by Martin Popoff

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Fresh Metal

Southern Born Killers (Napalm)

You know, for the vast majority of fans who've never seen Bonz loosening the floorboards live, it doesn't really matter that he is replaced as lead vocalist on Southern Born Killers by one "Lord Nelson." Fact is, Nelson does an awesome job, fulfilling the vision of musical GENIUS Rich Ward with aplomb (and he's 6'5"). Skeptics would say, who needs a rap metal band? But Stuck Mojo have always been so bloody excellent, that they are simply an incredible band that happens to be a rap metal band, and one with a stupid name to further hobble that benefit of the doubt. Everything you want from these guys is here, including sophisticated ear candy textures, blistering grooves built of carved-in rhythm guitars (edgy percussion and rap cadence aiding that cause), Rich's voice as sweetener, huge stadium rock melodies, and all speeds filling all needs. And as always, it's lyrically meaty, rife with hard politics, dimension, brains, thrilling construction built for headphone exploration. All of this comes to a head with closer 'Home' which is a soul-stirring example of crushing rap metal critical mass that, well... it converts unbelievers to the value of rap metal (especially when the last band standing is the best band), and then there's Rich putting together a gorgeous platinum smashy chorus straight off of his way, way under-rated record as The Duke. The drumming is cool, and bloody well, Fozzy's fleet-fingered Mike Martin is in there (greatest, most blazing-est live soloing I've ever seen)... man, it's a symphony of sounds that aren't supposed to work together - let alone apart! But put American musical treasure Rich Ward on the case, and you end up with a masterpiece.
Rating 9

First Strike Still Deadly (Prosthetic)

Prosthetic have reissued Demonic, The Gathering, and now this one, just in time to coincide with the band's long-awaited and already effusively regarded new album, The Formation Of Damnation. First Strike Still Deadly was first issued in '01 on Spitfire, and is a full-on re-recording of the band's early thinking man's thrash hits. It was actually fairly well received at the time, and for sure, it's cool to have modern punchy production values applied to these songs, the result almost Megadeth-like in clarity and warmth, at least up the the Rust In Peace era if not beyond (certainly at the drum end of things). Added bonus comes in the fact that original vocalist Steve Sousa - with the guys as Legacy, but known more for his work with Exodus - is on board for the two closing numbers, 'Alone In The Dark' and 'Reign Of Terror', adding a bit of strangely punk-rocked David Wayne whine to the Chuck Billy's elsewhere hungry man growl. Same 11 tracks as on the Spitfire original, but new and better cover art, plus the lyrics are easier to read.
Rating 7

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