queen Of The Ocean," impressed me quite a bit. This album however does not have the same quality of songs. Mainly, the biggest problem I see is NOT with her vocal work, which is still quite up to the task, it's her obvious insistence that she prove to the world she can back up heavier, more "metallic" types of songs. It makes the instrumentation on songs like 'The Beast Within You,' 'Only A Dream,' and 'Encore' sound not only silly, but like she's backing somebody else's band. And the lyrics for 'Encore' themselves were quite bland, it seems as if she ran out of steam on this album. Most people seem to think that the vocals are all I can look at; this album will prove people wrong. Her vocal work, as I stated, is still quite enchanting, like on the ballad 'Ebbtide,' she can still keep a mood and melody going. There's a few instrumentals here as well, though the latter one 'Redemption Part II' really sounds like a band without any idea how to do a heavy song, the synths are so drenched in heaviness it sounds like a faked effort. Even the bonus track 'Romeo and Juliet' failed to grab me. 'Before You Go' was a decent ballad, though, and added the proper mixture of heaviness and atmosphere that worked so well for Lana on "Queen Of The Ocean." If she'd quit trying to prove she can do metal and stick to the emotional, thought provoking and moving type of songs she did with "Queen..." I think things would go much better for her. 'Tears Of Babylon,' finally, was a good example of a song that could have been written on the "Queen..." album, the instrumentation is more in line with what sounds good for her, except the choruses are the only redeemable vocal work here.
Contact: Limb Music.
Web site:

MANOWAR "Warriors Of The World" (Metal Blade) SCORE: 84/100

Good socre, you say, but this CD should really have been able to get a higher score, namely because the best songs here are quite simply fantastic. Manowar has perfected the warrior/viking feel with this album, making it one of the most intense albums I've heard since "Fighting The World." The problem here is their insistence on what I'll term "non-metal" pieces. Granted, 'The Fight For Freedom' was very nicely done, starting out as a piano ballad and then cranking up the guitars to go along with the marchign style drums to create a true American, warrior pride atmosphere that would be a proud addition to any public service event. However, the opera styled 'Nessun Dorma?' Great, he can style his vocals for opera, but this really has no business on a Manowar album. Neither does 'An American Trilogy,' singing about Dixie is strange since aren't Manowar from New York? They do add the heavier explosive drums and synth passages at the end, but still it's a track I'd skip. And there are also two instrumentals, both of which are great but I would have preferred one more song. SO, despite these few things, there are at least 8 tracks of amazing, kick ass and anthemic power metal. The synths are used to surprisingly good effect, to bring out the Viking feeling, along with some multi vocal chanting. 'Swords Im The Wind' is a perfect anthemic ode to warrior Vikings, and 'Fight Until We Die' closes out this album perfectly. In between there are gems like 'Warriors Of The World United,' with thunderous drums, crunchy guitar riffs, and the usual melodic singing style going a bit harder edged. Check out the crazed assault of 'House Of Death' as well, which is a fast and furious ripper of a tune. Despite the good score, I wish Manowar would concentrate less on the ballad like pieces, after all, in this writer's opinion it's what made "Into Glory Ride" near painful to sit through, despite great anthems like 'Gloves Of Metal' and 'Warlord.' Still a must have for true metal fans.
Contact: Metal Blade Records.
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THE MUSHROOM RIVER BAND 'Simsalabim' (Meteor City) SCORE: 98/100

Holy shit! Tell me you didn't see this coming! When I first got the CD, and saw the wizards on the cover over some stars, I was expecting some stoner rock of the slower variety. When I listened, however, that explosive screaming voice and kick ass, in your face and smashing guitar work took me completely by surprise! And it dominates you all the way through the album, leave off any stoner tags and call this blatantly heavy, HEAVY rock! The guitar work throughout this album is absolutely amazing, not to mention HEAVY! To further prove this point, check out 'Make It Happen,' where the choruses are actually screamed, seemingly at the top of lead vocalist Spice's lungs! The only thing that really threw me for a loop was the harmonica playing on 'The Big Sick Machine,' hadda take a point or two for that as it didn't really sound like it belonged. You will be digging the choruses on 'Run, Run, Run,' though, and really jamming air guitar to the opening title track. There's some breaks to the madness, however, they do a nice set of acoustic passages once in awhile, these can be found on 'Change It' and 'Proud Of Being Cool,' and the lyrics are quite cool to read as well. What a monster of an album, something I relate more to the likes of Pawnshop than the usual roster of Meteor City greats.
Contact: Meteor City.

NATAS "Corsario Negro" (Small Stone) SCORE: 99/100

The CD and press kit show themselves calling themselves Los Natas for some reason, but we here at Vibrations of Doom will refer to them by the name they have gone under for some time, since we consider them to be Argentinian GODS of stoner/psychedelic rock. And after their split CD with Dragonauta last year, which I wasn't extremely crazy about, these 4 have redeemed themselves in unbelievable fashion! This album is an instant and remarkable classic. Once again, there are quite a few instrumental passages as well as much better vocal work this time around since the split CD last year. '2002' starts things off as one of their heaviest instrumental tunes yet, and production this time around was handled by Billy Anderson, yet another few points added to the mix! The guitar riffs are fuzzy and slightly distorted where they need to be, and the acoustics are dominant and clear sounding when THEY are called for. Like on 'Lei Motive,' where you hear some beautiful acoustic riffs and then the build comes to some fast heavy instrumentational jamming! As if that wasn't enough, they bring out a PIANO and start fast jamming with it. How much better can it get? 'Planeta Solitario' shows some electronically distorted vocal effects, though not laid on too thick like they did on one song from "Ciudad..." These tracks definitely know how to build momentum, keeping you constantly guessing and far from boring. 'Contemplando La Niebla' is a perfect example of this, with their slow vocal delivery and dominant guitar riffs. Despite all this, I did have a problem with 'Patas De Elefante,' and that was with the "whoah, whoas" which I heard a bit too frequently. Not enough to pass the song up, but it's enough to lose a point or two, unlike on "Ciudad..." where I had to lose a whole song. Coming from Argentina, it is great that a secure U.S. label has picked this up and a DAMN welcome treat for this writer's eyes AND ears.
Contact: Small Stone Records, P.O. Box 020007, Detroit, MI 48202 USA
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NONEXIST "Deus Deceptor" (Century Media) SCORE: 92/100

Licensed from something called New Hawen Records, Century Media once again scours the globe for impressive talent outside the U.S. And this CD sounds like a mixture of the Gothenberg sound with some rather unique rough vocals, rather a tad between At The Gates, black metal, and slight hardcore. It works, trust me! The songs are catchy as well, like 'Eaten Alive,' with some really choppy thrash riffs and dominant catchy chorus work. Then there's the beautiful but heavy high end guitar work starting off 'A Halo Askew' before they start rocking and pushing viciousness in the vocal and guitar department. Very good and catchy stuff! There's even a few nice instrumentals to change the pace a bit. 'Phantoms' was a killer track too, though I didn't care much for the overtly death metal styled vox and guitars in the chorus, it sounded a bit like overkill (the term, not the band). You'll find 'Delirious Tongues' to be a speedfest that has a very angry and vicious spirit, and you'll probably be hooked by the time the Gothenberg styled riffing of 'Idols & Fiends' comes around. I've been hooked on the choruses and vicious melodies this CD throws out, and hopefully you will too. It's heavy through and through, hell it's vicious through and through!
Contact: Century Media Records.

PAWNSHOP "Cruise 'O' Matic" (Beard Of Stars) SCORE: 91/100

I didn't know what to expect from this band, yet another group out of Norway that isn't playing black metal. Heavy, HEAVY rock is what we have here, and it reminds me a bit of what The Mushroom River band are doing, just plain, straightforward, kick ass heavy rock. Surprising in and of itself, since Beard Of Stars mostly caters to psychedelic/space and stoner rock. The vocals are shouted to a degree, rather like The Mushroom River band, but they don't mind putting in a bit more melodic passages, like the single note acoustics bringing in the end track 'Living Zombie.' Likewise, though still heavy, the title track has a rather laid back vibe but is still no less heavy. I only had beef with a few things; 'Year Of Pleasure' had some really odd higher ended lead guitar parts, and 'Mean Machine' had some strange cowbell notes and was a bit "country-fied" sounding. They still crank the heaviness out though, but in his vocal delivery he's coming off a bit twangy, for lack of a better word. 'Space Cadillacs' is another slow tune, but they definitely know how to make catchy choruses and some jamming instrumentation. Definitely check this out.
Contact: Beard Of Stars
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PRIMAL FEAR "Black Sun" (Nuclear Blast) SCORE: 63/100

I must say I'm still not overtly impressed with the latest offering from Priest soundalikes Primal Fear. After the prerequisite intro, we're down to business. Some of the songs have shown a bit of improvement over 'Nuclear Fire,' but still offer no real heavy hitters, save for 'Revolution.' This is about as anthemic and dynamic a song as I've ever heard Primal Fear write. Kick ass to the nines, it's a shame Primal Fear couldn't write more songs like this. Ralf Scheepers' main problem is he doesn't really know when it sounds better to dip higher or better to stay at a lower range. More than half the problem with this CD is the timing of his vocal range. For example, 'Fear' shows him using a vocal style that for some reason seems to clash with the faster instrumentation going throughout the song, while the chorus work on 'Magic Eye' sounded a bit off, especially if the vocals are multi tracked. And 'Mind Machine' surprised me greatly with the heaviest instrumentation on the album, but the higher end vocals really clash here. Still, there are some good moments besides the one mentioned above: 'Lightyears From Home' had fast but melodic guitar work, and Ralf's vocal work was equally accomodating and dominant. 'We Go Down' had a synth line right out of Priest's 'Nightcrawler,' but also had the distinction of being a heavier, more anthemic tune with good vocal structure, though the track isn't near as good as 'Revolution.' 'Mind Control' similarly was a decent track. Overall, this band is probably going to have it's career plagued as a Priest clone, but if they could make more dynamic, anthemic tracks like the ones I mentioned above, neither I nor anyone else will care as long as the album can kick ass from start to finish. A bit of an improvement, but still needs work.
Contact: Nuclear Blast Records.

RAGE "Unity" (SPV/Steamhammer) SCORE: 83/100

Man, oh man was I glad to see this in my mailbox! I even tracked the band down for an interview, as I loved the way they mixed speed metal, power metal and just some overall kick ass melodies with their "Perfect Man" album back in the 80's. Unfortunately for me, "Perfect Man" was the only exposure to Rage I had ever had, besides the Avenger stuff they put out even earlier. Their newest album "Unity" is definitely no "Perfect Man," but it has many strong points that stand out. First off, you may be surprised to hear the opener 'All I Want' showcase Peavey Wagner, the only original member left, doing a death metal growl! He doesn't do this very often, hardly at all, but it does give one a shock! This album definitely borders on the dark and heavy, but still has the multi vocal filled melodic choruses that have been a trademark on their 1988 masterpiece "Perfect Man." The subject matter is still just as dark, one only has to listen to the lyrics on 'World Of Pain' and 'Down' to know that! 'Down,' incidentally, has some low toned vocal work and is a kick ass middle finger to the establishment as Peavey puts it. Quite simply, these tunes rock. The experimentation phase with the classical and operatic styles that they did on a few previous albums did not work well here, the song 'Dies Irae' had really offkey operatic style choruses that did NOT fit well with the heavier instrumentation. 'Seven Deadly Sins,' likewise, was a bit overbearing with the heaviness, as if he had a point to prove. However, when he is writing what I call the standard Rage formula, songs like 'Insanity,' 'Down,' and 'Living My Dream' make you feel weighted down with the heavy and almost thrashy guitar riffs, only to be pleasantly surprised when the choruses catch you off guard with amazing catchiness and melody. The trio now is comprised of a German, a Russian and an American (guess what the founding member's nationality is) and the musicianship has never been tighter, the songs definitely show a great working relationship between the three. Not quite up to par with "Perfect Man," however even that album had a few blemishes, but this album is a damn solid effort in it's own right.
Contact: SPV/Steamhammer.

RHAPSODY "Power Of The Dragonflame" (Limb Music) SCORE: 97/100

This is allegedly the last volume in the storyline that has carried on for about 4 albums now, so I'm wondering where they go from here. Rhapsody this time around has created a masterpiece that is markedly heavier than their previous efforts, while still carrying the traditions and sounds over from gems like "Symphony Of Enchanted Lands" and "Dawn Of Victory." In fact, 'Knightrider Of Doom' comes off a bit like 'Holy Thunderforce' from the "Dawn Of Victory" album, with the fast guitar work, dominant synths and of course the multi vocal choruses both male and female that are a bit operatic. 'The March Of The Swordmaster' starts off a bit like 'Village Of Dwarves' from a previous album, with the medieval instrumentation, and you know Rhapsody isn't afraid to drag out pianos, acoustic guitar riffs, but the most dynamic part of the album is of course the vocal work, which has gotten a LOT heavier. As always, the vocal work from the lead singer borders on being strained, but somehow he always manages to keep himself in check, this vocal work is a very demanding performance, as you can no doubt hear from song to song. And I had sincerely hoped we would be rid of that annoying narrator, and until the very last track I thought we were. As long as they have this goofball of a "performer" doing narration, a Rhapsody CD will never be able to get a perfect 100 score. Thankfully, his wailing is even more limited this time around, confined to the 19 minute epic closeout track 'Gargoyles, Angels Of Darkness.' There is one track that is mostly operatic vocal styles, 'Lamento Eroico,' which I enjoyed a bit more than the opera styled tune found on Manowar's disc, simply because it's done in a heavier style and the vocal work is more dominant, but I still have to voice my slight displeasure for a straightforward opera piece. I dig it when it's mixed in with heavier instrumentation, which is why Rhapsody does a more tolerable job with this. A masterpiece to say the least, it is a necessary listen even if you didn't care for the other releases, this is their heaviest work yet!
Contact: Limb Music.

SIDEBURN "Trying To Burn The Sun" (Beard Of Stars) SCORE: 56/100

I must admit the whole concept of this band was rather strange. Points have to be given, majorly I might add, for the fuzzed out, heavy guitar work that is presented on MANY of the songs, and when there aren't any quirks, tracks like 'Planet Of Doom' (which is the best song on here) and 'Rainmaker' tend to be jam fests. The main problem is that there is so much quirky stuff going on here; sometimes the vocals will be too dominant for the instrumentation, or sometimes the instrumentation will take on a rather odd quality, like the almost embarassing twangy opening guitar riffs on 'Burn.' The lyrics can definitely be a distraction, though it has to be noted that the themes running throughout seem to be from a hippy's perspective. Normally I don't care about lyrics, but when I hear a song like 'Doin Fine' where he's yelling "Doin' fine with my lady, doin' fine with my baby..." well, you get the picture. 'Sweet Love Of Youth' has a fantastic chorus line, but I can't ever get to it because of all the sappy multi vocal work that is in the main lines of the song. What's really sad though is that this record could be so much better than it is if the group as a whole would just tighten things up. 'Ceremony' starts the track off with some beautiful acoustic riffs, and the vocal work is definitely in line; not too mellow but not too rough either. 'Sideburn' is a rather slow, ultra doomy passage, probably one of their heaviest, but I can't seem to get into it for reasons beyond the vocals that tend to be way too loud for the tone the music sets. Not a horrible release, somewhere between the spirit of the 60's generation and stoner/doom rock, but not one I'd rave about either.
Contact: Beard Of Stars

SONS OF OTIS "Songs For Worship" (The Music Cartel) SCORE: 91/100

Everyone should remember how I raved about this band from Canada over their last two full lengths, and after Man's Ruin folded I somehow envisioned the group joining this label. This is a very good effort, but I must admit it's not my alltime favorite Otis album. The slow, doomy stoner rock that incorporates spacey effects and heavy downtuned riffs is still to be found, in fact when you hear a Sons of Otis song, even if you don't know it, you recognize the band playing it. 'The Hunted' starts this off in quite a slow fashion, and be prepared to see songs exceeding the 6 minute mark here. One thing about Sons Of Otis is the bass on your stereo will need to be adjusted, as the thunderous rumblings continue on from track to track. The cool swirling and echoed guitar effects continue on with the tune 'Losin' It,' and this song shows a more upbeat set of instrumentation this time around. The vocals are definitely becoming more of a factor in the music of Sons Of Otis, all but one song features rather extensive vocal work, though depending on your stereo's settings, are still for the most part nearly buried in the background. 'Cold City Blues' is a highlight for me, for amongst the doomy rumblings are some neat higher ended blues styled guitar riffs which add an interesting take to the usual formula that has been presented over three albums and a demo tape. 'In From The Storm' has those wacky swirling and echoed guitar riffs, and 'I'm Gone' has to be one of the heaviest and angriest tunes here, harkening back to the days of 'Spacejumbofudge.' A Sons Of Otis album is still a good album it seems, but this newest release seems to be more of a mixture of ideas from the first two records while containing none of either's elements in their entirety, so the formula isn't totally abandoned, just reworked and tweaked a bit. Still recommended.
Contact: The Music Cartel.
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TEARABYTE "Embrace Oblivion" (Screaming Ferret) SCORE: 79/100

I first saw these guys at the Jersey Metalfest, and was impressed at their power thrash meets 80's styled power metal. The CD has very little of the higher edged vocals, but it does have that crazy 'Screaming Pig' song they played live! The lyrical content on some of this is kinda silly, at least where that song and 'Pissing Contest' are concerned, but what keeps drawing me to this CD is the downtuned riffing that starts opener 'Road Rage' out. Downtuned to the point where you think you'll hear Obuituary or Carcass styled vocals come out. The majority of the songs are done at such a downtuned pace, you almost think there's no life in this CD, but the guitar work and the aggressive stances of the music keep you coming back for more. Plus the guitar work is often taking me back to the glory days of 80's thrash. If you're used to faster material from bands like Soilwork, Dark Tranquility or Carnal Forge/centinex/Behemoth, this may be hard to get through. If you can stick around, though, songs like 'One More Day' and the Faith Or Fear styled thrash of 'Price Of Evil.' It doesn't jump out at you, doesn't get hellfire and aggression, but it definitely holds it's own. I didn't care much for 'Pissing Contest' with the weak chorus work and a bit slower than THEIR usual instrumentation, and though the cover song 'Ring Of Fire' was rather fun and an unusual choice (I believe it's a Johnny Cash song), I don't think I'll be spinning it too much. 'Under The Sand' REALLY suffers from medocrity, while the lyrics on 'Lash Of The Gash' make this a bit harder to sit through than most (Despite the fact that this song has some vicious thrash guitar work!) Still, despite a lower score than most other discs I rave about, there's plenty that will keep you interested for more than a spin or two.
Contact: Screamin Ferret Wreckords, P.O. Box 56 Hillsboro, NH 03244
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VALLEY'S EVE "Deception Of Pain" (Limb Music) SCORE: 82/100

Somehow this reminds me of Burning Point in a way, it's like the heavier side of thrash on the guitar work, with a singer that actually has a range. Though said vocalist here goes low at times, it's never to growl range. That being said, the first three songs 'The Fire Burns,' 'Point Of No Return,' and 'The Sun' all start out heavy on the guitar work, though 'Point Of No Return' is a bit slower of the three. It's the heavy instrumentation while showcasing power metal styled vocals and catchy choruses thing, which I always dig. 'In Your Head' DEFINITELY reminds me of Burning Point, and it doesn't seem to be a coincidence that both bands are signed to Limb, I think this is the kind of music Limb music seeks out on a regular basis. 'Mirror In Your Eyes' didn't impress me as much, the choruses didn't sit well with me, and the almost ballad like feel they went for with the acoustic guitars definitely clashed with the heavier singing. Awkward moment there! 'Dark Room,' same thing, except they are going for a slow, dark and eerie feeling, the vocals are just too dominantly heavy for this to work. 'Creating Gods' is catchy as hell, and the acoustic breakdown thing actually works here. 'Falling' takes a different path from most of the other songs, with more uptempo guitars and song structures; it's very catchy and not drenched in heaviness. The albums starts to dip a bit by the last few songs, most notably 'Unholy Power' with some strange guitar tones. If you liked Burning Point, you should be able to get into this as well, but as I stated there are a few songs that venture along a strange path. Still, for a 13 song CD (there's a bonus track after the 12th), you can't complain too much.
Contact: Limb Music.

WOLF "Black Wings" (No Fashion) SCORE:67/100

I must admit I was taken aback when I first started listening to this CD! This couldn't be the ultra melodic and cool singer Niklas Olsson who did such a marvelous job with the first Wolf CD! But alas, it is, and the problem with this CD lies squarely with the vocalist. Songs like 'Demon Bell' and 'Unholy Night' are two examples of songs that were difficult to sit through due to the change in sound of the vocals. I can't for the life of me figure out why the guy sounds so damn different on this album, I think the answer lies in the fact that vocal effects were used to give him a "darker" tone. His higher pitched delivery is fine here, in fact one of their best songs 'Genocide' shows Niklas hitting higher notes for the most part, but then again to be fair the best instrumentation is on this song and the tempo and atmosphere is kick ass all the way around. The guitar work continues to be a highlight through damn near every song, from the beautiful lead solos on 'Venom' to the faster song structures of 'I Am The Devil' and 'Night Stalker.' I can't say the singer sounds terrible, but he has this rather ragged edge especially when he sings at a lower range and it really didn't sit well with me. I didn't find all the instrumentation to be superb, either, like on 'A World Bewitched.' Their NWOBHM styled instrumentation for the most part is quite dominant and true to form, but I can't help feeling that if Niklas sang like he did on the first album, things would have been much better. Their Mercyful Fate cover 'A Dangerous Meeting' was a bad idea, as the chorus work is very weak, something Wolf never had a problem with in the past, and the higher ended screams at the end of this song show just how offkey he can REALLY get. Raving about 'Genocide,' and able to tolerate many other songs in smaller doses, this CD was a bigger disappointment than the score will actually show.
Contact: No Fashion Records.

WOLFEN SOCIETY "Conquer Divine" (House Of Death) SCORE: 36/100

I was personally handed this CD by Lord Ahrimand of Dark Funeral when they played here in Atlanta. And when the first tune hit, 'Conquer Divine,' I was mightily impressed. Vicious death vocals from one Vincent Crowley of Acheron fame, backed with the ripping guitar work of Lord Ahrimand and leads coming from none other than Electric Hellfire club axeman Ricktor Ravensbruck! Kyle from Incantation also makes an appearance. It's a shame the other three songs on this EP aren't as promising as the lead cut, but there's just too much I can't get into. 'Blood Oath' is more of a speed tune, taking away some of the power that the opening track had, though they do throw in some killer slower leads here and there. They overdid it with the sound sample (I still have NO idea what that sound is, sounds like wolves breathing up close maybe?) and overall this is a mediocre tune. 'Life Is War' REALLY didn't work for me, it's a very slow, dragged out tune that Crowley's vocals don't help along at all. The overuse of howling wolves tended to get annoying as well, and I definitely had to pass on this. The last tune is a cover of Carnivore's 'Race War,' which sounded rather silly, especially when Crowley dips as low as he possibly can on the choruses. Even the synths seemed out of place, and though this is only a 4 track EP, I would still like to see if this most unlikely of side projects can tighten the sound and style up and create a decent full length.
Contact: House Of Death Records, P.O. Box 2892, Joilet, IL 60434-2892 USA
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