August 31, 2018

This Is Hell - Sundowning (2006)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hardcore Punk
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© 2006 Trustkill Records
*No professional reviews available for this release.

tags: this is hell, sundowning, 2006, flac,

This Is Hell - Misfortunes (2008)

*European release with an alternative cover. Contains 1 bonus track and 14 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hardcore Punk
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© 2008 Trustkill/SPV GmbH
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
With all the mucky-muck that passes off as hardcore (pre- or post-, emo, Elmo, or screamo) in the late 2000s, Long Island, NY's This Is Hell actually achieve some distinction through balance, neither confining themselves inside the genre's unbending dull-as-cardboard basics nor losing their cool with gratuitous musical flailing and hysterical vocalizing. Their second album for Trustkill, 2008's Misfortunes doesn't reinvent the wheel by any stretch, but it does improve upon its immediate predecessor on pretty much all fronts: songwriting, execution, righteous fury, and those all-important gang shouts. Whether they're tackling full-throttle mosh-pit instigators like "Reckless" and "Without Closure," indulging in a breakdown or two for "Infected" and "Remnants," or injecting incremental melody into album standouts "Disciples" and "End of an Era," This Is Hell generally keep listeners engaged in areas where most competitors would have them drooling into pillows or tearing their hair out in irritation. OK, so things get progressively less interesting as the album wears on, but Misfortunes still averages out well above This Is Hell's hapless competition, quality-wise, which bodes well both for hardcore fans and the group's imminent future.

tags: this is hell, misfortunes, 2008, flac,

August 30, 2018

Arrested Development - Zingalamaduni (1994)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 1994 Chrysalis, ERG
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
The follow-up to Arrested Development's hugely acclaimed debut, Zingalamaduni was something of a letdown, and not just because conscious rap's moment in the sun was over for the time being. The record is simply less exciting, falling prey to too many aimless grooves that don't always capture the effortless earthiness of the debut's best moments. That's a shame, because there are subtle progressions on the group's signature sound. There's more frequent and explicit use of African musical elements, especially chanting; that reflects a slightly more Afrocentric viewpoint in the lyrics (not to mention the album's title, which is Swahili for "beehive of culture"), which tones down the sunny positivity of the debut somewhat. A few cuts are jazzier than anything on the debut, yet the overall lack of focus produces too many lackluster-to-average moments. The best tracks are a match for their counterparts on 3 Years... (save for "Tennessee"); songs like "Mr. Landlord," "Ache'n for Acres," "Praisin' U," and the catchy "In the Sunshine" illustrate why some critics found reasons to like Zingalamaduni that weren't purely intellectual. But overall, it failed to captivate Arrested Development's audience the way its predecessor had. Not until the ascendance of the Fugees would another group command the level of critical and commercial respect that Arrested Development had in its prime.

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Trouble - Run To The Light (1987)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Doom Metal
Style: Traditional Doom
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© 1987 Enigma Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Following a two year hiatus which saw them ushering in a new rhythm section, Chicago's Trouble returned to recording in 1987, and emerged with what would prove to be their third and final album for Metal Blade, Run to the Light. And, to fans of a band that had previously staunchly subscribed to the sonic aesthetic of early-'70s heavy metal, the synthesizers used on the album's opening number, "The Misery Shows," seemed like a troubling admission of the '80s encroaching technological reality. Luckily, those church organ-like synths really were just an introduction, after which both that song and its aptly named follow-up, "Thinking of the Past," quickly reestablished Trouble's familiar guitar-riff-centric blueprint of old -- albeit at unprecedented high speeds. That blueprint (fast and doom-slow) continued to hold sway thereafter, with just a little more synth-play (this time intoning the death march!) to be found prefacing the convoluted "On Borrowed Time" (which sounded like several song ideas clumsily mashed together) and, later on, closer "The Beginning" (featuring baroque, Munsters-inspired harpsichords). In between, Trouble balanced a pair of decidedly average offerings in "Born in a Prison" and "Tuesday's Child," with another pair of stellar ones; namely the face-melting, six-string tour de force of peacenik anthem "Peace of Mind," and the somber majesty of the part-acoustic, part electric power chord monolith of a title track. Sadly, Run to the Light's uneven song selection and befuddling commercial failure brought Trouble to the edge of a precipice from which they'd only just manage to step back from -- in triumphant fashion, one should note -- a whole three years later, thanks to their stunning eponymous comeback album for Def American.

tags: trouble, run to the light, 1987, flac,

Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind (Limited Edition) (2012)

*Contains 3 bonus tracks. 17 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Metalcore, Hardcore
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© 2012 Epitaph
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger
2009's Axe to Fall saw Boston-based hardcore kings Converge enlisting a small but deadly army of co-conspirators, doubling down on their already ferocious sound with newfound malevolence. All We Love We Leave Behind, the group’s eighth studio album, manages to summon that same level of intensity without the aid of a single mercenary. Fans dropping the needle for the first time may be put off by the opener "Aimless Arrow," which finds vocalist Jacob Bannon trading in his atonal, guttural wail for a semi-melodious, albeit unhinged croon, but the one-two punch that follows ("Trespasses" and "Tender Abuse") should assuage any fears of a seismic stylistic sea change. The slow burn, doom metal structuring and surprisingly melodic, almost choir-like chorus of "Coral Blue" surprise as well, but the remaining 12 tracks are pure, unadulterated Converge, standing toe to toe with the band's best work. "Glacial Pace," with its doom-laden, shoegaze intro and refrain of "If being alive is just to survive/a glacial pace comes to an end" and "Sadness Comes Home," with its fleet guitar work and complex architecture, display a musicality that sets the band apart from its many imitators. What Converge has always done masterfully is to fuse the cyclonic, mosh-pit chaos of punk with the unrelenting precision of thrash, and blistering, cuts like "Vicious Muse," "Shame in the Way," and "Sparrow's Fall" deliver that mission statement in bloody, two minute bursts that further cements the group's reputation as the Webster's definition of American hardcore.

tags: converge, all we love we leave behind, limited edition, 2012, flac,

Converge - Axe To Fall (2009)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Metalcore, Hardcore
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© 2009 Epitaph
AllMusic Review by Phil Freeman
Converge's eighth studio album is packed with guest performances by kindred spirits from Massachusetts and beyond. "Effigy," one of four songs on the album that comes in under the two-minute mark, features Steve Brodsky and Adam McGrath of Cave In on guitar and that group's drummer, J.R. Conners, behind the kit. Uffe Cederlund of Disfear takes over lead guitar on "Wishing Well," while Steve Von Till of Neurosis sings on "Cruel Bloom" and Genghis Tron' Mookie Singerman does guest vocals on the seven-minute album closer, "Wretched World." But it's the core group that delivers the most astonishing displays of hardcore fury and progressive musical exploration on Axe to Fall. Opening cut "Dark Horse," propelled by a Disfear-esque riff so insane it'll make you think your CD is playing at the wrong speed, kicks off a breathless sprint that lasts all the way to the doomy, noisy fifth track, "Worms Will Feed." From there, Converge continues to mine the dissonant blend of Agnostic Front and Unsane that has served them so well for years at this point. Though Jacob Bannon's vocals are as indecipherable as ever, this album somehow feels even angrier -- and that rage is apparently more outwardly directed, given track titles like "Slave Driver" and "Wretched World" -- than previous releases like Jane Doe and You Fail Me. Given the furious pace at which they tour, record, and work with their various side bands, it's astonishing that Converge have time to put this much thought into their music instead of just cranking out one more rote album, but Axe to Fall is a big step forward for them.

tags: converge, axe to fall, 2009, flac,

SWV - Still (Target Exclusive) (2016)

*Target retail store release. Contains 3 bonus live tracks. 13 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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© 2016 Mass Appeal Entertainment/eOne
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
Part of what made I Missed Us a remarkable return for SWV was the freshness of the material and lack of forced-sounding references to the group's past. A fair portion of Still, released almost four years later, doesn't have those qualities in its favor, and the level of song quality isn't quite as high. Producer and songwriter Cainon Lamb, who brought so much to I Missed Us, once again works closely with the group, as does associate Derrick "Bigg D" Baker, along with a small cast of additional contributors. "MCE (Man Crush Everyday)," a sparkling slow jam, is among SWV's best, while the throwback ballad "When Love Didn't Hurt" and relatively contemporary "Miss You" are close behind it. Other songs are more likely to make a listener think of SWV's catalog or songs by other artists. "Still" sets the tone, relying upon a hook of "I'm still into you" to such a heavy extent -- in clear reference to "I'm So Into You," one of the group's biggest early hits -- that it lacks an identity of its own. Samples and references to the likes of Patrice Rushen, the James Ingram-fronted Zingara, the Four Tops, and Amy Winehouse are so frequent that they seem less like mixtape-style playfulness and more like substitutions for original ideas. Additionally, a DJ Mustard facsimile -- a bid to fit in with contemporary R&B radio -- doesn't sound right, either. Had this been SWV's 2010s return, it would have been adequate, but it's a lengthy backward stride from I Missed Us.

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SWV - I Missed Us (2012)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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© 2012 eOne/Mass Apeal Entertainment
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
I Missed Us doesn't sound like the work of a group that went 15 years without releasing a studio album. For their first proper studio set since 1997's Release Some Tension, SWV signed with eOne and worked extensively with Cainon Lamb (aka Lamb), co-producer of Keyshia Cole's "Let It Go," Jazmine Sullivan's "Need U Bad," Monica's "Everything to Me," and Beyoncé's "Countdown." Looking at that broad mix of contemporary songs from exceptional female R&B artists, it's obvious that Lamb and SWV are well suited for one another. Lamb wrote and produced the album's first nine songs; he seems to have approached the women as if they don't have a history and have no expectations beyond delivering a high-quality 2012 R&B album. What throwback twists exist -- like the Bob James sample in "All About You" and the use of Rufus & Chaka Khan's disco-funk classic "Do You Love What You Feel" in "Do Ya" -- have nothing to do with attempting to relive SWV's past. In fact, the only aspect that resembles the past is the women's voices. There are some impeccable arrangements, best heard on the confrontational and seductive "Better Than I" (also a trunk rattler) and the theatrical ballad "Keep You Home." The four songs with other collaborators almost seem like bonus tracks, given the strength of the 34-minute Lamb portion, but they don't sound all that out of place. A stormy cover of Patti LaBelle's hit 1983 ballad "If Only You Knew" puts an exclamation point on one of the best comeback albums of the last decade.

tags: swv, i missed us, 2012, flac,

August 29, 2018

The B.U.M.S. - Lyfe 'N' Tyme (1995)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 1995 Priority Records
AllMusic Review by Daevid Jehnzen
The BUMS debut album Lyfe 'N' Tyme is a rough, vicious collection of West Coast gangsta hip-hop, following the G-Funk tradition of Dr. Dre. It has its weak spots -- the production isn't imaginative and many of the tracks fall flat -- but the crew shows great promise; they are charismatic and talented enough to not make the album's flaws noticeable.

tags: the bums, b.u.m.s., lyfe n tyme, life n time, 1995, flac,

Trouble - Psalm 9 (1984)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Doom Metal
Style: Traditional Doom
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© 1984-1994 Metal Blade Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
A huge throwback to the '70s in every sense (looks, sound, etc.), Chicago's Trouble had little hope of fitting into the various mid-'80s heavy metal scenes. Instead the band were busy updating the genre's prehistoric doom teachings for the new decade, beginning with their eponymous debut, later re-baptized Psalm 9. First track, "The Tempter," immediately set the revisionist tone: opening with a plodding, monolithic riff which only grudgingly allowed the song to break into its chugging gallop, while clearly setting Trouble apart from their heroes in Black Sabbath with its pro-God lyrics. Except for this basic but crucial difference of perspective, issues of Heaven and Hell still pervaded much of the album, and ranged from obvious near-sermonizing like "Revelation (Life or Death)" and "Fall of Lucifer," to rather more discreet material such as "Assassin" and "Bastards Will Pay." And even though there were consistently strong combination of elegant melodies and thunderous riffs throughout, some of Psalm 9's biggest surprises were saved for last, as the instrumental "Endtime" prefaced a straight-up reading of the Bible passage that lends the album its name, and, finally, a faithful cover of Cream's "Tales of Brave Ulysses." Don't let all of these understandable English influences confuse you though, for Psalm 9 was undoubtedly one of the opening salvos of a truly American-bred doom style. [The CD was also released with a bonus DVD featuring live footage and band interviews.]

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Trouble - Simple Mind Condition (2007)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Doom Metal
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© 2007 Escapi Music Group, AB
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Trouble's much anticipated comeback following nearly a decade of inactivity, Simple Mind Condition was unfortunately commercially stillborn upon release because of their new label, Escapi Music's, inability to get it into record stores in most territories, including the U.S. -- nice going, geniuses! For those who actually managed to secure an import copy, however, Trouble's seventh album does not disappoint -- but then it doesn't always shock and awe, either. Rather, the band's reunited core lineup of vocalist Eric Wagner, guitarists Bruce Franklin and Rick Wartell, drummer Jeff Olson, plus new bassist Chuck Robinson, turns in a solid, sometimes stellar, sometimes flawed new set of songs, bearing very few surprises (like the abnormally rockin' "Pictures of Life," the piano-enhanced "The Beginning of Sorrows," and a first ever cover version: Lucifer's Friend's "Ride the Sky"), yet, more importantly, remaining commendably faithful to Trouble's signature sound. This, as loyal followers can attest, lives and dies with Franklin and Wartell's unmistakable tones of doom, which, as expected (and hoped for), take center stage throughout Simple Mind Condition. In fact, the pair's elephantine riffs, telepathic dual harmonies, and tag-team soloing, both dominate and define standout tracks like "Seven," "Trouble Maker," "If I Only Had a Reason," and the heart-rending ballad "After the Rain," but none of these would be Trouble without Wagner's, distinctive growls and mournful wails weaving in their midst. Longtime fans will notice that the group's parallel penchant for psychedelic explorations (taken to extremes on arguably their best-known album, Manic Frustration) are at an all time low on this occasion, and Trouble unwittingly bootleg both their past work on portions of the title cut and "Pictures of Life," and on first single "Mindbender," '70s hard rockers Nazareth's "Hair of the Dog." In conjunction with their label's distribution doldrums, the above mixed qualities are unlikely to push Trouble to superstardom after all these years; but considering how long they'd been away, Simple Mind Condition still represents an overwhelmingly positive return to action, and will easily satisfy the band's devoted fans.

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Various Artists - The Show: The Soundtrack (1995)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop, R&B
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© 1995 Def Jam Records
AllMusic Review by Andrew Hamilton
A kicking CD represented by heavies and newbies. You have everything from the socially significant raps of 2 Pac's on "My Block" to the barroom bravado strut of "What's Up Star" by Suga. Other standout numbers are by LL Cool J, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Tray D/So Sentrelle, Issac 2 Issac, Treach, and the Dove Shack. Excellent for listeners who get bored listening to the same artist; the 27 tracks are a helluva bargain.

tags: various artists, the show the soundtrack, ost, 1995, flac,

SWV - It's About Time (1992)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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© 1992 RCA, BMG Records
AllMusic Review by Ron Wynn
SWV (Sisters With Voices) electrified the urban contemporary world with It's About Time. Their deep, sensual harmonies, sometimes naughty lyrics and aggressive style immediately struck a responsive chord, particularly among male fans. Their CD shows their versatility, as they handled New Jack tunes, romantic ballads like "It's About Time," and sassy, innuendo-laden fare such as "Blak Pudd'n" and "That's What I Need." Their hits "Weak" and "Right Here" had the same blend of heat and vulnerability that underscore the best En Vogue material, and even though this CD was padded by remixes and repeats, it was still among the finest debuts issued in 1992.

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SWV - New Beginning (1996)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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© 1996 RCA Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
As a title, New Beginning may be something of an overstatement -- after all, it is only SWV's second album. Nevertheless, the group does take a different approach on New Beginning, backing away from the New Jack grooves that dominated their debut and exploring a more direct, organic R&B vibe. They haven't left hip-hop behind, but they've added a new array of sonic textures that gives their music added depth. But the true strength of New Beginning is the vocal capabilities of SWV -- they can handle smooth soul like "Don't Waste Your Time" as easily as the funk of "Whatcha Need." There may be a couple of weak spots on the album, but the trio's considerable talents make those moments easy to forgive.

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SWV - Release Some Tension (1997)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: R&B
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© 1997 RCA Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
With their third album, SWV attempt to break away from the slick urban straitjacket and return to their hip-hop roots. In order to achieve their goal, the group hired a head-spinning array of producers and collaborators -- not only does Sean "Puffy" Combs produce and rap, but Snoop Doggy Dogg, Missy Elliott, Foxy Brown, Lil' Kim, Lil' Caesar, E-40, and Redman all appear on the album. Considering all the extra starpower, it's not all that surprising that SWV occasionally become overwhelmed by their guests, but that doesn't prevent Release Some Tension from being a solid album, particularly when it's propelled by funky singles like "Someone" and sweet grooves like "Rain" and "Here for You."

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August 28, 2018

Reverend Bizarre - In The Rectory of The Bizarre Reverend (2005 Remastered Edition)

*Reissued and remastered in 2005 by Season of Mist. Contains a bonus disc titled "Return To The Rectory" that includes 7 tracks.
Country: Finland
Language: English
Genre: Doom Metal
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                     *****
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© 2002-2005 Season of Mist ‎
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Curiously, of all the major heavy metal subgenres steadily embraced by Finnish bands starting in the early ‘90s (black metal, death metal, power metal, folk metal, you name it), doom seemed to be the last to arrive in a significant way. Whether this was a matter of simple coincidence, or because it's much more difficult to stay warm when playing music so damn slow, virtually all that the snow-bound country could muster before the turn of the millennium were obscure funeral doom trawlers Skepticism and the heavily gothic-leaning Shapes of Despair. But at last, Lucifer said "Let there be Reverend Bizarre": a Sabbath-worshipping trio whose 2002 long-form debut, In the Rectory of the Bizarre Reverend, championed vintage doom of the highest order. You know, the kind that comes with very large crosses, much standing around in snow-covered graveyards, frequent references to Aleister Crowley, and, most important of all, very large and scary goats…as seen on this album's cover detail taken from Francisco de Goya's Witches Sabbath. All this proves the perfect framework for monolithic tracks like "Burn in Hell!" and "Sodoma Sunrise," where the band treats every majestic mega-riff as though it's both the first and last they'll ever play, and where Albert Witchfinder's vibrato-laden, semi-operatic vocals (he doesn't bother with deathly grunts until second to last track "Doomsower") don't quite challenge a Messiah Marcolin, but still prove far more melodramatic than a Bobby Liebling or certainly Ozzy himself. Meanwhile, the song "In the Rectory" recalls Cathedral for sheer, slow-crawling concentration, and the especially sorrowful "The Hour of Death" Electric Wizard for its unmitigated sense of imminent dread. And it's a testament to the strength of Reverend Bizarre's power chords and melodies that one doesn't even start to mind the preposterous lengths of most of these tracks until the final, titanic, 21-minute grind of "Cirith Ungol" (no relation to the ‘80s L.A. band). Given that these mere six, colossal tracks were packed into a CD-busting 75 minutes, it's no wonder that In the Rectory of the Bizarre Reverend managed to announce Reverend Bizarre -- and really Finland's -- true arrival on the international doom stage.

tags: reverend bizarre, in the rectory of the bizarre reverend, 2002, 2005, remaster, flac,

The Human League - Reproduction (1979)

*Second CD pressing with Stereo sound. The CD pressings contain 17 tracks total.

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Synth Pop, Electronic
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© 1979-1989 Virgin Records
AllMusic Review by John Bush
Pop fans a bit put off by the Human League's dispassionate vocals on their breakout hit "Don't You Want Me" would have been shocked by the degree of emotionlessness heard two years earlier on the band's 1979 debut. The trio of Ian Craig Marsh, Martyn Ware, and Philip Oakey all handled vocals and synthesizers to create a set of grim, rigid tracks that revealed a greater lack of humanity than even Kraftwerk. It's a surprise that the Human League hit the British charts at all (with the single "Empire State Human"), since this could well be the most detached synth pop record ever released.

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Various Artists - Colors (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (1988)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop, Funk
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© 1988 Warner Bros. Records
AllMusic Review by Ted Mills
One of the earliest gangsta rap albums, propelled by an exploitative cop film and the following media frenzy about movie violence and the glamorization of criminals. Most of these tracks had been previously released, but here now were such tracks as Ice-T's brutal title track, Big Daddy Kane's "Raw," and M.C. Shan's "A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste" in one friendly package, and suddenly middle America knew about the Crips and the Bloods. It's a solid album, with only one out of place song: Decadent Dub Team's "Six Gun" (with the film's star Sean Penn on uncredited vocals), which sounds like filler. Highlight of the whole thing: Coldcut's infamous remix of Eric B. and Rakim's "Paid in Full," which no rap collection should be without.

tags: various artists, colors original motion picture soundtrack, 1988, flac, ost,

August 27, 2018

Crumbsuckers - Beast On My Back (1988) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hardcore
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☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© 1988 Combat
AllMusic Review by Jason Anderson
With the release of Beast on My Back, New York's Crumbsuckers tossed aside their hardcore associations, choosing instead to fully commit to metal. The term thrash doesn't fully describe the tone of this 1988 sophomore full-length. The dense guitar harmonies and rapid-fire power chords combine with an unceasing vocal croak that brings to mind Florida's burgeoning death metal scene of the time. Some technically challenging double-kick drum performances -- about ten times faster than "Rejuvenate" -- are all that is needed to complete this offering's genre shift away from hardcore. When compared to the precise guitar parts, the drumming on Beast on My Back lacks definition. This gives the otherwise-impressive metal disc an unbalanced feel. There is no such problem on highlights like "Jimmies Dream," with its straight-up thrash, or the dynamic "Remembering Tomorrow." But ultimately, some conceptual ambiguity weighs heavily on this 1988 recording: a surprisingly progressive, but ultimately disappointing effort.

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Cro-Mags - Best Wishes (1989) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hardcore, Crossover Thrash
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☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© 1989 Profile Records
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
What would Lemmy Kilmister and Motörhead have sounded like if they'd been influenced by the Hare Krishna sect and the beliefs of Hinduism? They might have sounded like New York's unorthodox thrash metal/punk outfit the Cro-Mags, whose Best Wishes rocks ferociously while expressing a very Hindu viewpoint. The CD's cover contains some distinctly Indian art, and songs like "Age of Quarrel," "Crush the Demoniac," and "Days of Confusion" were clearly inspired by the Bhagavad-Gita and other Hindu scriptures. The New Yorkers may see the violent, chaotic world around them as a living hell, but their overall message is one of hope and optimism. The Cro-Mags do see better days ahead -- even if one has to go through various reincarnations in order to find them. Of course, a headbanger doesn't have to embrace Hinduism in order to appreciate Best Wishes -- whatever one's spiritual beliefs, this is a band that rocks without hesitation.

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Cro-Mags - Near Death Experience (1993)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Crossover Thrash
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© 1993 Century Media
AllMusic Review by Vincent Jeffries
The pressures of hardcore success and influence took a constant, heavy toll throughout the tumultuous history of the Cro-Mags. Shortly after releasing their first (and perhaps the hardcore genre's most important) release, The Age of Quarrel, the constant personality conflicts and lineup changes began, setting the outfit into a slow, downward, creative spiral. The mixing and matching of New York hardcore veteran musicians was unceasing, and the band never released successive discs with identical lineups. At the eye of the storm, founding member and "The world's first skinhead" Harley Flanagan hired and fired almost a dozen musicians (including himself) during the Cro-Mags' tumultuous career. Age of Quarrel vocalist John "Bloodclot" Joseph left the band before the follow-up, Best Wishes, only to join up with Flanagan years later for two releases, including Near Death Experience, giving the disc two-thirds The Age of Quarrel troika representation before another breakup led to six years of inactivity. It's often assumed that the teaming of Flanagan and Joseph was key to the band's early success, but careful credit inspection reveals guitarist Parris Mayhew's significant music-writing contributions on The Age of Quarrel and Best Wishes, clearly the Cro-Mags' best and most influential recordings. Although Flanagan and Joseph muster a little of the old-time magic, Mayhew's absence is noticeable from Near Death Experience. While the band's trademark lyrical preoccupations with urban violence and modern man's separation from nature, the past, and spirituality are fully present and accounted for, this 1993 release lumbers through too many bad metal clichés and never reaches the level of musical intensity fans of Mayhew-era recordings will expect. The already low creative standard of Near Death Experience reaches its nadir as Joseph forces some bad Steven Tyler yelping during the "Mr. Brownstone" rip-off "War on the Streets" and reaches rock bottom again during the Dokken-style metal chunking of "The Other Side of Madness." Flanagan and company salvage a few decent tracks like the epic "Time I Am" and "Say Good-Bye to Mother Earth," keeping Near Death Experience on rickety life support. Missing the intensity of earlier, better work, this late-career release from the legendary Cro-Mags is just a cooling ember, left over from New York's '80s hardcore fire.

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Cro-Mags - Revenge (2000)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Crossover Thrash
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© 2000 Cro-Mag Recordings
AllMusic Review by Patrick Kennedy
Appearing nearly a decade after the previous album, the largely disappointing Near Death Experience, Harley Flanagan resuscitated the Cro-Mags -- at least temporarily -- and issued a few albums in 2000. Revenge, a disc of studio material from the newest incarnation (also with original guitarist Parris Mayhew and Suicidal Tendencies' Rocky George), is surprisingly good hardcore. Fortunately for long-time fans, the Cro-Mags, with Harley singing in place of the deposed John Joseph, who were often considered the toughest of the New York acts, have not mellowed with age, nor followed any crossover metal/rap hybrid trends. In fact, Revenge is stone-solid, and as beefy as a slab of Angus. What's most peculiar is the sudden emergence of more melodic aspects beneath the imposing tough-guy veneer. This is melodic hardcore along the lines of early-'80s Misfits, and bears immediate sonic resemblance to Walk Among Us. Assuredly, Flanagan's vocals are menacing, which, of course, is what one would expect and probably hope for.

tags: cro-mags, cro mags, revenge, 2000, flac,

Trouble - The Skull (1989)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Doom Metal
Style: Traditional Doom
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© 1989-1991 Metal Blade Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Having set back the cause of heavy metal a good 15 years (in the best possible sense) with their fine debut, Psalm 9, one would have expected to witness some kind of evolution or growth from retro-metalheads Trouble, on their ensuing releases. But thankfully for the cause of doom, 1985's The Skull confounded any such expectations and progressed not a single iota beyond its predecessor's imposing, Sabbath-inspired power chords, gritty, analog authenticity, and, unique to Trouble's template, pro-religion lyrical themes. Unfortunately, its songs weren't quite up to the same standards from start to finish, and after a semi-decent start via the lumbering majesty of "Pray for the Dead," The Skull reached something of a premature climax with the surprisingly energetic "Fear No Evil," containing an awesome array of start-stop riffs, stellar soloing, positive messages, and a memorable chorus that made it one of the band's most accomplished compositions to date. Next offering, "The Wish," was Trouble's first (and last) attempt at epic songwriting, taking a severe stylistic detour toward medieval acoustic guitars, backed with string orchestrations, and followed by extended doomy chords. But its eleven-plus minutes ultimately tried one's patience before finally giving way to the more typically economical yet somewhat awkwardly rendered "Truth Is -- What Is." Luckily, the brilliantly gloomy harmonies of "Wickedness of Man" quickly helped restore listener's faith, and "Gideon's" unfailingly driving attack carried the band's momentum into the closing title track's well-rounded smorgasbord of doom. In essence, it's fair to say that The Skull felt a little less fresh than did its predecessor when it came to letting fans relive the glory of metal's past, but it still qualified as an American doom landmark, by most every other definition. [The CD was also released with the bonus DVD Live in Aurora, IL 1985.]

tags: trouble, the skull, the skull album, 1989, flac,

Trouble - Trouble (1990) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Doom Metal
Style: Traditional Doom
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☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© 1990 Def American Recordings
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Following the conclusion of Trouble's recording deal with Metal Blade and three years of relative silence, few fans expected to hear from the Chicago band ever again. But maverick producer Rick Rubin surprisingly entered the picture in 1990, signing them to his Def American vanity label and helping them record the most consistent album of their career. As suggested by its eponymous title, the record found Trouble going back to the essence of their gloomy, Sabbath-inspired sound, yet simultaneously injecting it with fresh ideas and reinvigorated energy not heard since their 1984 debut, Psalm 9. Indeed, the Trouble LP came absolutely stacked with outstanding doom anthems in the shape of the mega-riffic "At the End of My Daze," the organ-infused "The Wolf," and the white metal staple "Heaven on My Mind." Meanwhile, the impossibly heavy and catchy "R.I.P." and the especially psychedelic "Psychotic Reaction" (a hint of things to come) vied for supremacy as the greatest heavy metal song Black Sabbath never wrote. Then again, this honor might have just as easily been bestowed upon the band's mournful redirection of first album classic "The Misery Shows (Act II)" or the majestic denouement of album closer "All is Forgiven," thanks to what is quite simply one of the greatest heavy metal riffs ever conceived. Embellished by extended guitar harmonies and solos, said riff also confirmed Bruce Franklin and Rick Wartell's reputation as the best lead guitar tag team in doom metal history. The same championship belt might likewise have been Trouble's, were it not for the unfortunate condition of heavy metal (glam rock mania!) at the time this magnum opus was released, a tragic state of affairs that sadly relegated to obscurity what, by all rights, should have been a genre landmark.

tags: trouble, trouble album, 1990, flac,