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Stuck Mojo - Southern Born Killers
Kudos to the indomitable Rich Ward for bringing this record to us like this. Go to the site, where it is all explained, but essentially, they have downloads for you to hear, and are taking PayPal orders for a bricks and mortar CD that is pretty deluxe. But it's the music that matters, and Stuck Mojo have continued down their obstinate path of pure rap metal, at a time when no one dare do it. Bonz has been replaced by Lord Nelson, and underneath the new guy's old school rapping, you get, as always, Rich's soul-replenishing croon, his huge, grinding riffs, and a scintilla of industrial chill wending its way throughout. 'The Sky Is Falling' is a great example of the many strengths of this band, which include gorgeous choruses and imposing grooves. Rich's complex and extreme (and extremely independent) politics are on display throughout, especially on incendiary first video 'Open Season' on view now in its entirety at the site. 'The Cause Of Allah' addresses the same huge issue, and Rich goes with a Stuck characteristic - the sampling of interview segments - even though this song is a Zepplin-esque chill moment, on which Ward's immense studio manipulation talents are demonstrated, but in a restrained manner. 'Metal Is Dead' proves that when Stuck Mojo is on the attack, no one is heavier - that riff just beats you up and weirdly, it's so mad at the world, any form of singing would lack the power of a spat-at rap, which is what you deserve and get. All told, Southern Born Killers is another expert foray into the half dozen or so characteristics this band owns alone. For the art, for the metal, for the words... it's an explosive package, of use in my life anyway. For sure, a lot of people are gonna have to get their head around digging rap metal, 'cos that's what this unapologetically is. We'll see if Rich can pull that one off here up into 2007.
Firewind - Allegiance
Greek axe-flasher Gus G. is still only in his mid 20s, but perhaps its because of his age, and all the extreme metal that goes on around him, that his particular take on power metal is stacked with bold power chords of an In Flames or even Finnish metal nature. Good thing, because the songs can be a bit pompy, as can the whole not so hot image of the band. Veteran Bob Katsionis turns in gorgeous old school synth lines on 'Falling To Pieces', 'Deliverance' and 'Breaking The Silence', and little-known new vocalist Apollo Papathanasio is a secret weapon for this band of an almost Jorn-like stature. He's a perfect bookend to Gus G's sturdy strumming, rendered molten by a Fredrik Nordstrom mix, framed dependably on the drum skills of Helloween's Mark Cross, like Apollo, also on a Firewind album for the first time. The rarified and self-important Falconer vibe of the album helps as well, even if the sum total is not an album one could say has any sort of creative leadership position within the power metal Parthenon.
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