HardReviews 3
by Martin Popoff

Werk 80 II (Napalm)

OK, these gothic death nutballs have made one of these before, but damn it if they don't do an amusing and utilitarian job of it. The concept: heavy versions of ghey '80s techno pop hits, part two. But wait, it turns out kinda cool, because, first off, there's new invented riffage which couldn't have been there the first time - these pencil-necked anthems are just ditties to hang a metal arrangement on. And what arrangements. Alex and crew dig right in, working in earnest like Queensryche on their impressive covers album last year, building these hooky melodies into improbable prog opuses. Furthermore, I don't even recognize half of these songs, meaning they must be a little obscure or European-ish. So you cook along between huge hits with just this vague feeling that yeah, your favourite tooling has been applied to accessible music, making for accessible heavy metal, rules broken because the originals didn't hang on heavy metal clichˇs. Ultimate test - I've played this damn thing too many times and am slightly embarrassed by that fact. At least I don't own up to or subscribe to many of the originals - true; I have my limits.
Rating 7.5

Hot Sumerian Nights (Underdogma)

LA subversive metalists Crom have one of those sketchy, patchy pasts reaching back over a dozen years of misfires. But here they are, marching off a polar bear rug after setting Styx' JY up with some coke, getting ready to deliver their sample-scarred record of pure, harsh, extreme epic metal with a Melvins wink of the eye. Massive, distressed stoner rock meets the hip, tossed off delivery of grind on an album that stomps irony in the way a few recent (and always solid) Cruz Del Sur releases have done. So there's a crossover vibe to the thing, sorta like Acid Bath, Agony Column, Butthole Surfers and Cirith Ungol of old. Love the way they keep it steamrollin' too, offering 22 tracks in 35 minutes and the aforementioned movie (and classic rock) samples all over hell an' gone. From the scrapbook photo collage to the comic warrior cover art, this is like stumbling upon one of those $350 late '80s indie rarities, then being floored by how extreme and flagrantly casual it is, essentially, a deep footprint in the snow that was virulent grunge at the very, very beginning.
Rating 8.5

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