HardReviews 4
by Martin Popoff

Fatal Smile - Beyond Reality

When you think you'd heard everything, something like this comes up, Fatal Smile being a young Swedish band crossing top-flight bluesy metal along the lines of Blue Murder or Whitesnake with, man, Load-era Metallica? A bit (and only a bit) of nu-metal? Whatever it is, it's quite amazing, recorded zipped-up, airtight and punchy like Fozzy, rocking with an authority found within the hallowed halls of Dio, basically sounding like perfection pros with songs that defy gravity. The rhythms, the riffs... all of them are winners, H.B. Anderson singing like a grizzled rock veteran, growling and soaring in tandem, his band pounding out these fresh arrangements behind him, lots of space, a patina of electronics on a few tracks, huge, snaky riffs winding through the thickest of backbeats. Not since Jorn Lande and Ark have I heard classic metal with such soul. Bands like Def Leppard should listen up... $5 million to make Euphoria. Nice. This record sounds better by a long shot and I bet the budget was no more than that, maybe even less!
Rating 9

Various Artists - Rise Above

The backbone of this thing, other than that exposed and arched by Rollins for striding forth and executing a plan, is the fact that Henry himself handles the lusty chore of vocalizing Black Flag's three best songs: Slip It In, My War and Black Coffee. But a little about the project is in order: Rise Above features Mother Superior slamming out the music of Black Flag, fronted by various guest vocalists, all in support of the West Memphis Three (see www.WM3.org for the story of these three kids allegedly - look, I know nothing about this - wrongly jailed for a triple murder). The sound of the album is crisp and vibrant and the band packs a punch, squeezing in 24 spealing, rubber-peeling tracks of punk whack. O'ertop, guys like Lemmy, Iggy, Ice T, Corey from Slipknot, Slayer's Tom Araya, Mike Patton, Casey from Amen, Neil Fallon from Clutch and Nick from QOTSA belt out lyrics that are funnier than I remember 'em. Kudos to Henry for jumping on the case (I know personally the grief he went through with band managers, although it's even worse with road managers), Rollins pulling together what is a stellar album of pushing, shoving, aggressive punk anthems short enough to hold attention, star-studded enough to restore your faith in humanity.
Rating 8

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