Slaves on Dope Inches from the Mainline (Priority) With a head turning name, Slaves on Dope conjures negative thoughts, but ironically all band members are drug free. Since forming six years ago, the band has

Slaves on Dope
Inches from the Mainline

With a head turning name, Slaves on Dope conjures negative thoughts, but ironically all band members are drug free. Since forming six years ago, the band has stepped into the spotlight with a hard and personal sound.

Touring club circuits helped cultivate Slaves on Dope’s intense sound. On the road the band was able to prepare for the national level, appearing this summer on the Ozzfest’s second stage. Ozzfest gave them a shot of confidence from metal fans, a confidence revealed on their first release, Inches from the Mainline.

The album is held together by the strong vocal talents of Jason Rockman and excellent guitar work by Kevin Jardine. The hard sound is prominent in “Leader of Losers,” where Rockman warns authority-figures to stay out of his life. “I Can’t Die” is a sit-up-and-take-notice song effectively using his screeching vocals.

The stand out song on the album is “Pushing Me,” which cynically describes how you can’t fight back against those who push you down. Watch out for Slaves on Dope’s track, “Stick it Up,” on the Blair Witch II soundtrack.

Grade: B
-Chris Powell
Alice Cooper
Brutal Planet

Brutal Planet, the latest concept album from metal legend Alice Cooper, deals with a myriad of issues plaguing society. Coop’s heaviest record to date features a more updated, industrial kick. As always, Alice’s twisted sense of humor is present. On “Sanctuary,” he offers such witticisms as: “I’ll have 2.3 perfect kids and if I work real hard and I die real fast they’ll all turn out just like me.”

In comparison to the violent, post/pre-apocalyptic world Alice paints, “Gimme,” the standard macabre, deal-with-the-devil fare Cooper built his career on, hardly frightens the listener. The track “Pick Up the Bones,” told from the vantage point of a survivor in a village devastated by genocide, far surpasses anything that goes bump in the night. “Take it Like a Woman,” tackling domestic abuse, can be seen as a follow-up to Cooper’s 1975 hit, “Only Women Bleed,” from his landmark concept album, Welcome to My Nightmare.

With Brutal Planet, Alice Cooper has proven he can outdo metal acts less than half his age. The lyrics are intelligent and thoughtful without being preachy – a rarity on albums discussing such topics as murder, neo-nazism, and world hunger.

Grade: A+
– Lana Cooper
Godspeed You Black Emperor!
Lift Yr. Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven

These current darlings of the indie music underground are one of those bands that are just amazing to see in concert. Their thick layering of abstract guitar noise, more traditional rock jamming, and orchestral instrumentation make for an intense performance by the band’s nine members.

When exactly you hear the band tends to affect how you view Godspeed’s studio work. If you see them in concert, chances are you’ll be blown away, and wind up running over to the merchendise table to buy a CD. But dense, improvised instrumental rock doesn’t sound as good on CD as it does in a tiny, smoky underground club…so chances are you’ll be a tad disappointed.

But if you hear the CD first, or are able to differentiate between the album and the performance, you will find that Godspeed is one innovative, intense band. Skinny Fists is two CDs, 90 minutes…and a mere four tracks. But the gamut of moods that those four tracks invoke is so wide that listening to the album can be a real experience. If you hear it post concert and are disappointed, give it time. It will grow on you.

Grade: A
-John Vettese
Dame Grease
“Live On Lenox: The Album”
(Vacant Lot/Priority)

Dame Grease, one of rap’s up-and-coming producers, releases his first, full length compilation, featuring the H.O.T. ones, Meeno, E-Snapps, Mad.Is.Son, and Jewellz, just to name a few.

But it’s some of hip-hop’s biggest names such as Noreaga, Scarface, DMX, Nas and Cam’ Ron, that supplement the album with too many inconsistent and unoriginal rhymes.

You’ll find yourself pressing the fast-forward throughout the album, except for a few bangers. Nas comes through with his classic storytelling as witnessed on “Wanna Play Rough,” while Noreaga and his crew, Final Chapter, spit thugged-out rhymes amongst the catchy tune, “La, Da, Di, La, La, La.” But after that, most of the songs sound the same or like something you heard on previous albums.

Dame Grease has established himself behind the boards, but his crew needs a lot of work on rhymes and how to construct quality songs.

Grade: C-
-Omar Branch
The I Live the Life of a Movie Star Secret Hideout

I won’t try to retype the name of this band or album, but I will say how much I like it. True, there’s little on here as immediately ear-catching as “Cherry Constantine” or “Charlemagne” from their first CD, Gale Wind Transistor. Rest assured. There are diamonds hidden in this album.

Take the majestic beauty of “Lotus Eaters” or lush “Kodiak UXB,” which features the vocal interplay of both Outs members (yep, there are just two of `em). “Figure Eights” is Lois-meets-The Softies, a heavenly combination.

There’s not as much to the Outs as their name might suggest. They’re just a little pop band. Your friends will laugh at you when you put “Silver Hair” on a mix tape, but you’ll still play this album…over and over and over.

Grade: B+
-Neal Ramirez
Kid A

With each album they’ve put out, Radiohead’s sound has gotten increasingly less conventional. But if you thought their 1997 opus OK Computer was about as experimental as they could get, think again. Kid A shows us all that there is no limit to Radiohead’s weirdness…and no limit to their brilliance.

The album dabbles in some new sounds for the band, in terms of style (“Treefingers” is a very spacy, Eno-esque instrumental, while other tracks like “Idioteque” feature jungle drum loops) and in terms of their instruments just sounding different.

The experimentation pays off for the most part, but some moments are painful, such as the title cut, with its skittery beats, atmospheric synth noises, and AppleTalk vocals (a la “Fitter, Happier.”)

On the other hand, tracks like the melancholy ballad “How To Disappear Completely” and “The National Anthem,” one of Kid A’s few upbeat moments, remind us that Radiohead is still a great rock band.

It’s not an easy listen, it’s not for everybody, and it’s too damn short (a mere 10 tracks over 50 minutes). At the same time, Kid A is one of the first great albums of the 21st century.

Grade: A-
-John Vettese

For being Ravenous’ third album, Phoenix really plays like a debut. It’s got that feel of fumbling around, trying to make all the pieces fit, succeeding some of the time, missing more often.

Some tracks like “Between the Worlds” seem like they just rolled off of some industrial/EBM assembly line, employing familiar beats, familiar synth noises, and a familiar vocal styling.

More prevalent is the problem seen on “Shooting Star” and “What would it be like…?” These songs’ verses are sloppy and jumbled, with awkward combinations of hard beats and soft instrumentation. But both songs manage to pull themselves together for a great chorus.

It’s moments like that, as well as some honest-to-god decent songs (a spooky number called “The Abbey” and the beautiful closer “Heart of Stone”) that show Ravenous has actual potential. It’s a shame that potential didn’t get worked into an entire album.

Grade: C+
-John Vettese
VNV Nation

The newest release from VNV Nation doesn’t hit you quite as hard as Praise the Fallen, their previous full length on WaxTrax Records. Only a few cuts on Empires – the vicious, beat-heavy “Fragments,” and a driving instrumental called “Savior” – match their earlier work in intensity.

Instead, this album lures the listener in with a good dose of sexy, sweaty industrial dance. Joyous numbers like “Kingdom” and “Legion” might not pack the punch of VNV’s Waxtrax work, but they make for great listening all the same.

Although there are a few points where Empires falls short – album versions of “Standing” and “Darkangel” suffer if you’ve already heard their faster club mixes – it’s still a decent album, and establishes VNV as strong new faces in the industrial scene.

Grade: B+
-John Vettese
Kindercore Fifty

Kindercore has more moods than your girlfriend. The Athens/Brooklyn-based label is best known for dishing out melodic indie pop, but this three-CD compilation shows their many faces.

From pure pop (Birdie, Dressy Bessy) and electro-pop (Sleeping Flies, I am the World Trade Center) to emo (Japancakes, Vermont) and good ol’ indie rock (Je Suis France, Masters of the Hemisphere), Kindercore Fifty is all over the place. While one could argue the best tracks would have made an amazing single CD, the complete set shows the true beauty of the label. When Kindercore puts out a record, it’s because they’re doing what their gut tells them: “this is good.”

The three CDs each have their own theme: the new, the classics and the remixes. The new is a nice representation of what you can find on the label (I suggest Birdie and Masters.) The classics, while less stellar, are interesting as most of the stuff is old and otherwise unavailable. The remixes are mostly by World Trade Center; they either work (Olivia Tremor Control) or don’t (Ladybug Transistor.)

For about the price of a single CD, Kindercore Fifty should warm the hearts, and wallets, of many an indie rock fan.

Grade: B
-Neal Ramirez
The Ladies Man Soundtrack
(Dreamworks Records)

The Ladies Man is a recurring skit on Saturday Night Live, and it’s no wonder the success of Leon Phelps dishing out advice to the ladies would turn into a film. The soundtrack for The Ladies Man is surprisingly good, not a cheesy 70s reunion. Instead, soul and smooth jazz from the disco age have been nicely compiled for the soundtrack.

Songs range from the Isley Brothers’ snazzy “That Lady” to the sultry “Close the Door” by Johnny Gill. Interspersed are samples of Phelps advising callers. Isley Brothers’ “Don’t let me be lonely” is especially good, its slow throbbing beat speaking earnestly about love.

This soundtrack, with well-selected songs, is a nice compilation of slow jazz and soul, something good to warm up the cold nights we’ll be having. The Ladies Man will be a great accompaniment for a date as its warm, melting sounds give rise to a special mood.

Grade: B
– Jigsha Desai
Punk Goes Metal

Punk Goes Metal features the new generation of melodic punk bands showing their 80s hair-metal roots. Ranging from speed metal to the requisite power ballad, this disc contains a nice mix of covers. New Jersey’s Bigwig plays Slayer’s “War Ensemble,” throwing a nifty rockabilly guitar solo into the traditional thrash tune. Representing the softer end of the rock spectrum, A New Found Glory gives their version of Warrant’s “Heaven.”

Among the standout tracks on this compilation are The Ataris’ rendition of “I Remember You.” The band incorporates samples of the original Skid Row ballad in their more up-tempo version. Also, Divit speeds up Judas Priest’s “Breakin’ the Law,” a nearly impossible feat to be admired.

Most of the covers on the disc give a unique spin to the songs chosen instead of becoming carbon copies of the original. Punks are often lambasted as being unable to play anything but oversimplified three-chord rock. Punk Goes Metal showcases the humor, musical talent, and innovation of current melodic punk bands. My only gripe with this album is that no Nelson songs were covered.

Grade: A
-Lana Cooper

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