HardReviews 4
by Martin Popoff

Solar Soul (Nuclear Blast)

Vorph and Xy have trod strange pathways through a singular career, beginning life as a poisonous black metal cabal, moving through luminous, magical industrial metal (an o-Xy-moron there? Not in these capable hands), through too much techno, and now, back to a happy, heavy medium. Still, Samael will be ridiculed, but, perhaps as microcosm of this crunchy record as a whole, I'll direct you to the title track, in which headphone-heady layers of gorgeous song skill erupts come break time. Then there's 'Suspended Time' on which Xy finds a way to groove his drum machine somewhere between Pantera and Static X. And again, capable, confident stuff happens at chorus time and beyond, with massaged-in keys, a deep down female vocal, and those exquisite Zeppelin-esque melodies (see also 'Quasar Waves') these Swiss watchers pull out at will (for some reason, it's galvanizing like when Rich sings a Stuck Mojo chorus (er, just to keep the discourse Century Media '96). In fact, rarely is there an album so cool simply as an exercise for production fans. Who would have thought that one could listen one thread-like in vigilant study of classy, complicated drum programming - erudite tom fills are all over 'Valkyries' New Ride' - the same way folks play instrumental guitar albums to follow John 5, Paul Gilbert and Satch solos? So there's that, the measured, sparing melodies, the production pageantry, and then a fair bit of the dour, militaristic march-y stuff that gives industrial a bad name and will similarly have critics dismissing these guys as not human enough or trendy, even though the trend aspect of all this saw its peak in 1993.
Rating 7.5

The Conjoined (Burning Star)

Tim Gutierrez, Kevin 131, and Eric Forrest (vocals, and not vocals and bass, as he plied with Voivod) return with a second record of bewildering sophistication a notch up on the purer thrash of the debut. Indeed The Conjoined ping-pongs everywhere sonically like Lyzanxia or Mnemic, and like those bands, and like the old schoolers these guys are, there is no truck played to metalcore - this is grim art for extreme fans of substance. Hell, even Killing Joke is evoked, and Grip Inc. (!), as the guys smoke-choke grey and greyer metal often crumpled in Meshuggah-like origami whammies (proceed to title track, which inside that dizzying fray, even manages to bring in horns like Dimmu now and Lucifer's Friend 36 years ago). Strings, industrial bits, spoken samples, blastbeats, tastes of all those big black metal bands when they went proggy and/or ploddy (mostly Satyricon)... it's all here in impressive collage form, along with a coursing Voivodian vibe, a bit weird, given that Kevin and Tim are the main writers. Of course, Eric is there singing like a hollowed-out chain-smoking raven, but he's not exactly Voivodian himself, more of an anomaly of that band at a weird yet under-rated caustic time well under the radar.
Rating 7.5

Hard Reviews Page 5