Hard Reviews 2
by Martin Popoff

Chroma Key - Dead Air For Radios
(Fight Evil)

Quite the year for Dream Theater keyboardists, no? Jordan Rudess has a new Liquid Tension Experiment album, Derek Sherinian is about to deliver his Planet X solo album, and Kevin Moore has this Chroma Key thing. To be fair, Mooreās display came out last year. But you may not have heard about it because itās quite indie and obscure, Moore tapping LA solo dude Jason Anderson and Fateās Warningās Mark Zonder and Joey Vera for an album of trip-hoppy prog rock with subtle but busy drums and a stand-offishness (due mostly to Mooreās sleepy vocals) that recalls Wire. Reinforcing an overall concentric Floydishness is Mooreās use of spoken interview segments, which further delve the record into dream terrain. An odd, quiet, sombre curio for prog metal completists and fans of exploratory electro-art alike. www.chromakey.com.
Rating 7

Plastique - Empire Of The Black Suns

Total crap from a great label, Plastique sound like a garage band of 13-year-olds, mailing in sparse, under-produced alt.rock songs that sound like wimpy Helmet demos with no hooks, out-of-tune vocals and laugh-out-loud nods to hip-hop shoehorned into these horrid tracks with the greatest of ankle pain. Barely angry, barely alive, wholly without talent and shoe-gazed like weak Halifax grunge, this is 26 minutes of demo ineptitude that should have been tossed twirling into the labelās reject basket without a split second of consideration. Unbelievable.
Rating 0

Michael Harris - Distorted Views
(IMF '99)

Whereas most press hype on these instrumental shredfests would want to steer your thoughts towards the concept of songs, it carries no truck on Harrisā third majestic sounding board, Harris causing so much sensual sensation with all his different tones and styles that you forget all that stuff about hooks and just float with the scenery. This record is what Ritchie Blackmore, Dave Mustaine and Steve Morse might come up with if they were highly charged with the spirit of competition, Harris finding Mustaineās metal precision, Ritchieās pioneered goth and his blues, and Morseās playful everyman-ishness. Swirling around the display is a virtual rampage of great drumming, topped with a light spread of keyboard textures, providing enjoyable instruction to all camps of budding virtuosos. Still, itās one of those records. You know whether you want and/or should study it, and you know if it lacks usefulness in your life. POB 863 Lewisville, TX 75067 or www.IMFrecords.com.
Rating 7

James Murphy - Feeding The Machine

Along with all his studio work, Testament and a newly-minted Disincarnate, Virginia axeman James Murphy has found time to craft a second fine solo spread. Comprising five accessible instrumentals and five even thicker, well-managed vocal tracks, Feeding The Machine (to be productively confused with Damn The Machine but not Rage Against The Machine, Machine Head, or Mundaneās Feeding On A Lower Spine) alternately thumps and glides with the force of huge, stone-carved riffs, Lizzy-via-Yngwie double leads and an over-riding feeling of tradition that marries nicely the heft of major label thrash (remember?) and the heroes James must have looked up to when he was a younger noisenik. Thereās a new-agey fluidity to this thing, James almost pouring out these tracks, most rolling in waves at fairly slow, hypnotic speeds with slight keyboard over-rides. What results is an extremely hi-fidelity, high precision metal steamroller that leaves the prog for the corner touches, letting the songs breath, best being Visitors which contains an almost magical melody, over which Artension guy John West provides the albumās most operatic and as a result, most appropriate vocal. POB P, Novato, CA 94948 or JMconverge@aol.com.
Rating 8