Hard Reviews 2
by Martin Popoff

Orange Goblin - Time Travelling Blues
(Rise Above/TMC)

Like most in this genre, Orange Goblin are getting versatile, choosing to offer a myriad of sounds and more importantly songs, cleaning up the production and getting tuneful. So toward this end, we get as much Kiss, Deep Purple and Mountain as we do Sabbath here, all delivered with tongue in cheek, really playing on this whole space-brain theme. Vocals are a bit back, limiting your party connection with the thing, but all in all, consider these guys the fast food version of labelmates Sheavy, most of this due to the perfectly uneventful production, which is more of a negative than positive here, again, perhaps exposing the shallow fallow of such a nailed-down genre. One point penalty for use of a safety harness.
Rating 7.5

Sleep - Jerusalem

Quite the story here, Sleep birthing through extended labour this 52 minute single track, first in preparation for release on London, who had offered a six-figure contract (before or after this doomed ruse?), and then rung the band's bell bottoms right outta town. So left with the over-budget albatross called Jerusalem, the band eventually broke under the strain and is no more. And after much bootlegging, rumours and interest, here's its official release. No truck with commercialism, Jerusalem is often a one chord mudbank of crumbled sludge, making just enough twists to keep us from nodding off, but really falling to the rear of the current stoner pack. This is actually a lot like the Melvins with goth bent from Count Raven and The Obsessed. Production is closer to dirt than clean, but nowhere over the top like Kyuss or Eyehatgod or old Soilent Green, evoking a plain cheap, unintended quality. Like watching lasagna cook, bubble and boil and then cool right off so you gotta microwave it.
Rating 7

Hades - SaviorSelf
(Metal Blade)

Yeah yeah, long story, but the basic gist is that this is a comeback record by a fetching, always well-regarded consortium of bands known as Non-Fiction, Watchtower and (of course) Hades. And SaviorSelf lives up to the legacy in enigmatic fashion, sorta like if Led Zeppelin decided to booze Bonham style write a record in Portland (y'know, between the burgs of Bay Area thrash and the home of Nevermore). It's an absolute thrill to hear a band so squarely heartfelt metallic and even boxing-stance retro, writing in this strange danger zone, throwing curves into hardcore politics, acoustic depression, red hot Anthrax rippery, and even a solo vocal through The Lord's Prayer. But highlight by far is the dug deep groove of To Know One, which somehow combines Sabbath, Savatage and Aerosmith funk and flips itself into a suicide dirge. Brilliant! And End Of The Bargain just builds and steamrolls, once more pointing to a songwriting greatness perhaps last glimpsed within Exodus or a band I used to like as a fogged teen called Metallica (uh, actually I was in my early 20s). Vocalist Alan Tecchio is another piece of the danger game here, going to the edge with a variety of styles (once again, when at his best, up there with Warrel Dane), coming close to crashing, as on Fall, where you can hear the hurt along with a detectable slippage in tune. I don't know man, there's just a proud, risky, warts-and-all, highly experimental creativity at work here, coursing vigorously through a record that ends suitably and perplexed, fading out on the wings of a layered, ironically churchy guitar instrumental called The Athiest. Righteous, dynamic and unapologetically heavy metal brewage for the new age.
Rating 9

Roachpowder - Viejo Diablo

Probably the best of this quickly crowding corner of metal (now just called stoner rock after linguistic games with retro, doom and psychedelic metal), Roachpowder are a Swedish thing, fronted by a Canadian, but pertinently produced by Entombed twiddler Tomas Skogsberg. So there's a Mudhoney'ed production grime, which coupled with the band's songwriting depth and Corrosion Of Conformity jones (check out tourism booster New Orleans), make for one full-up, bubble-blister-boiled piece of deftly unprecise drone metal. Francisco Rencoret's got the presence of Hetfield, the blues of Pepper and the evil forbode of Wyndorf, so he quite capably drags the mucked mess along, a crash of sorts that includes all the sound-bitten touchstones of psychedelic, Sabbath and grunge: three decades of pharmaceutical fuzziness. A rare tab that crosses the stoner rock line from theoretically cool (easy) to entertaining (hard).
Rating 8

Memory Garden - Verdict Of Posterity
(Metal Blade)

Pure delight for those fans of progressive metal, a genre rapidly growing in authority and quality, Memory Garden are a Swedish phenom who mix their convolution with a detectable trace of doom via Memento Mori (Mike Wead produces). Vocally, Stefan Berglund is clear and mid-range for the genre, dramatically delivering tales of millennial anxiety over dark, slow, complicated beats that are the antithesis to the flipside of the genre, Helloween and their ilk. Record II after a debut called Tides.
Rating 8