Hard Reviews
by Martin Popoff

Fresh Metal

Sepultura - Against

Buddy Tim says it reminds him of Zeppelin III, said weird comment capturing nicely the enigmatic, opaque, complex and pleasing emotions that swirl hypnotically from Against. The short story: Max has left due to a rift caused mainly by the band's manager Gloria being Max's wife, the rest of the band citing conflict of interest. Max has created the pretty damn good Soulfly, and Sepultura has enlisted ex-hardcore soldier Derek Green for a record that creates walls of spiritual hardcore, blessed with respites of equally spiritual world music experiments, heavy weird acoustic, Japanese Kodo drums, and other exotic instruments welling up in strange jams just when the ears need them. Howard Benson's production work is fairly neutral, reversing the Korn-ness of Roots, and as a result Sepultura has managed change, in essence a return to no-nonsense mosh madness, sorta Nailbombed but less harsh, not overcrammed with goodies but still expensive sounding. Green offers perhaps the record's best performance (although drummer Igor also shines) moving swiftly from Fear Factory/Machine Head barks to dreamy croons and many points in between, really raising the complexity of each song where on Roots, Ross Robinson would be tapped for a few tricks instead. The result: a relentless, challenging, vigorously non-commercial wall of positive anger, wholly void of money choruses, accessible grooves and trendy directives, characteristics I actually liked about Roots, but at the same time am cerebrally pleased have been shed for Against.
Rating 9

Dimmu Borgir - Godless Savage Garden
(Nuclear Blast)

More buttery, self-assured black metal from our fiends Dimmu Borgir, Godless Savage Garden is a stopgap EP (longer than the new Kiss album), designed to keep these well-regarded practitioners of velvet heft fondly within your day-to-day fulminations. A bunch of typically well-crafted (if not a bit muddy) new stuff is followed by a straight-laced novelty cover of Metal Heart (press expectedly is generated), and three live tracks, highlight of which is the sincere intro thanks dealt forth in blackened metal growl. Never knew one could converse in this style.
Rating 8

Rob Zombie - Hellbilly Deluxe

It's no secret Rob Zombie has always complained about the drudgery of record-making, often security-lapsing into veiled comments about the hassles of dealing with his fellow White Zombies. So the inevitable solo album hath happened. It's what you'd expect if you believe Rob is White Zombie: the same pile of neon camp horror, sprung and springy with an increasingly technology-crazy sense of freedom, a pulling away and up from the clanky industrial metal of his White albatross. So a bunch of this inexcusably short shock sounds like Two, all weak and watered, too computered and electronic. Some of it rocks and we are happy for that, and some of the experiments are witty (witness How To Make A Monster, the whole song mixed like distant A&M radio). The best stuff is when all these spiffy tricks finally collide with a real song, as is the case with Spookshow Baby, which is like a Zeppelin-obsessed weather-tracking mainframe. But it's all over before you've had enough really good music. Surprise follows to-quick-to-arrive silence, and one wonders how such a supposedly studied scenester can tread the same doomed floorboards as Halford.
Rating 7.5

Death - The Sound Of Perseverance
(Nuclear Blast)

Gotta hand it to him, Chuck Schuldiner has a unique franchise here, Death becoming over time, clearly defined as a searing, exacting, relentlessly progressive death metal phenom which sounds like no one else. But the reason it stands alone and aside are not always good. Chuck's sensibility-numbing vocals are death in nature, semi-black in register, arriving gratingly misplaced on the band's cover of Priest's Painkiller, which is pointless musically as well, to close to Death to matter. Also, way too many loosely connected parts, although, a studied listen of those parts proves rewarding, Chuck making all the complexity clear through hi-fidelity, inhuman playing and the deft insertion of hooks. This is most apparent on lead track Scavenger Of Human Sorrow, a song crafted like Megadeth on crack-laced viagra. Secret weapon: drummer Richard Christy who storms right in and secures the area with a performance that is downright incomprehensible. I mean, just this guy's collection of cymbal sounds is thesis material.
Rating 8

Hard Reviews Part 2