Hard Reviews
by Martin Popoff

Martin Popoff is the author of The Collector's Guide To Heavy Metal (previously known as Riff Kills Man!), now a 540 page, 600,000 word compendium comprising 3,700 heavy metal record reviews. Also included are rock lists, a glossary of terms, a concise listing of almost 500 9's and 10's, plus a roll-call of non-metal faves. New to this edition is an exclusive 19-track sampler CD from premiere metal label Century Media. The book is now in its second pressing. For more information, visit the book website or contact martinp@hardradio.com

Fresh Metal

Machine Head - The Burning Red

Hard going working my way through this tangled confused trendy mess to see if it's well-done or not. Pooped out the other end, I was plain disgusted, fatigued at the dozens of disjointed urban scraps jumbled hastily together into „songs.š I'm just sick and tired of people I thought had integrity just whoring themselves to Ross Robinson and his floppy pants sound. Kudos to the man for inventing a new, virulent strain of metal, but Roots and a couple of Korn and Coal Chamber records is enough already. Get a new schtick. And f**king stay away from Witchery! Machine Head will no doubt tour their tats off this new record and sell a whole pile of them, but they've lost their identity in the process, slotting their dope selves unremarkably in the middle of the Roadrunn-'er-over pack, somewhere between Fear Factory, Soulfly, Sepultura, Coal Chamber and Slipknot . . . so fly for a white guy. Absolute lowest of lows: Machine Head slurps right up the the trough with their very own kidrock tribute trinket, an aimless cover of 'Message In The Bottle' which like Limp Bizkit, Coal Chamber, Powerman 5000, and Fear Factory before them, sez, aren't we right some cheeky? Uh, no your not.
Rating 4

Candlemass - From The 13th Sun
(Music For Nations)

Reversing the jets on '98's Dactylis Glomerata, which was essentially an adapted Abstrakt Algebra album that took a grinding 18 months to get somewhat cohesive), Leif Edling goes for something brighter, less stoner, less underground, but paradoxically more leaden of emotion, closer to old Sabbath and old Candlemass, Leif actually designing it as a „respectful tributeš to the Sabs. But the entertainment factor is there, unlike rudimentary and raw Celtic Frosted Candlemass of old (and of '98), Leif soaking up the bleeping spaceman sounds from Monster Magnet and the hallucinogenic humour of Cathedral, allowing each track to breathe through clear, up-front vocals from Bjorn, and refreshingly clean production values. Being Candlemass for all those years has meant the songs have integrity within this crowded field of bandwagoners, the listener really getting sucked into the vortex of the band's wily absurdity (note that the songtitles were „writtenš separately from the lyrics). Only complaint would be the lead-booted trudge of most the record, but then again, that's Candlemass, ain't it?
Rating 8

Natas - Cuidad De Brahman
(Man's Ruin)

Natas are an Argentinean stoner rock band who sound like a slightly more tuneful, accessible Kyuss, although they lose that connectivity somewhat with their native language lyrics. But all is forgiven due to the band's quagmired trips into long, bluesy instrumental passages throbbed with bass but mellowed with melody. The Melvins' Dale Crover produces the band on this second record, leaving them alone to do their thing, evoking the usual lower than low stoner rock tones, but allowing the band their heightened sense of dynamic and capable jam gooey goodness.
Rating 7

Lake Of Tears - Forever Autumn
(Black Mark)

Sad state of affairs here, Lake Of Tears doing no touring for A Crimson Cosmos, grinding through break-ups, poverty and utter boredom, writing and rehearsing Forever Autumn furtively and obsessively. The result is magnificent but flawed, a direct progression from its predecessor into even mellower, folkier, balladic Floyd. It's wonderfully sad easy listening music, with keyboards, piano and a still softly beating heart of crashy rock 'n' roll drums and underground power chords. The flaw is that the lyrics are all too clear. On the positive, they are cool mysterious fantasy lyrics with lots of nature and fresh air. On the negative, the grammar and idiom are repeatedly and distractingly askew, drawing attention in their clear, easily discernible delivery, a delivery which also wrinkles the nose due to Daniel's accent. It's ethnocentric to complain, but when the vocals reach out and plant a wet one on you like a David Gilmour acoustic ballad, you can't ignore it. Still, the record as a whole is a unique folk doom fantasia mortality-confrontable dark forest nightride that is worth the nagging melancholy that, like a pre-dawn chill, takes quite some time to shake. Ultimately, Forever Autumn accomplishes through a whole separate set of stimuli, everything Ritchie Blackmore and Candice are trying and failing to conjure with their playtime minstrel costumes.
Rating 8

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