by Martin Popoff

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Fresh Metal

A-Lex (SPV)

Gotta hand it to them, Derrick, Andreas, Paulo Jr. and new drummer Jean Dolabella haven't taken the easy way out, crafting (quickly, mind you, from studio jams), a concept album based on the book and movie A Clockwork Orange, including a chapter of the book not portrayed in the film. As you may know, Alex is the main grinning, leering character of the film, and as you didn't know, "a-lex" means no law or lawless in Russian. In any event, the point the guys wanted to get across is the same as Anthony Burgess', and that is the ultimate authority of free will. Where that is in all of Derrick's shouting is neither here nor there, for what we get is Sepultura 2.0's usual pageant of groove and rigidity, thrashing, main tool being Kisser's curious automaton guitar riffing, the man stacking the tight-cornered blocks of sound that helped invent both nu-metal and Fear Factory. Moonspell, Enslaved and Monotheist-era Celtic Frost come to mind as well, given the band's penchant for atmospherics and sculpture and loud to soft dynamics. It's certainly an art installation, especially when we crawl up to the end of the sharp show, and there's a stumbling, chaotic, weird bit of Beethoven, Trans-Siberian metal fused to classical that mixes strings and horns and everything and then leaves the whole mess sorta quiet and mixed way back. This is to reflect Alex's love of Ludwig Van, and frankly the album breaks down for this and then a dump of noise called 'A-Lex IV' before a standard thrash-to-groove Sepster called 'Paradox' closes the show with Derrick roaring "This is your life" repeatedly. So what's the score? Max and Iggor (sic) cranked one of the more enjoyable expressions of the Seps/Soulfly sound last year with The Cavalera Conspiracy, while the official Seps continue to make the hard-hearted art for the aching head.
Rating 8

Ballad Of A Hangman (Napalm)

I begin with a note of caution - skip the title track immediately and never go back to it. The chorus will stick in your head forever and it's horrible; all this hangman stuff... I picture being on a train with Udo and Nazareth for three days crossing Siberia, head poisoning courtesy of fermented potato juice. Once past that however, Boltendahl and crew get down to some fetching gritty power metal headbanging worthy of the band's usual high level of quality and edge. The production is carnal but accomplished and detailed, the riffs aggressive and old school, and Chris roaring like only he can, including a little Lee Dorrian tuning-challenged. Highlight would be 'Grave Of The Addicted' which slams along mid-paced, spooky, classic... the packaged effect almost turns Grave Digger into a black metal-vibed speed metal band, Notre Dame meets Mercyful Fate with a touch of Coroner and Destruction, not to mention the closest comparatives, Rage and Running Wild. I headbang therefore I am... call this pure metal or heavy metal or the type of workmanlike mosh that makes Keep It True so magical, but hell, give me the crunch and spit of 'The Shadow Of Your Soul' over anything by Primal Fear any day.
Rating 8

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