Now, I don't mean to suggest that the current music scene suffers from a bit of stagnation as far as new ideas are concerned (to which there is sadly quite a lot of evidence), I really don't. However, the very notion of an album reviving the old school death metal style creating as much buzz as Disma's full-length debut, Towards the Megalith has, does little to disprove this. Death metal has never boasted the most versatility, even in recent years (particularly following The Red Chord's wonderful debut, Fused Together in Revolving Doors), so the idea of any sort of revival within this genre will initially seem quite silly. However, despite the fact that Towards the Megalith would have received quite the tepid reception had it come out in death metal's early-to-mid-90s heyday, Disma's first album offers some of the year's best death metal yet.

Disma's sound comes as no surprise, particularly since members of the legendary Incantation as well as Funebrarum round out the band's lineup. Craig Pillard's vocals give everything that could be expected of death metal, a guttural growl with an extremely low register, while Bill Venner and Daryl Kahan exhibit great chemistry with their sludgy, doom-oriented riffs. Together, these components create an absolutely crushing sound that capture the old school style to a T. Sprectal Domination is a great example of everything this genre has been missing for the last decade or so; casually switched-up tempos, tremendously dark production, and insanely heavy guitars, just dark and heavy music, completely free of pretension.

There are a few gripes though, none of which are foreign to death metal albums. For one, the bass is a bit buried in the mix, only audible in the rare moment that the guitars are not present. Another issue is that songs trudge on for far too long without enough ideas to really justify the lengths. Chasm of Oceanus, for example, feels like a three minute song slowed to a crawl in order to occupy more than twice the time than is necessary, with only a scant few creeping riffs to keep it going along. This leads to what is perhaps the most damning drawback, which is the quality of the riffs themselves; they're simply not that creative. Venner and Kahan seem to rely more on heaviness than any sort of catchiness, and while it undeniably still sounds great, it gives the feeling that the songs aren't really going anywhere.

Lastly, and as previously stated, this album only stands out really because of the era in which it has been released. Had this come out in say, '92, the year of classics such as The End Complete, Tomb of the Mutilated, Necroticism, and most relevantly, Incantation's Onward to Golgatha, it would have been utterly overlooked. There is nothing here that hasn't been done better already. But in all fairness... when has death metal ever been about originality? Truth be told, the formula is applied well enough, and Megalith is still a great listen, outshining most other releases of its style that have come out this year.

Towards the Megalith is a great representation of early death metal, and breezes by quickly enough to catch the ear but avoid overstaying its welcome. In spite of its issues, Disma have put forth a fierce  replication of what is arguably death metal's best period, and it's safe to say that there isn't any fan of the genre who will be disappointed with this solid piece of work.

It's a sadly all too predictable chain of events; a band will release a spectacular debut, in some cases even genre-defining, and two, maybe three albums into a seemingly promising career, the stagnation has already set in, and the band already sounds mediocre before they even had a chance to build on what they had going for them in the first place. Such is the case with Korn, who produced arguably one of the best metal albums of the 90s in their self titled debut, and (for better and for worse) spawned nu metal phenomenon. The band was able to capitalize on their success and stay afloat for the rest of the decade, but the noughts saw them decline sharply with recycled material and generally horrible ideas (their cover of Cameo's Word Up!, for one). Then in 2007, minus two original members, the band did the first interesting thing they'd done in years - they actually tried something new, with the experimental Untitled. It wasn't particularly good, but at least it felt relatively fresh, and produced material you couldn't get simply by listening to the earlier, superior records.

So now, Jonathan Davis and co. felt the best way to follow this up was with a return to form of sorts, and Korn III: Remember Who You Are has been received as such.  I look back and think of a much younger me rocking out to Korn's first album, which I even still do on occasion, so you can imagine that this concept was rather intriguing to me. Coming off the heels of giving their tired sound a bit of an expansion, and now going back to their roots? Sounds great! There's only one problem... the album is absolutely terrible.

Right from the get-go, it's clear that something is very wrong here. While the introductory Uber-Time is an ear catching blend of ambient noise, a sample, and feedback, and really gives you the impression that the proper opener is going to blow you away, it leads into none other than lead single Oildale (Leave Me Alone), which makes it clear that this not only fails to be a return to form, but isn't even a convincing attempt to relive past glories. The guitar is so bland, and that's not even the worst part - the chorus is typical anthemic Korn, with perhaps the most uninspired and frankly childish lyrics they've used yet ("Why don't you just leave me alone?!"). Ignore the fact that there is absolutely no energy to this song - just ask yourself why a man pushing forty is using schoolyard retorts and giving the microphone postured moans in his effort to recall his band's early days. He even has the Adidas jumpsuit! It's ridiculous. You can't simply conjure up what you were sixteen years ago and expect it to go well; the idea that anybody thinks this would work is preposterous! For Korn fans who disagree, just watch the Oildale and Blind videos back to back - there is no comparison.

The rest of the album does nothing to improve, or even sound remotely different; it's just more half-baked attempts at recalling their '94 selves. As touched on earlier, a huge drawback is the lyrics. Listening to Davis wail about "being everybody's whore" on Move On in the midst of talking about trying to please everybody is just laughable. Why then, on The Past and Never Around, for example, is he talking about how everybody lies to him? It makes one wonder why he's trying to please these people, and this makes it even more difficult to empathize with the perpetually angst-ridden millionaire. Who exactly is lying to him, anyway? These faceless antagonists have been around for the better part of Korn's career, but it didn't matter in their early days for a very simple reason - he really seemed mean it. Songs like Faget and Fake were lyrically simple and direct, but his sheer emotion really forced his torment on you until you could feel it yourself. When he sings "I want to pass my test and complete this tormented life" on Lead the Parade, though, it just sounds postured, and without the driving emotion, it makes Davis' lyrics sound like little more than high school poetry. The awkward vocal pattern (as well as Let the Guilt Go's growing screams of "and thinking... and thinking...") are basically lifted from earlier records, but with none of the intensity, which is ultimately this album's problem. Early Korn was dark and intense; even moments where the collective's jovial nature came out, like Ball Tongue's chorus, Clown's intro, or even A.D.I.D.A.S. and Wicked from Life Is Peachy, there was a sense of foreboding. Here, it just sounds formulaic and processed.

Some might argue that this genre is an easy one to paint yourself into a corner with, but take a look at Korn's fellow alt. metal elderstatesmen, the Deftones. They've consistently pushed their creative boundaries (albeit with varying degrees of success) and this year put out what may be their best work yet. Korn, on the other hand, ran their sound to fuck before attempting to ape the stylings of their first two albums, and failed miserably. So they remember who they are, well that's great. Unfortunately, I remember too - and the hungry, pissed off twentysomethings from 1994 would have taken one look at these middle-aged has-beens and laughed their asses off.

In this day and age, there are a great deal of things more rewarding than being a fan of industrial  - like picking your nose, for instance. The last decade (some would argue longer) has seen the genre revert to little more than bad techno with more creativity lent to its obnoxious image than the watered down loops of the music. The exception, however, is when a band like Cyanotic comes along. Their debut, 2005's Transhuman, was a proverbial breath of fresh air, utilizing basic industrial conventions but giving them a new, interesting take. Their long awaited sophomore effort, The Medication Generation, is every bit as good as its predecessor, not only capitalizing on what made it great but adopting a stronger sense of adventure as well. Ultimately, it offers the best things about industrial metal - pounding beats, crushing guitars, cleverly placed samples, and a seething rage that actually has something to say.

While the album's themes of overstimulation, drug use, and societal ills are hardly revelatory, their presentation feels highly genuine. For example, drugs are never glorified or lectured over so much as discussed (well, as much as a roaring, distorted voice can discuss). The feelings of alienation and frustration are also expressed quite well; in lesser hands the lyrical template "We are the _____ of the _____" would sound extremely hackneyed, but here it's very easy to get behind. Nothing feels as if handled with a single dimension; even fA510n v1k+um5, which details a clear irritation with the current music scene, does so with a surprising sense of humor - a few measures after frontman Sean Payne sardonically growls "This beat is merciless" is a sample of Chuck D.'s enthusiastic "Bring that beat back!"

What really sells it is how many different styles are at work. While the pummeling blast beat-led Dose Responsive and Sentient (by far the most metallic songs on the album) sound great, there are different approaches taken here as well. Efficacy is a glitch-heavy left field electronica exploration, but with a dark air that keeps it from seeming out of place. The Static Screens (In Syndication) and Brutal Deluxe are driven by aggressive breakbeats that call to mind the finest moments of Pitchshifter and latter day Cubanate, with the latter track being one of the heaviest here, despite being one of the least reliant on guitars. Then there is Monochrome Skies, which is easily the best melancholic industrial metal this side of Ministry's Scarecrow, with a deliberate build-up, powerful groove, and fantastic layering.

Repeated listens show that The Medication Generation was crafted with painstaking detail, even if judging solely by the samples being used. A Scanner Darkly, Videodrome, processed Slayer riffs, Homer Simpson, and God knows what else is meticulously placed in the mix to help Payne convey his point. And there is a point to each and every one used, which is the beauty of it; nothing is done simply for sake of sounding good, everything is an extension of Payne's social commentary. Programmed and its introductory track The Same brilliantly use a sample from the film Palindromes to introduce the former track's musing over growing complacence with the idea of helplessness over bettering oneself. The somber Comadose is a bit more straight forward, centering around a listless guitar and Payne's murmurings of "I wish I felt safe, I wish I knew my place" and culminating in yet another like-minded sample. Not a moment is wasted here, and the result is a highly dense album which makes it clear that the band has been quite busy for the last five years. This isn't just the year's best industrial metal, The Medication Generation is a lesson in how to make it.


One of the earlier mathcore bands to adopt a goofy name in the hopes of getting a few cheap laughs (Arsonists Get All the Girls and Iwrestledabearonce being good examples of bands following their lead), the Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza have always been a great fit for the chaotic genre. They've avoided many issues that a number of contemporaries haven't; Periphery's overproduction being a good example, or even just the simple fact that it's so easy to sound derivative - take Vortice (admittedly more prog metal than mathcore), who is a talented collective but little more than a Meshuggah clone. Still, one thing that weighed down the band was the use of breakdowns to excess - as anyone will attest, it's incredibly difficult for a song to be memorable when the very number of sections to it immediately overwhelm the listener. This issue is far from gone, but there's a stronger connection between sections this time around, and a spectacular groove, largely thanks to new guitarist Josh Travis. TTDTDE's sound has gotten a huge boost thanks to Travis' work on this record. The spontaneous nature of previous guitarist Layne Meylain is not as strong (as was likely expected), but Travis still keeps the spirit alive with rather erratic playing of his own, employing harmonic sweeps and bending strings mid-riff, for instance. These are probably best displayed on Yippie-Kay-Yay MotherfuckerPassenger 57, and There's a Time and Place for Everything, each of which are both technically proficient and highly catchy. The riffs are still absolutely crushing as well, and with the new emphasis on groove and melody, they almost sound like 90s greats Pantera and Machine Head spliced with Meshuggah, or even the Dillinger Escape Plan. I Am Sammy Jenkis provides references both Memento in title and Meshuggah in style, but the great thing is that before the unsettling guitar melody hovering over the chugging riffs begins to sound a bit too familar, they are very quick to dive back into their own trademarks, returning with screeching guitars, quick and offbeat drums, and and great, abrupt ending that practically crashes into the next track, The Lost & Damned.

As mentioned earlier, however, the number of breakdowns can still get to be a bit much, mostly toward Danza III's end. Suicide's Best Friend sounds more like a host of song segments thrown together than an actual song, linked by a minimal flow. Travis overuses his aforementioned techniques somewhat also, as well as on the otherwise compelling The Union. The band really does their best work when working their trademark spontaneity around the groove they've adopted here, as opposed to the other way around. Still, this is really a small grip, seeing as it only pops up on a scant few tracks in the album's second half. Not to mention that given the genuine fury to the record, they're a surprisingly difficult band to accuse of trying too hard.

Danza III is a huge leap from the band's previous albums, both in terms of production and songwriting. Before, the Danza Tapdancers were better known for running through random sections and exhausting the listener, ultimately sounding like a slightly above average mathcore band. Here, there is more focus on melody, and it cannot be overstated just how much Travis' groove-laden riffs bring to the table. TTDTDE just stepped into the big leagues with this one.

I've been a huge fan of the Deftones since I heard Adrenaline way back in junior high. I remember waiting with unbridled anticipation for the next record to come out, and being rewarded with suddenly hearing (and having my mind blown by) My Own Summer (Shove It) on the radio. As much as I loved the band though, it wasn't until White Pony came out that I knew that this was a truly special band. It felt absolutely massive; it was so diverse, yet so unified in vision and so brilliantly written. With the exception of maybe Tool's Ænima, it was the best example of what a good alt metal band was really capable of. The only problem was the matter of besting it; something that has made post-2000 Deftones material great, but ultimately frustrating. Their self titled album and Saturday Night Wrist were both great in their own ways, and  teetered on topping White Pony, but just didn't pull it off. The self titled had extreme dynamics that at times felt forced, and ended up feeling very uneven and disjointed, while Saturday Night Wrist employed more pop and electronic effects, but as a result lacked a bit of the punch from their earlier albums. After White Pony, it felt like the band had a real masterpiece in them, but just couldn't get it out. Well, the waiting is over - that masterpiece has finally arrived, and its name is Diamond Eyes.

Like Saturday Night Wrist, the opening track is the lead single (Hole in the Earth and Diamond Eyes), and is also the perfect place to begin. The title track sports the same bright, uplifting chorus as Hole, but Eyes has a certain fury to it that the former was missing - the chugging verses and outro are incredibly heavy, and Chino Moreno's vocals (both sung and screamed) feel better applied. One of the Deftones' greatest strengths is how well Moreno is able to use his voice as an instrument, an asset that very few other vocalists can rival. For easy examples, listen to Moreno and Carpenter's combined attack on tracks like CMND/CNTRL ("Once again! Just because I can!!") or Rocket Skates ("Guns! Razors! Kniiiives!!" finished with an energetic "WOOO" as the icing on the cake). Then there are the tender moments, where it's more Frank Delgado's keyboards working with and against Moreno's voice, like the ethereal Beauty School. Of course what really clinches the unification of all the shades of the Deftones is how well the three work together. Prince, which is strangely reminiscent of White Pony's Rx Queen while sounding nothing like it at all, boasts an extremely powerful chorus with Carpenter's sledgehammer riffs bouncing against Delgado's synths, held together with Abe Cunningham's ever progressing drumming and Sergio Vega's (Chi Cheng's replacement at present) unsurprisingly capable bass playing, and all topped by Moreno's singing, gradually shifting back and forth from soulful croon to melodic roar.

Diamond Eyes is extremely consistent with this dynamic, which gives the album a fantastic flow. Even the tracks that venture slightly outside the established sound, such as You've Seen the Butcher's sludgy, bluesy riffing over a swinging, 6/8 beat, share the same positive melodicism and overwhelming metallic crunch. Perhaps the defining moment of Diamond Eyes is Risk, a heartbreaking yet strangely hopeful song about undying devotion. Lines like "I'll find a way, I'm confused, but I think I can try, I will save your life" are sung with such intense meaning and are downright hair raising. It's tremendously moving, serenely beautiful but endlessly rousing, haunting but uplifting, and all at once. Now that's what Deftones' music is all about!

It's incredibly fulfilling to see all of a band's incredible potential realized, particularly one I've been so fond of for so long. They've finally consolidated all the great ideas they've had over the past decade, at no sacrifice to their core sound, while continually (and puzzlingly) coming up with new ways to blend crushing guitar licks, gentle electronic atmospherics, and powerful, dynamic vocals. This is the metal album to beat for 2010, and I can say with complete confidence that it's not going to happen.

From its very formation with guitarist Misha Mansoor five years ago, Periphery has been anticipated to be the next big thing in mathcore. Largely created by Mansoor himself, the buzz continually grew through a revolving door of vocalists and several opening slots for bands like DevilDriver and Fear Factory, leading to rather high expectations for their first full-length. Now that their self-titled debut is here, however, it's hard to say whether or not it really lives up to any of them. It's certainly not for a lack of technical prowess - in particular guitarists Mansoor, Alex Bois, and Jake Bowen all show great skill - but it just feels like something is missing. Admittedly, this probably wouldn't be such an issue with a debut that didn't have nearly five year's worth of hype to live up to, but it's a handicap nonetheless.

Periphery's self-titled is a sprawling affair, clocking in at well over seventy minutes with only a dozen songs. The length in songs seems appropriate at times (ironically most with Racecar, the grandiose, fifteen minute long closer), but mostly the songs seem to misuse the free form style by meandering rather than building up to anything or switching up in interesting ways. On songs like All New Materials and Buttersnips, the band breezes through different sections with latest vocalist Spencer Sotelo alternately soaring and roaring over it all, and the minutes slip away. Materials makes great use of the band's dynamics, while Buttersnips tastefully sees a good melody mutate throughout the track. Letter Experiment and Light on the other hand, for example, feel bloated and self-important, cramming too many weak melodies together and throwing in overly dramatic solos far too early. Sotelo is a factor in the album's slightly above pedestrian sound in the fact that he himself is slightly above pedestrian. His voice only has two faces, both of which have been done before in metalcore and done better.

Another thing is Periphery's overall production, which sounds excessively polished. Even at their harshest, most Meshuggah-referencing moments on The Walk and Icarus Lives!, it gleams a bit too much, which renders softer moments like Jetpacks Was Yes! as pure saccharine. The added touch of the drum programming and various electronic effects sound good, but more often than not it felt gimmicky, as it seldom actually contributed to the songs.

While Periphery's debut is weighed down by quite a lot of bombast, there are still several moments where the songwriting clicks. Racecar is perhaps the band's shining moment, and is essentially what the rest of the album is trying to sound like. The band flows through different styles in an absolutely seamless fashion, without a touch of pretense. Dynamics are paired masterfully, solos come in all the right (sometimes even unpredictable) places, and it's utterly epic without sounding like it's trying.

One thing that can be said for Periphery is that they've managed to not sound derivative. They've taken their influences and melded them into their own style, which is deserving of praise in and of itself, and indicative of a bright future. Their debut, however, is heavily flawed, and combined with excessive hype and the fact that the Dillinger Escape Plan just released an absolute mathcore masterpiece in Option Paralysis a mere month ago, Periphery's self-titled just can't measure up. A decent album from a potentially great band.

2007's Ire Works was met with great critical acclaim, but mixed reactions from fans. Many argued that the heavy experimentation, particularly the pop elements, came at the sacrifice of the Dillinger Escape Plan's core sound. Others pointed to Gil Sharone, who replaced longtime (and founding) drummer Chris Pennie. Sharone, while unquestionably talented, did not inject quite as much intensity into the songs, and was more keeping up with the band than contributing. However, the New Jersey mathcore pioneers' latest, Option Paralysis, immediately towers over its predecessor, and even stands up to their seminal masterpiece Miss Machine.

Released as a download back in January, Farewell Mona Lisa not only sounded better than much of Ire Works, but recalled Miss Machine in its masterful combination of both brutality and melodicism. Guitarist Ben Weinman, the group's sole remaining founding member, leads the attack along with new drummer Billy Rymer and vocalist Greg Puciato's powerful shouting. The nearly two minute long assault is classic Dillinger, until the track takes a dramatic break and adopts a brooding, progressing approach that brings it to a dramatic close. Fittingly, it opens Option Paralysis, and Good Neighbor picks right up where the song leaves off, exploding with incredible intensity, but a finesse and diversity that the band first took to with Machine. Some of the pop experimentation from the last album is put into better practice here, with a very, very loose inclusion of a traditional song structure, for example. The whole approach is handled better here, really - where half of Ire Works failed to infuse a pop sensibility into the band's sound without losing any of their trademark intensity, Gold Teeth on a Bum succeeds with flying colors in a mere five minutes. It recalls Unretrofied, their first foray into pop, but easily stands on its own.

The musicianship is, of course, spectacular as always. Weinman and new guitarist Jeff Tuttle are in top form, and Rymer fits right in, recalling Pennie's fiercely technical approach. On Endless Ending in particular, Weinman and Tuttle shift effortlessly from crushing grindcore playing to funk stylings to virtuoso jazz soloing, while Rymer shows more intensity and technical prowess than Sharone ever did with Dillinger. Greg Puciato is an outstanding vocalist, and while he still seems to be in Mike Patton's shadow, as evidenced by his intro vocals on both Widower and Parasitic Twins, he is slowly but surely coming into his own.

Widower is another example of how well Dillinger tackles the failed experiments of Ire Works. The song is melodic while maintaining a jazzy structure, and the piano adds a great element to the song rather than feeling simply thrown in. Eventually the track begins to spiral out of control, with the type of controlled chaos that Dillinger do best. The entire second half, really, displays a heavy incorporation of melody into the band's highly technical attack, that again, tops the efforts made on the last record by leaps and bounds. Parasitic Twins closes things out beautifully, and though Puciato sounds a bit Mike Patton-ish here, the quality of his vocals are impossible to deny. His croons and falsettos are fantastic, and the sinister backing instrumentation could not be crafted better. Cleverly used loops, smooth jazzy piano, and traditional bluesy solos drive the song, all without doing away with the album's overall vibe.

It looked like the Dillinger Escape Plan had peaked with Miss Machine after the underwhelming Ire Works, but Option Paralysis might even be better. It sees a band collecting their past musical ideas and building upon them in a balanced fashion, moving forward and maturing splendidly. Their last album was a bit of a stumble, but they bounced back with what is perhaps their best album yet.

The return of founding guitarist Dino Cazares last year was incredibly exciting news for Fear Factory fans. When it came at the exit of founding drummer Raymond Herrera, however, skepticism was abound... even when the legendary Gene Hoglan was announced to be his replacement.  That was before Arkaea, Wolbers' and Herrera's new band, put out their incredibly bland debut, though. Particularly with the knowledge that their album was largely composed of material intended for the next Fear Factory album, attention now shifted to Burton C. Bell, Cazares and co. to see if they could do any better, and my God, have they ever. Both Archetype and Transgression certainly had their moments, the former with its raging sentiment throughout as well as the latter's experimentation. The songs however, as good as some of them were, could never overshadow the fact that essentially the bassist was filling in for the guitarist. There was just something missing, and they were unable to recapture the quality of their earlier works. Now that the Fear Factory's seventh studio album, Mechanize, has finally surfaced, it has utterly demolished any doubts about the band's direction.

Cazares' return is obvious immediately. Right from the opening title track's vicious attack, the riffs crush in a way they haven't in a long, long while. They blend superbly with the keyboards added in Rhys Fulber's production, something that the band has steadily gotten better since Digimortal. The pop element is played down, though, leaving for a more harsh, industrial sound. The improved balance has resulted in something of an amalgam of Fear Factory's best. Industrial Discipline's chorus has got a certain pop-inflected finesse to it, while the verses (and the bridge in particular) are darker and more aggressive, but with catchy hooks that piece the song together. Much of the diversity the band has shown over the years is present in tracks like Christploitation - in five quickly passing minutes, they display unsettling soundscapes, decimating riffs, alternating tempos, warm and inviting synths, and overall, some of Cazares' best playing to date. Then there are absolute scorchers like Fear Campaign and Controlled Demolition, where Cazares and Hoglan work in pulverizing conjunction while Bell takes center stage with his dynamic vocals, bellowing some of his most intimidating roars and crooning some of his best sounding melodies. The opening itself (as well as the instrumental  Metallic Division) also seems to hark back to the band's heyday, with an ominous, industrial sound reminiscent of that on Demanufacture.

Another thing Mechanize has to boast is Final Exit, an epic closer on par with those of their earlier albums, which was failed to be replicated on Archetype, and perhaps wisely ignored altogether with Transgression. The alternating brutality and soulfulness is absolutely flawless, with synths and samples thrown in at just the right moments - for example, there are several parts with the band mercilessly thrashing away, but a single gentle synth renders these moments as incredibly soothing (doubly when Bell sings over them). The song's slow fade into ambience is, to Fulber's credit, very well done, and overall the song's eight minutes just melt away. One more noteworthy pro is that this album isn't weighed down by a cover, something that was done very well on Demanufacture and Obsolete, but felt gimmicky and unnecessary on their last two efforts. Overall, while it's true that Mechanize isn't quite as strong as the band's best (the lyrical focus on autonomy and man vs. machine is starting to repeat itself a bit), it's leagues away from their most recent work, and a decisive step in the right direction.

Mechanize feels like the album that was intended to follow the band's 2001 pop flirtation that was Digimortal. It's an impressive combination of their different facets, perhaps melding the elements of death metal, industrial, electronica, ambient, and even pop as well as they have since Obsolete. It's unrelentingly brutal, yet incredibly melodic and tightly composed, and most importantly with the familiar soul that graced the first four albums. Fear Factory's latest proves quite decisively that while Wolbers and Herrera were significant contributors at their respective posts, it was Bell and Cazares at the helm. With them together again, the band sounds as good as they ever have, and it feels like they're picking up right where they left off nine years ago.

Since Rob Zombie took up the writer/director role, his first musical career has been more or less tossed onto the proverbial backburner. After all, his film output has been very consistent, and yet this is his first album in four years, following up one that came five years after its predecessor. Not to mention that while 2001's The Sinister Urge benefited a lot from Zombie toying with his sound, he pushed it a bit too far on his third full length, Educated Horses, and it resulted in a watered down, unsatisfying mess. Here, however, he's reinvigorated his sound by simply restoring a lot of the elements from his solo debut, Hellbilly Deluxe (hence the title Hellbilly Deluxe 2). He's still kept a lot of the ideas he's picked up from his last two efforts though, and much like on The Sinister Urge, the mix works out very well, only here it's actually better.

Hellbilly Deluxe 2 sets right out of its gate with Jesus Frankenstein, driven by that industrial stomp he's known for, but the verses have a strange (and very welcome) reminiscence to La Sexorcisto era White Zombie, due largely to the slightly more complex guitar work, courtesy of John 5. Sick Bubble-Gum keeps the album's startling energy going strong with one of Zombie's trademark cheesy horror movie samples, an aggressive, processed riff, and of course his obligatory "MuthaFUCKAH YEEAAAHHH," which naturally makes up a big chunk of the chorus.

After a very refreshing start, Mars Needs Women settles in with its gypsy hard rock intro (which I'm sure will have more than a few people tempted to bust out Extreme's Hole Hearted), which shows a lot of the dimension Zombie explored on Urge and Horses. It gives way quickly though, and the song explodes with basically what makes a typical Rob Zombie song work so well - a blasting beat, a heavy industrial groove, and a fist-pumping melody boasting awesomely absurd lyrics. Speaking of which, the song titles are unabashedly Zombie-esque; I know I'm not the only one who heard Werewolf Women of the SS and remembered how badly I secretly wanted to see the Grindhouse trailer made into a deliberate B movie of its own. Seriously, I mean it couldn't be any worse than Machete.

In the middle there are a few missteps, namely Werewolf Baby!'s blandness and Death and Destiny Inside the Dream Factory's gimmicky sound, and then there's the completely unnecessary four minute drumline bit towards the end of closer The Man Who Laughs, which ends only to erupt back into the chorus; because apparently four minutes just wasn't long enough. Still, What? is a fun, short and sweet single, and part of what makes the middle lag is not so much that the songs in question are bad; it's just that Virgin Witch's blues-meets-industrial vibe and especially the powerful Burn, which slightly resembles a faster Living Dead Girl, are too strong to be placed among mediocre tracks without making them look a lot less impressive.

For all its problems, Rob Zombie has released a rather consistent and damned entertaining record. The best thing about Hellbilly Deluxe 2 is not so much that he seems to have realized that the experimentation became more to his detriment, but that he's regained his songwriting balance. Just as on the first Hellbilly record, Zombie has crafted a wonderfully sinister mood, but with the campiness still well in mind. No, it's not as good as his solo debut, but it's close, and with him hinting at this being his final physical CD release, it's a great note to go out on.


Chris Barnes' outfit Six Feet Under has been rather prolific throughout its career, with eight full length albums, one EP, and now three cover albums, all in fifteen years. As is the case with most death metal bands, of course, minimal progression has really been made, and their later work sounds marginally different from their earlier stuff (partly thanks to a change of guitarists). Still, Six Feet Under has had a few ideas unique to the genre, the first and most obvious being the heavy groove they incorporate into their brutal death metal approach, and large abandonment of high speeds. Another was their choice of covers; while most other death metal bands would cover Venom, Possessed, or some other progenitor of the general extreme metal genre, they would cover groups like Thin Lizzy or the Monkees. After a while, they put out 2000's Graveyard Classics, which was a well conceived all-covers project, and sounded good. Ten years later, they've slapped together ten more covers with Graveyard Classics 3, and by now it's become clear that this particular idea has well worn out its welcome.

Despite the clear intention of these covers, they're played very faithfully, and nothing really new is tried with the exception of Chris Barnes growling the vocals instead of singing them, which of course for this band is nothing new at all. The most interesting song here is their take on the Ramones' Psychotherapy, for the obvious reason that the Ramones are the only band on Graveyard Classics 3 who are really out of Six Feet Under's element. It's impressive that they're able to take such a fun, sarcastic song and make it sound so menacing; lines like "Gonna kill someone" and "I'm gonna burglarize your home" are taken so out of context that it deserves mention. After all, the best covers are usually those that take a completely different perspective with a song, rather than attempting to simply replicate it.

Still, as mentioned before, the covers are largely too faithful to be very compelling. Even songs the listener may not be familiar with still sound like Six Feet Under, but not; A Dangerous Meeting (Mercyful Fate) and Metal on Metal (Anvil) are clearly Eighties metal, where the Metallica (Frayed Ends of Sanity) and Slayer (At Dawn They Sleep) songs are just that. Of course, this is not intended to be an artistic statement, just the band cutting loose and having fun playing favorite songs, but it just doesn't feel like it had to be released as an official full length. Especially when they did this much better the first time around.

While Graveyard Classics 3 is mostly mediocre, some covers are just plain bad. Van Halen's On Fire sounds incredibly tired and boring, but the worst by far is Prong's Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck. This was the one I was personally most interested in hearing, and it was the most disappointing. The band's version has absolutely no edge, and it's hard to believe that Chris Barnes and co. couldn't think of more creative things to do with this song. Despite being heavier than the original, it sounds strangely watered down, and listening to Chris Barnes imitating the background screams from the original with his own high pitched howls is a hard thing to not laugh at.

Not to call Six Feet Under a lackluster band, because as far as their genre is concerned they're perfectly adequate, but the gimmick of giving older songs a death metal flair has gotten old, particularly as the theme of an entire album. It certainly was a good idea when they first did it back in 2000, but by now (and especially after the somewhat bland second volume, which was a reinterpretation of AC/DC's Back in Black album) it's lost its charm, and coming from a band who is unquestionably talented but also undeniably past their prime, it's nothing that merits more than one or two listens.

Self-described as "future fusion metal," Danish band Mnemic have indeed had an impressive blend of heavy genres to boast in their near twelve years of activity. The group has done a great job of juggling death metal breaks and metalcore structures against their industrial backdrop, and after how cleverly they weaved a somewhat progressive element into 2007's Passenger, Mnemic didn't seem too far from putting out an album that was going to floor everyone. After three years, their fourth album Sons of the System is finally here... but unfortunately, it just doesn't stand up to their older material. The same basic elements are in place more or less, but it seems that the attempt to implement a bit more melody has not only sacrificed some of the aggression in their attack, but suffers a good amount itself, because melodicism requires an at least passable knack for writing hooks, which Mnemic really doesn't have.

"Let's just say it has become more theatrical, more electronic, and just more catchy," the band said of their latest release. "We have put all our focus on writing good songs and not being afraid of experimenting." While this may have been their intent, it doesn't take many listens to the album to dispute this. For one, the band sounds more streamlined than ever; their choruses now feel as if striving for power rather than actually displaying it, particularly in the opening title track's attempt at an anthemic chorus which falls extremely short (the cheesy outro of "Will we rise? Will we fall?" doesn't help, either). The Erasing is another example of this; the swirling synths come out of nowhere for the chorus, and it completely mismatches with the rest of the song. It also brings the lackluster production to mind, namely in how the synths and keyboards often sound buried in the mix, and not for sake of deliberate layering either; they simply get too hard to hear in places, and frankly don't reward the effort made in searching for them.

There are many points in Sons that do work very well, though, and they're mostly in the album's second half. Fate and Hero(In) have the older trademarks of more complicated time signatures and better matched choruses. Elongated Sporadic Bursts resembles a slightly electronic, more accessible Meshuggah (in style as well as title), with a great groove that keeps strong throughout. Orbiting, while not the best closer per se, still manages to end things on a good note. The song takes a number of metal clichés, like timed cymbal grabs and fading out with an extended chorus, and makes them sound a bit fresh. Still, while these songs do stand out positively, it's really only when compared to the rather generic majority; nothing here is as good as anything they've done on their previous discs.

Sons of the System certainly isn't without its moments, but as a follow up to their interesting body of work, it's a huge disappointment. Too many of the songs sound watered down and uninspired, and even the best tracks can't compare to older songs; for instance, there is nothing here with the fury of Deathbox or the complexities of The Eye on Your Back. Nothing is really that bad either, but as far as being especially memorable, Sons doesn't have a whole lot to offer. Try Passenger, or The Audio Injected Soul, for a better representation of their sound.

Marilyn Manson's new release, a true triumph with strong, resonating indictments of American life, has- Oh wait, no. No, that review is from ten years ago.

Ba-dum tsh.

After the somewhat somber Eat Me Drink Me, Manson seems determined to prove that he's still "got it," and comes out swinging with a good combination of eclecticism and heaviness. The musical aspect is for the most part adequate, but The High End of Low is an absolute disaster lyrically, and it's really not going to prove anything to anyone other than the lemming fanboys and fangirls who are guaranteed to buy (or at least download) the new disc.

Just.... can't fit this damned thing on

This is what a forum fan had to say in the album's defense, I'm not even making this up: "I don't think it's shit album at all, it's just different from his previous albums.sounds mature to me." After this bullet-proof defense, I thought perhaps I had been too harsh in my words, so I gave it another spin. Believe it or not, I saw some of what he was talking about as far as maturity went. Here are some of the lyrics in particular that caught me:

"It's arma-goddamn-motherfuckin-geddon! Fuck! Eat! Kill! Now do it again!"

"We're from America, we're from America, where they let you cum on their faces"

"Wow, wow, wow, w-w-w-w-w-w-w-wow"

...okay, I'm sorry. That's enough smugness for one review.

The first flicker in faith of Manson's brilliance came with a chorus that started with the question, "Are you motherfuckin' ready for the new shit?" Profanity had always been a part of his music, but never the forefront. It was seeming to become more than just a device, and on his seventh effort, with song titles like Arma-Goddamn-Motherfuckin-Geddon, it's clear by now that it's just a crutch. Even past the ridiculous title, which though he says is deliberately subversive it sounds more postured than anything, the music itself is neutered, watered down, Manson-by-the-numbers. You can almost see him checking off his list, "Excessive cursing? Check. Challenges to American society? Check. Asserting superiority over said society? Check. Dark industrial sound? Check. This is GOLD."

ohhh woe is meeee

Not to mention that lines like "I've got a blackened soul, morals in a hole, wish I was so dead" recall Antichrist Superstar's Mister Superstar, and not in a good way. He's become the character he once so venomously mocked, the washed up superstar who was muttering "I wish I was dead" in the background. He's never sounded more out of ideas; lines like "Forbidden in Heaven and useless in Hell" from Four Rusted Horses sound like throwaway one-liners from his late nineties heyday. Even when they do work, such as on Running to the End of the World, they're ruined by the chorus' painful reminder of Manson's flat refusal to even attempt singing, and a running time about three minutes too long. I Want to Kill You Like They Do in the Movies, another joke of a title, simply meanders and goes nowhere. FOR NINE MINUTES.

Every time I listened to this, every uninspired line, every anemic hook, every wasted half-decent idea, all I could think was, "This is the Manson I remember?" Where is the cold, biting brilliance of Antichrist Superstar or Mechanical Animals? The raging fist-pumping anthems of Holy Wood? Hell, even The Golden Age of Grotesque and Eat Me Drink Me tried genuine (and mostly successful) tweaks with Manson's industrial sound; here he's just out of ideas and repeating himself. While on occasion, the music itself is strong enough to carry the song, the lyrics, which frankly could have been retrieved from a Marilyn Manson Mad Libs session, render it bland and devoid of impact; the only crowd this is going to appeal to are the frustrated high school kids who just want to hear someone assure them that their culture sucks, with a "fuck" and a "shit" thrown in for good measure. Even if his creativity is still in tact, The High End of Low sees him simply putting out another album, as opposed to progressing as an artist and making a statement. He was truly pushing himself all throughout his triptych of Antichrist, Mechanical, and Holy Wood, and now he's resorted to pandering to the generic Manson fan.


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The Red Chord hadn't become a complacent band so much as reliable. After their groundbreaking debut Fused Together In Revolving Doors, each release has been nearly on par with the 2002 album with enough ideas to keep from sounding like retreads but not enough flourish to really top themselves. Their 2009 effort Fed Through the Teeth Machine, however, has changed all that. The deathcore pioneers sound as fresh and vital as they have since they first came onto the scene, which is somewhat ironic, considering that this is their first long player as a quartet. NOM NOM NOM NOM

Fed Through the Teeth Machine's deceptively slow beginning on the opening track Demoralizer quickly explodes with Brad Fickeisen's outstanding, pummeling drums and Guy Kozowyk's dominating growl. It best sums up the whole album's vibe - in two and a half minutes, The Red Chord thrash away through multiple clever time changes and breaks, while maintaining an unflinchingly brutal attack. Many deathcore contemporaries, in particular their labelmates Job for a Cowboy (who are also currently opening for GWAR along with the band), seem to resort to time signature changes more as a novelty than to progress a song. Here, the fat is all trimmed, and everything still sounds as intricate as anything else in the band's discography but with an enthusiastic and nimble quality.

The musicianship is phenomenal right through, but on Hour of Rats and Mouthful of Precious Stones Brad Fickeisen and guitarist Mike McKenzie especially shine. The tight songwriting on the former is exhibited with great skill, the changeovers sounding extremely slick. On Stones, Fickeisen sounds more frantic than Cannibal Corpse's Paul Mazurkiewicz with a precision worthy of The Dillinger Escape Plan. McKenzie's solos on the song are remarkably soulful, and the way he switches gears from that back to the heavy, chugging riffs, and then the quick shredding that emerges seemingly at random is stunning.

Sleepless Nights in the Compound has perhaps the best groove of all, and closes things out with an almost melancholic yet still heavy sound. It recalls the excellent It Came from Over There off of their previous album, Prey for Eyes, in its near psychedelic character heard throughout. In fact, this quality is cleverly sprinkled all across Teeth Machine, for example in the guitar bending near Floating Through the Vein's conclusion or the brief break in Ingest the Ash.

The Red Doucheba-... I Mean Chord

What makes The Red Chord's latest so great is that they managed to up their game in every single department. Teeth Machine is intensely heavy, but it doesn't come at any cost; there's no sacrifice with the songwriting, the playing proficiency, or even the character of the band's music, which is ultimately what makes them unique. Every song is as thought provoking as it is mosh worthy, and not even just in the complex music. It's a shame you can only understand maybe every fourth or fifth word that Kozowyk says, he's surprisingly eloquent. With Fed Through the Teeth Machine, The Red Chord have truly fulfilled their potential and produced that rare beast, a death metal album that has real personality.

With Mastodon's recent rise to popularity, it's no surprise that progressive metal has been a growing scene as of late. Even more surprising, however, is how the burgeoning genre has been labeled as hipster metal; apparently indie kid cliques aren't the only ones generating music snobs. Baroness sounds like nothing generated from a scene, though - they lack the contrivances and pretensions, and are simply too adept at what they do. Their latest, Blue Record, proves to be standing evidence of this. So hawt

Blue Record, like the rest of Baroness' catalogue, prominently displays the mutating of southern rock into a trudging groove that is characteristic of sludge metal, but the style is all their own. While the riffing is outstanding, no song is ever especially heavy, thereby making the album's sound slightly more accessible without losing any of its bite. Another main pull of Blue Record is just how dynamic it is; scattered throughout are short interludes which serve as great setups before harder hitting tracks. Some, the introductory Bullhead's Psalm and Ogeechee Hymnal in particular, are slightly reminiscent of Metallica's notorious epic near-instrumental dirge To Live Is to Die, while the lovely Blackpowder Orchard harks back to early Down.

The musicianship is fantastic as well, namely John Baizley's powerful and melodic roar (which proves that clean vocals can thunder just as much as a death metal styled growl) and new guitarist Pete Adams' amazing solos. Baizley is commanding, but even more than that alluring enough to hook you in to his great vocal patterns, especially on Jake Leg. What's even more impressive than the tight playing and variety is how smoothly the album progresses. The way songs lead into each other is impeccable, especially the changeover between Steel That Sleeps the Eye and Swollen and Halo. The latter's melody starts out as a psychedelic, almost gypsy-esque sound before the melody is gradually warped to such a degree that it fits in with that of its companion track. From there, Swollen and Halo begins with a twang that hints at Steel before comfortably settling into its own thrashing groove.

The subsequent O'er Hell and Hide boasts nearly as much progression in just over four minutes. The spare acoustic intro quickly gives way to a bruising metallic gallop, which trades off seamlessly with a crushing stomp, linked by the low spoken vocals and an almost danceable beat. The Gnashing and Bullhead's Lament prove to be an outstanding closing pair as well. Gnashing starts out sounding almost like Bad Company on crack, eventually picking up the rhythm and crashing into Lament, which serves as a great bookend opposite Psalm.

It's a beautiful day for movin' along

Progressive metal efforts with so many avenues should not sound this brisk; more often than not they succumb to their own large ambitions and weigh themselves down with overly long compositions bloated with too many ideas. On Blue Record, Baroness show just how good they are at tightly packing everything together in a cohesive bundle. The Georgia-based quartet have produced an intricate yet highly listenable metal near-masterpiece, and fans of Mastodon in particular who are unfamiliar should definitely give this a spin.

The past few years have been good to thrash metal. Metallica and Megadeth released great (if slightly flawed) return-to-form long players, Testament put out their first in nearly ten years (and it's up to snuff, even!), and while it's not looking too promising at present, Anthrax is scheduled to release an album sometime this year (their first in six years). And now, here comes Slayer with their follow-up to 2006's Christ Illusion, their reunion album with original drummer Dave Lombardo. The thing is, Slayer never had the problems their thrash counterparts did. They never lost their edge (in fact Christ Illusion in particular seems a painstaking reminder of that, but more on that in a moment) like Megadeth or Metallica, and unlike Testament or Anthrax, their productivity never came to an almost complete hault, so it's not as though they've got something to prove. If anything, Slayer has been inhibited by only their staunch refusal to compromise their sound in any way. When this is the case for a band, especially for one well over twenty years old, it's overwhelmingly likely that a new effort will simply offer more of the same, which describes Christ Illusion to a T. Luckily, World Painted Blood, despite its typically Slayer-y title, offers far more pleasant surprises than its predecessor. See that? That's the world. And it's painted in BLOOD. 'CAUSE IT'S DEAD

An interesting thing about Slayer is that you can more often than not tell whether Kerry King or Jeff Hanneman wrote the music. If there's healthy groove and numerous changeups in the tempo, chances are that Hanneman penned it; if it's unrelentingly brutal, it's likely to be a King composition. And with no disrespect to the man who wrote the poetic line "I'm the one who's gonna rip your fucking face off," the albums dominated with Hanneman tracks show more personality and dimension, an obvious example being their string of classics Reign in Blood, South of Heaven, and Seasons in the Abyss. So with that in mind, it's easy to see why the mostly King-written Christ Illusion was more of a practice in fierce thrashing metal, where as this album and its prevailing Hanneman songs provide more of a solid metal album.

The record begins with a slightly unsettling recording played backwards, a nod to both God Hates Us All and Hell Awaits, but unlike those two in which this is the entire intro, the opening title track dives right in with with a great, shredding riff, machine gun mimicking drums, and Tom Araya's venomous shouting still in tact, which is damned impressive for a guy pushing fifty. But what makes the aggression even better is how it's set up; Beauty Through Order, an oddly appropriate title, shows exactly how well a bit of structure pays off in a metal song. The build up and texture leading up to the intense zenith at the end make it all the more powerful, certainly more so than an outright barrage of brutality.

The thrashers are in unsurprisingly top form, and even offer great hooks - the frantic riffage of lead single Psychopathy Red as well as Unit 731 are immediately alluring. Even better is the slow and creeping Playing with Dolls, a great number with almost disturbing music befitting the lyrical content (a love song... sort of) in the tradition of classics like Dead Skin Mask.

While it's certainly not perfect, and the songwriting doesn't quite approach anything from their heyday, World Painted Blood might be their strongest album since Seasons (which is not necessarily to say it has the best songs). There is plenty of the breakneck speed and dark content they've become known for, but there is more diversity as well, which just about every latter day Slayer album has sorely lacked.

It's no secret that Megadeth has always played second fiddle to Metallica (Dave Mustaine himself has confessed this in the latter's documentary Some Kind of Monster). After all, Metallica has always had more of a pop sensibility, perhaps even likability, and of course a more solid lineup, but that withstanding it's still quite an unfortunate state of affairs.  The near-masterpiece Countdown to Extinction was eclipsed by Metallica's shortly preceding self titled (so-called "black") album.  When the bands entered their mid-nineties creative slumps (not for a loss of ideas, but simply because most of their ideas weren't very good) Load and Reload were mercilessly slammed by loyalists, while Youthanasia and the surprisingly exceptional Cryptic Writings went largely under radar. Then, in 2004, when Megadeth released the critically lauded return to form The System Has Failed, and its impressive follow-up United Abominations in 2007, only the band's fanbase really noticed; contrary to 2008's Death Magnetic, after which Metallica's popularity surged once again, heralded as a remarkable return to form (which no doubt, it was) while largely ignoring Megadeth's own accomplishment of this feat four years prior. Before, Megadeth's only real bragging point over Metallica was that they have never released anything as atrocious as St. Anger (no, not even Risk was THAT bad), but now, Megadeth's latest shows them standing up to their unconsciously constant one-uppers. Dude, stop looking around! That shit pisses off the flies... just look down, like everyone else.

A big change from United Abominations is that Dave Mustaine and co. have traded in a lot of the groove that drove the previous effort for fast, stomping thrash a la Rust In Peace, and the exchange is largely successful. A lot of this works because of new guitarist Chris Broderick, who can shred like nobody's business. This new talent could well be what has kicked Mustaine into high gear; his solos are easily the best they've been since Countdown.

Endgame kicks off with the instrumental Dialectic Chaos, which recalls old school Megadeth even better than United Abominations did with the trade-off solos, trudging riff, and especially the way it leads right into the fist pumping, air guitaring, chamomile tea drinking This Day We Fight! The rousing thrash metal stomp would not be out of place on Rust In Peace or even Peace Sells, with the timing blazingly switching up throughout.

Single 44 Minutes serves as a bit of a breather, conjuring more of the groove we saw on United Abominations, but the blistering 1,320' (which beats out even lead single Head Crusher as the most vicious song here) shatters the midtempo tone with a lightning fast riff, fierce solos, and Dave Mustaine growling about... yes, drag racing.

The Hardest Part of Letting Go... Sealed with a Kiss is somewhat remarkable too, as it applies a lot of the different shades we've seen of Megadeth since 1992, but is free of awkwardness or any sense of being forced. It doesn't feel like the mandatory metallic ballad so much as an extension of Endgame's mood, a problem which plagued many a Megadeth ballad, particularly those on The World Needs a Hero.

An issue with Endgame is that while it is indeed a mature Megadeth at no loss for youthful energy (and avoids some of the retread pitfalls Metallica didn't with Death Magnetic), the songwriting has slipped a bit in exchange. This is a thrashing, well textured record to be sure, but overall it's a faceless exercise in brutality. Even so, the stand-out tracks are fantastic - Megadeth is steadily getting better, and Endgame shows that they just might have one more masterpiece left in them.

Let's face it; any band born of another band's drama (in this case Fear Factory) may produce music that is well and good, but isn't exactly going to blow anyone's minds. Sadly, this is the case for Arkaea's good but ultimately forgettable debut. Hey, I recognize this album cover! Is this the one with that "Womanizer" song?

There's no denying that Years in the Darkness ultimately does what it sets out to do; it rocks hard, it thrashes, hell, it even has some good grooves to go with it. It's fun to rock out to, but being that as it may, it's just Fear Factory with a few metalcore traits, which makes for a frustrating listen, given the powerful potential. With the opening Locust, which fans were treated to via Myspace (this reviewer is unhip enough to overlook a lowercase s in Myspace), there is a lot of promise; Christian Olde Wolbers and Raymond Herrera as usual work in impressive conjunction, thrashing away with Threat Signal representatives Pat Kavanagh supporting on bass and Jon Howard taking over vocal duties. Immediately, Howard justifies the comparisons to the Deftones' Chino Moreno and Linkin Park's Chester Bennington with his high registered, yet powerful voice. It is really he who adds the metalcore aspect to the group, which is essentially the only thing keeping Arkaea from sounding like a tired Fear Factory side project.

As heavy and energetic as this song is, the most substantial quality was promise, which is quashed immediately upon hearing the full record. Every song employs this same exact formula, with the exception of songs like Break the Silence, on which Howard does his best Burton C. Bell impression, or the closer Away from the Sun, an out of place semi-ambient piece seemingly tacked on at the last minute. It is not inconceivable for someone listening to suddenly think, "wow, this is a long song," only to look and see the fourth cut Gone Tomorrow playing.

It has been revealed that at least half of Years in the Darkness had been written beforehand for a new FF album, which is painfully evident not only in its reminiscence to Wolbers' and Herrera's band (or former band, the matter of their personnel is somewhat puzzling these days), but more so to the lack of their strengths. Initially, one thing that made Fear Factory so good was not just their crushing sound, but their willingness to experiment with it, which slightly dissipated with (perhaps not coincidentally) the departure of founding guitarist Dino Cazares. Here, we are shown a bare bones paradigm without the trademarks that make the style special, with outside influence added for flair; and regrettably, the Threat Signal members' input does fundamentally appear as such.

Years in the Darkness feels hackneyed and rushed, though satisfying in the fashion of being a decent metal album. Hopefully Arkaea will write their next effort together as a group, develop more of a style, and deliver on the promise they gave us with Locust; after all, the makings are most definitely there.