Archive for the 'O' Category

Outbreak – “Outbreak”

Whether you’re listening to hardcore, indie-rock or pop, a bad vocalist can ruin a band. Now, I’ve heard a lot of dudes scream in hardcore bands. Some of them are good, others not so much. In all honesty, with subpar lyricism in tow, the guy doing vocals for Outbreak almost made this record unlistenable. What results is an album with such promise on the instrumental side dragged down by vocals, making this another instance where sometimes the vocal approach of a band can in fact kill a record. Outbreak sure has their finer points, but you’ll have to have a decent amount of will and tolerance to enjoy them.

With many of the tracks clocking in under a minute and none of them passing the three-minute mark, this record is chopped up into 15 tracks of buzzing hardcore with legit fretwork and frantic drumming. However, with borderline whiny vocals as irritating as these, it will be difficult to really enjoy this album while the vocals are a part of it. Still, the gritty melodies and blasting drums of tracks like “Human Target” and “Analyze/Criticize” make for some intense cuts worthy of some mosh-pit mayhem. Even the half-minute long “Multiple Personality Disorder” packs a massive wallop to your eardrums. If the sonic assault didn’t contain such compelling arrangements, this record would be even worse. However, blistering drums and howling guitars prevail (see “Concealed” for a quick, tasty guitar solo) and keep this album somewhat afloat.

It is a difficult pill to swallow when one aspect of a disc makes it hard to fully enjoy the work a band has put into penning and recording the songs said record contains. Hardcore and punk aficionados might be more willing to swallow vocalist Ryan O’Connor’s approach to fronting the band, but otherwise you might just want to save yourself the trouble of disappointing yourself with the promise of a good record. [By: Jason Gardner]
Rating: 2/5
Release Date: November 10, 2009

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The Oregon Donor – “Pageant’s End”

The Oregon Doner – Pageant’s End

For those of you who have to tap into the Washington-based quartet, The Oregon Donor, you need to pick up this disc. With just the right mix of thrash and melody, wildly unpredictable, yet fluid chord-progressions, and groovy hooks (like early Incubus/late A.F.I. – with smart-sounding, indecipherable lyrics, to boot), Pageant’s End will leave one’s inner-Pacific-Northwesterner thirsting for more. While not nearly as experimental as their Washingtonian brethren, Modest Mouse, and vacillating a bit between genres, The Oregon Donor offers up an extremely polished second LP.
The opening track “Pagent” comes in slow, like a shy kid with glasses, but then caresses you with self-assured melody in between head-nodding drum thrusts and extremely satisfying hooks. The rest of the album picks up speed, signaled by the not-quite-primal “Whoo!” at the beginning of “Hostages,” hastening in cadence, but never really losing touch with the proggy guitar loops and emo-disguised-as-screamo vocals that necessitate that these tracks be replayed.
The middle tracks are not-even-close-to skippable, yet sound as if they are leading up to the penultimate twosome. “In Dogs We Trust” is salient, drowsing of outsider, Nyquill-breathed lament at its outset, yet turning strangely self-affirming – “I realize that I’ve never been alone” – leaving you guessing as to the songwriter’s true discontent. The next track, “What Good Hate Did,” peremptorily resolves this matter, finally bringing home the savagery that’s been waiting to break loose throughout the album, yet still not letting go of the soaring, circular auricularity that makes you want to feel it too. “The Bittersweet End” closes things, initially losing some of the momentum of the previous two numbers, with lyrics such as “We couldn’t care less about the applause/Cause the kids were dressed in their apathy,” but ending on a build, hopefully to be continued in the band’s future works. The Oregon Donor is a band with something to lend—Ears? Hearts? A state of mind? [By: Sean Phelan]
Rating: 4.75/5
Release Date: October 6, 2009

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Owen – “New Leaves”

Owen – New Leaves

For anyone who is already familiar with Mike Kinsella’s one-man freak show of greatness, you can expect more or less the same from his new album that you experienced in the first five. For those who have not heard of Owen, crawl out from the rock you’ve been hiding under and pick up a copy of his latest album, New Leaves.  The record is appropriately named, not only for its release date, but also for the music that goes perfectly with the upcoming fall season.

Mike Kinsella should seriously consider changing his name to Diarrhea Fingers Kinsella because he spends the entire album shitting all over the fret board. Tracks like “Ugly on the Inside,” and “Amnesia and Me,” are perfect examples of how Kinsella can handle playing different types of music. American Football was proof enough that he could play, but he is very versatile in the style in which he plays. “Good Friends with Bad Habits,” is a spruced up version of a song that was previously unreleased with the exception of his MySpace. With some added effects and a little production, most people should be happy with the changes made. The guitar work almost makes up for the fact that his melodies are not exactly the best thing ever written.

Although fitting for the style of music being played, many people find the melodies featured in each song fairly similar, and almost monotone. The same can also be said for this album. There is not a wide range of melody, but the simple hooks are a perfect compliment to the indie-folk sound Owen has developed over the last few years. If you have trouble listening to the melodies, try to get passed that and listen to the lyrics forming them. The lyric and guitar combination is definitely what keeps people coming back album after album.

New Leaves has a nice balance of slow sad songs and songs that are more on the upbeat side. I was surprised to actually hear a two step in “Amnesia and me,” something that does not normally make its way into an Owen album. Those of you who are like me and change the style of music you listen to according to the seasons, definitely make this CD part of your transition into winter. Now that I have New Leaves, I couldn’t see how I would have made it through fall without it. [By: Dave Quaile]

Rating: 4/5

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Oceano – “Depths”

Oceano - Depths

Seven-string drop A tuning. According to the bio on Chicago deathcore outfit Oceano’s MySpace, said tuning is what these dudes use to pummel our ears on their full-length Depths, a bone-crushing collection of tunes perfect for someone who might like deathcore, but can’t quite put away those Bury Your Dead’s Cover Your Tracks. Granted, this album doesn’t quite hit it out of the park, but such anger, aggresssion and downright brutality won’t be found in many other bands trying to break out besides Oceano.

From the machine gun-like snare drums opening “Inhuman Affliction,” Oceano burst forth with heaps and heaps of notes from across the board. Relentless drums match a pulsing palm-mute rhythm for an interesting moment of ‘less is more’ to create tension, something this album excels at from start to finish. Vocally, you either get the bree-esqe main approach or the semi-high pitched assault, neither of which is decodable. Yet, fans of the genre will be able to assimilate these with ease as they aren’t much above run of the mill. If anything, the fact that you get a bit of variety in the vocals (”A Mandatory Sacrifice”) makes them a bit easier to digest than just hearing the same approach every time. Said track does a nice job throwing in a straightforward, yet slightly off-kilter breakdown in to ease up the constant sonic assault from the drums, easily the busiest of all the instruments on this record (see “Samael the Destroyer” for assurance).

You’ll notice the guitars take a reasonably minimalist approach through most of the album, taking the less traveled path of holding back for the most part when it comes to melodies and rhythms. Whether it be the title track’s layered melodies or the punching breakdowns throughout the album, you really don’t hear any of the breakneck riffing found in pretty much every other band of the genre. Arguably though, this lack of density makes for a much more accessible listen. Granted, this heavier weight on the rhythms as opposed to melodies welcomes the inevitable side-effect of breakdowns getting stale quickly. It truly will be hit or miss depending on the amount of repetition given the lower amount of melodic ventures. Don’t be completely turned off by this though, as the occasional moments of blistering fretwork (”Abysm”) come across even stronger due to their less frequent appearance. Does this formula work? Usually it does, but if you aren’t into bands who love to chug, you might get turned off from this album pretty quickly.

You might find this album to be a perfect soundtrack to your late night drives with friends, or even as a way to warmup for your hardcore dancing escapades. Given the slightly different approach of these guys, expect them to continue their climb up the heavy music ladder. [By: Jason Gardner]

Rating: 3/5

Release Date: April 7, 2009

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Outclassed – “This Might Be Coincidence…” 12”

Outclassed - This Might Be Coincidence 12 inch

Warning: This album is not exactly headphone friendly. The opening feedback noise of the conservatively titled opening track (”Kick God in the Face, Hail Satan”) pierced my eardrums worse than the shrillest of screams.

And speaking of screaming, if you’re not down for yell “singing,” the rest of the record probably isn’t going to mesh well with your eardrums either.

However, for all the abrasiveness and potential hearing loss that makes up an Outclassed record, I do have to give snaps to the band for blessing us with some amazing song titles—not everyone has “The Amputated Handbook” and “Fuck Mark” listed on the back of their records.

Five songs filled with screaming, distortion and warp-speed drumming: Listen at your own risk. [By: Jake Corbin]

Rating: 1/5

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Ooze – “Ethnic Panic Attacks Hallucinations Horror Hysteria and Other Medications and Mediations for the New Millenium”

Ooze

Once you get into the industrial/goth scene, it’s pretty tough to get out. While the leather and long hair may be disposable, the piercings and tattoos are often there to stay. Former Bile drummer Omen—who records under the name Ooze—is in it for life looking like something that horror filmmakers in the ’80s imagined mutants would look like in the future (like 2010) after a nuclear bomb wiped out most of humanity.

While mainstream’s fascination with industrial music started and ended with Ministry and Skinny Puppy (with a brief dalliance with Front 242 and KMFDM) in the early ’90s, the movement is still alive as an underground subculture of America. This stuff has never been easy on the ears though with a strong computer-and-samples-and-keyboards manipulated beat, it’s surprisingly danceable.

The shock factor is found throughout this CD, from the G.G. Allin spoken word samples (”I’ll fuck whoever I want”) to the twisted mutant vocals on “Riot on the Runway,” to the frighteningly bizarre ZZ Top cover (”TV Dinners”), and Ooze has built a soundtrack to your scariest post-apocalyptic nightmares. [By: Chip Midnight]

Rating: 4/5

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Oh No Not Stereo – “003″

Oh No Not Stereo

It ain’t dirty, it ain’t raw, but it sure does rock. In a world of sound-a-like pop-punk bands (see: The Wonder Years/ All or Nothing review), Oh No Not Stereo ditches the stereotypical Warped Tour sound (keyboards, bouncy rhythms, whiny vocals) and delivers an energetic, guitar rich, alterna-rock album that, while not heavy enough to knock you over, will at least mess up your hair a bit! There is a certain element of Local H (”Can’t Trust Anyone”), the Foo Fighters (”Something New”) and Muse (”Brothers”) in Oh No Not Stereo’s bombastic sound though any hint of post-grunge angst has been removed. “Shot Down by the Man” starts as if it might be headed down the Refused/Thursday highway but quickly becomes a weird and heavy hybrid of Faith No More and Panic at the Disco, full of pomp, circumstance and twisted carnival music. “12 Years Later” and “A World of Your Own” are surprising orchestral power ballads: part Jack’s Mannequin, part ’80s hair metal. [By: Chip Midnight]

Rating: 4/5

Release Date: January 13, 2009

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O Pioneers!!! / The Anchor – 7” Split

mime2.jpgJumping right into things, O Pioneers!!! single track on this split runs right out of the gate with gritty guitars, driving drums and upfront sing/shout vocals. The track, “Summers in Necro Norway with Ryan”, is straight-up punk rock that tells a quick story about how your friends might always want to do great things and regret things they never did, ending in vocalist/guitarist Eric Solomon desperately screaming ‘Don’t be afraid to stand up to your friends / don’t be afraid to say this is who I’m going to be / don’t be afraid to say this is who I am’. Certainly a great track to put on a 7” when you’re only going to do one track, as I am now intrigued into checking out more of these guys.

The Anchor continues the idea of songs about friends with the aptly named “This Is for My Friends”, sincerely dedicating the song through the title and lyrics to friends and family who have supported the band and creating a pretty decent punk rock song in the process. The second song on The Anchor’s side “Truant Tensions” is a drum-minded attack backing a standard punk rock guitar melody, and while both tracks are definitely good, they don’t quite stand up to the raw energy and fun of O Pioneers!!!’s half of the split. Still, check out The Anchor is you are into fun punk rock that has a bit more social topics to bring to the table than political.

Still, with this being Triumph of Life Records’ fourth release, they have put out an impressive split. Do not hesitate to purchase this, as both bands put on performances that will make you want to find even more music to rock out to.[by: Jason Gardner]

Rating: 4/5
Release Date: June 2008
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Of Montreal – Skeletal Lamping

mime.jpgOf Montreal’s latest offering starts off promisingly enough, with album opener’s “Nonpareil of Favor.” majestically strummed acoustic guitar plays before exploding into the bombast of dancey synth filled indie rock they’re known best for and that has done them so well thus far.
Except at this point it’s beginning to feel awfully trying and by the numbers and they shifts gears over and over but never really manage to land on any stable footing. The obnoxious falsetto and repetitive, stupid lyrics of “Wicked Wisdom” don’t fair much better, and with a combined runtime of 10+ minutes between these two tracks alone, things aren’t looking good for the remainder of the nearly hour long album.
“Touched Something’s Hollow” is a bit more mellow and is a much needed change of pace from the obnoxious oversexed tones of the leading three tracks, and “An Eluardian Instance” feels much more cohesive than anything else on the album, although the coda that takes up the last 40 or so seconds feels decidedly out of place.
Things turn back to over sexualized quickly – at one point Barnes sings “I want to make you come 200 times a day,” which might work if he was in The Eagles of Death Metal or The Darkness, but when sang in his oddly asexual voice it just comes off as awkward (think Mr. Garrison’s declaration “I can’t wait to go on shore leave so I can get me some poontang” from South Park if you want a decent frame of reference). By the album’s approximate midpoint, “Women’s Studies Victims,” even Barnes sounds exasperated by the constant posturing.
Someone needs to inform Barnes + co. that constant changes in song structure that make no sense do not equate to being avante garde and edgy, and neither does constantly singing about sex in the most awkward and unsexy ways imaginable. Until they realize that, I’ll stick to listening to “Wraith Pinned in the Mist” on repeat. [By D.J. Bernat]

Rating: 2/5
Release Date: October 21st, 2008

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Off With Their Heads – “From the Bottom”

Off With Their HeadsOff With Their Heads is the epitome of the current No Idea sound. It’s brash with gritty and throaty vocals, but stays catchy with a tinge of rough pop-punk influence. And the group’s latest, From the Bottom, may just cement the band’s position as the top tier of the label’s current roster.

Ryan Young belts out bitter lyrics about a life that keeps dumping shit on him over ironically upbeat punk tunes. The Minneapolis act’s music sets the scene for angry, drunk and bearded sing-alongs that would make Gainesville proud. Young’s voice is equal parts Tom Gabel, Chuck Ragan, Brendan Kelly and something that is entirely his own. The lyrics take on a narrative cynicism that is unparalleled. Young’s words are filled with despair, but like with any other good punk band, it seems more a rallying cry that makes listeners want to help him to his feet in the pit and get back to pushing each other around with a common goal in opposition of the outside world.

“Until the day I die I fucking swear I’m going to make your life as miserable as mine!”–“Until the Day”

Ryan Young, Justin Francis and their ever changing band mates have always been good, but Off With Their Heads has released the closet thing to a perfect album in its (oh yeah!) full-length debut, From the Bottom. From the collection of 12 incredible tracks to the perfectly fitting art work, these gents have made desperation as entertaining as it gets. [By: William Jones]

Rating: 5/5
Release Date: July 22, 2008

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One Small Step For Landmines – "One Small Step For Landmines"

onesmallstep.jpgMaybe it’s just me, but when I think of Tallahassee, Florida, I tend to think of retirees and alligators, not a three-piece band that seemingly effortlessly combines the sounds of some of my favorite bands of all time. No offense to the people of that fine Floridian city, I’m just a Californian that’s used to crediting the Midwest with the raw intensity of mid-90’s emo and power pop, not the capital of the Sunshine State. Shows what I know.

Album opener “I Don’t Think” starts out with a simple chugging chord, on top of which vocalist Kevin Allen delivers the line, “Go out, if you really think you ought to.” It signals the start of an incredibly infectious and intense album by a young group of up-and-comers. The band’s influences obviously include The Get Up Kids, Taking Back Sunday, and Jimmy Eat World but they are able to rise above those influences and showcase something almost entirely their own. And even if the band doesn’t technically fall under the emo tag, I can’t help but feel some of the same feelings I had the first time I listened to Mineral or Texas Is The Reason. The guitars are rough and loud, the vocals less than pitch-perfect, but that approach enables the listener to feel closer to the music; like it’s live, as opposed to the over-polished, ridiculously produced CDs that pack the racks of your local Best Buy or Target. It’s refreshing, and the louder you play the album the more you’ll be rewarded.

All in all, “One Small Step For Landmines” is an album that is far from perfect, but that helps give it character that a lot of bands these days forego. And as long as they don’t literally follow in the footsteps of most of the emo pioneers, it’s easy to see that this band of young Sunshine Staters have a long and bright future ahead of them. [By: Josh Eck]

Rating: 3/5
Release Date: September 11, 2007

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Only Now Existing – “Escape Artist”

onlynowexisting.jpgIn seventh grade, a teacher chided us not to use the word “sucks” to describe a situation, but instead goaded us to use “has the qualities of a vacuum cleaner.” I’ll let Mr. Garrett, the man behind Only Now Existing (or ONE for those in the know) take his pick. But before getting into that, ONE has a long diatribe on the front of one of his web pages about how Americans are too concerned about inconsequential news stories, while many other tragedies are going on in America unnoticed. ONE hopes to create a “lifeboat” to rescue us gullible listeners from going under.

But just because the music sucks (you see which one I’m using) doesn’t mean I don’t agree with the stances or the problems. It’s not that the “mission” of ONE is wrong or misguided, it’s the music. A vacuum cleaner only picking up the leftover litter. “Escape Artist” is, and this is not a joke, a mix of Enrique Iglesias and Nine Inch Nails. Listen to “Mission Ship,” “Give It All Away” and “Inside of You” for the Enrique part and “What Will Be Left Will Reveal Itself” as the Nine Inch Nails part. And the rest of the album goes back and forth in that regard.

The only decent kind of rock song I could tolerate was “Puppet,” which has a few dark beats, and enough changes to make it interesting, rather than the constant stream of retarded My First Casio rhythms that the rest of the songs contain. Not able to settle on a style or an image makes “Escape Artist” a huge waste of time. [By: Josh Spilker]

Rating: 1/5
Release Date: September 18, 2007

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Oxbow – “The Narcotic Story”

oxbow.jpgShivering and mumbling incoherently, Oxbow front man Eugene Robinson begins Oxbow’s queasy journey into addiction, withdrawal, and depravity on the band’s newest full-length, “The Narcotic Story.” Full of howling rants, maniacal shouting, booming drums, tinkering piano, and sickly acoustic guitar, “The Narcotic Story” is like a book you can’t put down about a life you’d never want to live.

In the same way that the full extent of the damage done from the night before is only slowly realized as your senses come online in the morning, “Geometry in Business” shudders and groans through nausea and violent spasms before the pain builds into a thundering climax. Forced back to bed, the album’s second proper track “Time Gentlemen Time” pleads for release and forgiveness, ending with the whispered prayer “make it quick.” As Robinson declares, “Oh Jesus…he had nothing to do with this really,” Oxbow definitively kicks into full gear on “Down a Stair Backward.” Groove-heavy and determined to make it as far as the next score requires, this is one of the album’s finer and more accessible tracks. “A Winner Every Time” is another of the album’s stand out songs.

Like the most dedicated addicts, the album contains moments of unexpected clarity and beauty. The album’s midpoint, “She’s a Find,” is a sprawling mix of piano, strings, and discordant singing that stretches for nearly nine minutes. “Frank’s Frolic” abruptly shifts from pummeling schizophrenia to delicate guitars, flute, and lush orchestral movements. Finally, the album’s closer, “It’s the Giving, Not the Taking” adds pipe organ to the already impressive array of instrumentation found on the album, and ends with Robinson’s straight-faced reminder that “we all get what we fucking deserve.” It is a suitable ending to a surreal and thoroughly satisfying listen.

Throughout the album, Robinson is more of a presence than a definitive person, floating in and out of the mix while only rarely uttering an intelligible phrase. This is not a detriment in the slightest, as his performance masterfully lends itself to the album’s turgid atmosphere. For some, though, it will probably take some adjustment. Fans of Hydra Head’s line-up will want to add this album to their wish list. It is an exceptionally well-executed and well-conceived journey through the harrowing depths that excess and abandon can submerge us. [By: Nathan Dylan]

Rating: 4/5
Release Date: June 5, 2007

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Oliver Future – “Pax Futura”

oliverfuture.jpgThese guys have been listening to a little too much Arcade Fire and Modest Mouse, as “Pax Futura” often feels like a tribute to a lot of popular indie culture. Of course, this accusation comes despite the lack of listing Arcade Fire or Modest Mouse as influences on the group’s MySpace page. Otis Redding my ass!

But how much can you expect from a band that adopted its name “from a car accident between Olivia Newton John, and the future prime minister of Rangoon?” Huh? Did that even happen? Google isn’t pulling up anything. But that’s not really a surprise by again glancing at the numerous amounts of absurdity infesting Oliver Future’s MySpace profile.

The band’s music isn’t all bad. They know how to play; they’re just posers. “Happiness Machine” is catchy, with hip-swaying and sing-a-long goodness and “Stranger Than Strange” rekindles the good vibes I would feel from listening to a Sam Roberts record. They’re rocking some heavy bass lines and some fuzzy guitar that treads on the style of The White Stripes.

But while listening to “Pax Futura” I had somewhat of a revelation. Not that Oliver Futura is so amazing that it caused any such revelation, but it was more like “the straw that broke the camel’s back” type of revelation. The third song on the record, “Signing Off,” is a general tirade about the insolence of Americans’ voting behavior and political education. Usually, I would just write this crap off as another preachy ballad from a bunch of nobodies, who are only paying lip service to such issues, and I hate that sort of thing (unless it’s Rage Against the Machine). But I realized that, of the last 20 albums I have listened to, 75% of them have made the same error. It has become apparent that the corrosive environment that is the United States is so ingrained in our skulls, that it has become the second largest cultural zeitgeist behind music today, right behind love and loss. After all, those two are forever and the current situation is not.

Sure, you’re saying, “Politics in music? NO WAY!” But outside of punk rock, politics have always taken a back seat to other such emotional phenomenon. Now that they have become so overbearing, music has actually become an accurate reflection of a mass of people, instead of whatever wacky political agenda the artists may be toting. Not only that, there is also a growing sense of need in personal accountability and maturation, just as “Sign Off” suggests. Something that Americans haven’t put a lot of stock in over the last two decades and we’re all guilty of it. It’s not, “Let’s just blame the government anymore.” It’s, “We need to fix ourselves before we can fix our world.”

Regardless, Oliver Future sucks and “Pax Futura” is a bloated piece of garbage. [By: Dan Brian]

Rating: 1.5/5
Release Date: July 24, 2007

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Our American Cousin – “How’s This for a Diloma?”

our-american-cousin.jpgHey, remember American Football? Kansas City natives Our American Cousin sure do. Their debut EP “How’s This for a Diploma?”, off of No Sleep Records, combines the instrumentals of AF/caP’n Jazz with a touch of Cute is What We Aim For-style vocals. It’s a good enough con deal, overall, mixing alternately dirge-y and squealing angular guitars with a bits of string arrangements here and there.

“How’s This for a Diploma?” starts off with the pseudo-indie/punk of “Ernesto Perez One. Ernesto Perez Two.” It pretty much sets the M.O. for the rest of the EP, as frontman Kurtis Viers screeches and thrashes his guitar around while the rest of the band does the same. It’s refreshingly dirtier than your average emo band these days.

While some may fault Our American Cousin for being too derivative, having plundered a lot of their tricks from the ’90s emo era, at least the group has figured out how to get dissonant and harsh without going the screamo/metalcore route. At the same time, though, the band could still use a bit of seasoning. Sample lyrics from “Ernesto Perez One. Ernesto Perez Two”: “Let’s keep each other sweet/Comets tell of the moonshine/And prove how deep are pockets are.” The group’s lyricism is sort of ethereal, sort of high school poetry session. But, if the listener can step back from the corniness of those lines, he or she may just notice the simple yet elegant piano line gliding underneath of them.

Our American Cousin delivers more in the same vein of “Ernesto Perez One. Ernesto Perez Two.” with the EP’s other two tracks, “Think I May Have an Ego?” and “Lights Out (Sock Full of Batteries).” “Think I May Have an Ego?” rocks a multi-part vocal line for maximally weird effect while needling guitars, crashing cymbals, and a quaint lil organ line pop up throughout. The band’s solid sense of instrumentation is further complemented by Parker Viers’ cello playing in the track’s triumphant build-up. Remember, ya’ll: Cello + snare roll = epic x sweet.

“Lights Out (Sock Full of Batteries)” closes out the disc, and reveals Our American Cousin’s grasp of the ambient as well as the rocking. It quickly heads back towards OAC’s emo-rock comfort zone, though. It’s more of the same; not that that’s a complaint.

“How’s This for a Diploma?” shows a lot of promise for Our American Cousin. The group’s mix of rock with more classically-oriented instruments like cello and piano make for an enticing 14 minutes of indie/punk/emo. While the EP is by no means perfect, as the lyrics could use work and drummer Adam Park still needs to figure out if he wants to play loose or sloppy/behind the rest of the band, it is still a good start all the same. [By: Joe Pelone]

Score: 3/5
Release Date: October 3, 2006

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Otep – “The Ascension”

otep_the_ascension.jpgYesterday, after nearly ten years of nagging from my dentist, I had my wisdom teeth removed. The process was a lot less painful than I expected it to be, and for the rest of my weekend I get to take Vicodin and play Xbox. And while the drugs seem to help with the dull throbbing on the left side of my jaw, it does absolutely nothing to lessen the aural agony Otep’s up-coming full length, “The Ascension,” is currently causing me. This is easily one of the worst albums I have heard in a long time. As far as I can tell, this female-fronted hard rock band is about five years behind the heyday for the genre, when bands like Limp Bizkit, Cold, Disturbed, and Drowning Pool were every frat boy’s favorite band. I’m actually a little surprised that anyone is still making this kind of over-produced, transparently fabricated, adolescent music that is utterly devoid of any artistic statement. If you’ve ever heard one of these bands, you’ve essentially heard them all. There is absolutely nothing new here.

The band is fronted, and apparently named after, Otep Shamaya who has some predictably deep-seated emotional issues. So, we are treated to her alternating between Durst-style rapping and clichéd nu-metal screaming about drug use, domestic violence, suicide, shitty boyfriends, and other angsty subjects. To their credit, Otep also uses their music to critique the on-going war in Iraq, and Shamaya has started a charity to aid Darfur. Reading through an Otep F.A.Q. on their message board, it is also quite evident that Shamaya is actually an articulate and intelligent woman, which makes it even more unfortunate that the way she chooses to express this creativity is with such trite and fraudulent music.

If you want to see something utterly comical, check out this link for an interview with the former Fusetv veejay Mistress “fuckin’ fuck yea!”  Juliya. Here is an actual quote from Juliya to the band in reference to a recent tour that was planned out by their fans through online voting: “Have you been getting more pussy ‘cause you’re going to the more favorable places?” Brilliant. (http://www.dovetail.tv/app.html?channelId=1005&j=1) [By: Nathan Dylan]

Rating: 0/5

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Oblio – “Create the Night pt. 1”


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Of Sinking Ships – “Of Sinking Ships”

This is the instrumental/ambient band from Chad Waldrup, formerly of hardcore band Hopesfall. Of Sinking Ships should not be confused with the hardcore band Shinking Ships on Revelation Records. The latter is a hardcore band, the former used to be in a hardcore band.

Don’t make another mistake, and assume this release is straight off the Warped Tour wagon. This follows in the same clean lines of Ester Drang, Explosions in the Sky, Amusement Parks on Fire and most closely of Unwed Sailor. While Ester Drang has some piano keys and Amusement Parks has their psychedelic swirls, Waldrup depends on the guitar/bass/drum kit function and the pedals to monitor its ebbs and flows. In that regard, it is somewhat similar to hardcore in that it looks for the buildups and breakdowns to move the song along.

What’s harder of course in instrumental music of this type is to latch onto the melodies and crescendos that define the music. Waldrup makes that part enjoyable-the songs move quietly but swiftly along, not succumbing to the temptation to be long-winded like many of these rock instrumental gangs. The only song that veers towards that also happens to be one of the best. “With One More for Company” is over six minutes, but begins with up-tempo percussion that remains constant throughout for a compelling contemplative mix. A suggestion for Waldrup is to continue in the instrumental realm, but maybe still follow after Unwed Sailor and Ester Drang by adopting the concept idea. An overriding theme can give a focus to the listener who then can insinuate their own intonations and thoughts to the music, making a truly unique listening experience.

An amazing accomplishment of the album is that Waldrup played every instrument himself, and recorded it back in 2003. It’s now seeing daylight through Gilead, after a few haggles and some recording issues. Of Sinking Ships shines in the quiet moments, providing the silent hiatus possibly more for Waldrup than for the audience. [By: Josh Spilker]

Rating: 3/5
Release Date: September 12, 2006

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One Night Band – “Way Back Home”

One Night Band comes out of Montreal Quebec with their first full length album Way Back Home. The band was apparently only meant to play one performance (hence the name). Perhaps some just can’t take fate as an indication.

The sextet plays what can only be described as a mix of reggae, ska, lounge, and nursing home formal to lure in the fans they have developed over the past three years. The light hearted, airy instrumentals under both raspy male and high female vocals provide a psychosis of careless joy evoking the feeling of a hidden beach party scene in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” that they wrote a soundtrack for to portray Hunter S. Thompson’s slow slip into drug induced insanity, similar to the way listening to this record feels.

I felt guilty being annoyed by this record. It’s upbeat, happy, care free- basically everything the modern music industry strives to go against. Not to mention, they accomplished popularity on a freshmen effort that didn’t meet these norms, which is beyond rare nowadays. In an age where musicians take themselves too seriously, it was refreshing at first to find a band that had a light hearted happy attitude towards music. The key words in this situation being “at first.”
After several listens to Way Back Home, it became apparent that the album wasn’t just getting worse before it got better; it was only getting worse. Admirable is their use of various instruments including saxophones, several kinds of brass instruments and numerous auxiliary percussion instruments. One Night Band shows obvious musical potential in the fact that they obviously know what they’re doing instrumentally, as displayed in the track “Houdini.” Unfortunately for the listener, every so often the soothing instrumentals are interrupted by the annoying raspy vocals saying the word “Houdini,” which was enough to make anyone despise magicians.

One Night Bands’ full-length record is nothing to be ashamed of as a first effort. The band doesn’t do much lyrically however, while providing unique, yet swinging instrumentals which are not well suited for the low toned, raspy vocals. Perhaps a true ska fan could find happiness within the confines of the release. [By: Drew Green]

Rating: 2/5
Release Date:  October 10, 2006

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One Dead Three Wounded – “Moving Units”

Moving UnitsBands who want to move units don’t write albums like this. Not for the mainstream consumer, anyway. Hardcore is an acquired taste. That said, Moving Units, the second full length from Philly’s One Dead Three Wounded, is the holiday feast worth driving 300 miles for or the birthday cake mom only makes once a year, causing month-long salivation. This album is good; very good.38

“One dead, three wounded” could easily have been a direct quote from an injury report at a show back in ‘98, but that was eight years ago. With Moving Units in heavy rotation in second-hand clunkers (with Bane stickers on the bumper) and a rising popularity beyond Philadelphia, ODTW might want to look in to group health insurance for ticket holders.

This is music to dance to; music that could incite violence even if there is enough windmill space for everyone. With a brand of hardcore and metal akin to Shai Hulud (with whom they are touring this fall) and Indecision, ODTW is brutal, giving kids in tight jeans something to really nod their heads to. With ten absolutely explosive tracks, Units is an unrelenting display of the reason kids should go to hardcore shows in the first place; the music.

From the opening, throaty scream of “Obsolescence,” ODTW challenges listeners to at least give them a try, professing “If your curiosity ain’t quenched after this tour / You’ll be searching the whole damn world for a new cure.” Fans of American Nightmare will appreciate the album, as the band does their best impression (errant ‘fucks’ peppered throughout the songs and all). Track two, “Black Holes,” is the standout effort, with soaring guitars and enough lyrical punch to keep a crowd singing along for the duration.

This is good, fast hardcore made to be played live. The album is good, but doesn’t do justice to the intensity of the songs. There aren’t any heavy, halting breakdowns, but the solid guitar work is talented enough without resorting to Madball tactics. It’s a solid effort from first chord to the final reverb and, coupled with a fall tour, should put ODTW squarely on the hardcore map of bands to follow closely. [By: Lou Perseghin]

1×1 Music (www.1×1music.com)

Score: 5
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Outer Space – "Blood Brothers"

Blood BrothersThe face of hip hop over the past twenty years has changed over a path of which the pioneers of the genre would have never anticipated. From creating community through lyrics of hardship and struggle, to violence and lyrical content of embitterment, glitz, and glamour; modern hip hop has traveled to a place almost incomparable of its original counterpart. To make it in the modern rap game, an artist has to stand out against every other emcee just getting in the game. Out of Philadelphia, the Puerto Rican rap trio, Outer Space is attempting to hit the underground hip hop scene hard with their new album Blood Brothers.

Choosing their name because they wanted their music to be, “Out of this atmosphere,” the trio formed, taking the pseudonyms Planet, Jedeye, and Crypt; hoping to break barriers of the typical hip hop rundown of the new millennium.
The album itself contains some catchy beats with good; but mostly cheesy hooks and lyrics, typically anticipated from a modern hip hop album. I can’t say that anything was done with Blood Brothers to maintain any claim of originality, but perhaps to put themselves on the map as not much else than an up and coming mainstream entity with too few gimmicks to hit it big.

When I started listening, I was drawn in by the catchy, reverberating instrumentals and energy coming from the passion of the vocal rhythm. The opening of the album leads to little more than disappointment; much of the disc contains hollering about “street cred” and superiority to other rappers.

I can say in total honesty that the production on this album was well done, completing its job of complimenting the vocals and setting a catchy tone the listener can nod their head to. The vocal melodies were impressive, often times other than what would be expected, and obviously well thought through. The lyrics didn’t render this act any different than typical “rap crap” found on public access channels covering local artists at three in the morning. Outer Space took a crash landing with Blood Brothers. [By: Drew Green]

Babygrande Records (www.babygrande.com)

Score: 2

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