Nicumo – 'The End of Silence' (Inverse)
Genre: Gothic Metal
Nicumo's just released debut record The End of Silence is the perfect blend of Amok- era Sentenced with added pop sensibilities. In fact, lead vocalist Hannu Karppinen at times is a dead ringer for Taneli Jarva. The mood is dark and depressive with a lot of melody. The tempos are sluggish and help set the tone of the record.
There are some gems found within, the excellent melody of opener "Follow Me," the counter chorus guitar lines of "Firestorm" and the gothic vibe of "Difference." Mastered by top producer, Jens Bogren the sound of the record has a lot of depth. On the next record they need to incorporate some different tempos to break up the uniformity.
Red Eleven – 'Idiot Factory' (Inverse)
Genre: Groove/Alt Metal
I'm trying really hard not to be an extremist elitist with this one, but I just can't. Red Eleven cite Down and Alice in Chains as influences on their Facebook page, but you won't hear anything that cool on Idiot Factory. (They also cite Faith No More, but I'm FNM-illiterate.)
Red Eleven is more akin to say, Chevelle, Stone Sour or even Finger Eleven. There is plenty of catchiness to be found, and the at times whiny vocals can also be smooth or growly. Some synths and keys give it a little flavor, but overall it's kinda bland. But hey, it's accessible, radio-friendly (except "W.M.F.F.") and "metal" and that sells records, right?
Snowfall – 'Cold Silence' (Escape)
Genre: Retro Metal/Classic Rock
There's a pristine '69 Camaro in the garage, just waiting for a midnight cruise. It needs driving music though. Snowfall's Cold Silence is the perfect solution. Opener "Don't Drive Me Home Tonight" is slickly recorded, chunked up with hooks and sports a four-on-the-floor beat, which summarizes all 11 tracks.
Cold Silence is an insanely well done homage to the bands of our parents. The Seventies left a voicemail, they need the opening act back for Kansas. Dust in the Wind tour. Lee Small sings credible leads. Look him up on Myspace. He sings his favorite covers, including "Dust in the Wind," oddly enough.
Teardown – 'Inner Distortions' (Grave New Music)
Genre: Melodic Metal
It's taken them nine years, but Finland's Teardown finally have themselves a debut full-length album with Inner Distortions. It's a gusting of melodic metal that traverses ill-lit gothic passageways with heavy footfall and the singing of Katja Pieksämäki and her lost princess vocals that are both arresting and, at times, curiously off-putting.
Opener "My Cave" and its successor "Dead Cry for the Sun" begin things promisingly, and for the most part the album keeps steady, balancing moments of vulnerable quiet and hard-hitting anguish. It's solid first showing for Teardown, but one that's likewise geared to a more sensitive audience.
Ugly Kid Joe - 'Stairway To Hell' (MRI)
Genre: Hard Rock
Best known for their early '90s radio hits "Everything About You," and "Cats In The Cradle," Ugly Joe hadn't released an album since 1996. They have reunited and are back with their fourth studio album Stairway To Hell.
Their sound has plenty of edge and heaviness along with melody and catchy choruses. Their new stuff is memorable with a little more heft than I recall from the early '90s. They also mix in mellower tracks like the country tinged "Another Beer" and a couple of acoustic songs including a rehash of "Cats In The Cradle." Their musical chops are intact, but some of the irreverence and humor they displayed back in the day seems to have dwindled.
Genre: Black Metal
Dissonant black metal intertwines with a dynamic sensibility on Woe's excellent third album, Withdrawal. Originally the solo project of Chris Grigg, Woe has become a collaborative affair. Though Quietly, Undramatically had a full band performing, Withdrawal feels more like four guys working together for one purpose.
"This Is The End Of The Story" and "Exhausted" provide no-frills blackened delight, while the acoustic intro to "All Bridges Burned" and the occasional melodic vocals usher in a progressive front. With great production and strong performances by the entire band, Withdrawal is a high mark for Woe.
XIII - 'Helltongue' (Inverse)
Genre: Groove Metal
XIII are from Finland, but are influenced by the good old U.S.A. Their debut album Helltongue combines a lot of Texas groove with a bit of Bay Area thrash. Pantera are the most obvious influence, with some Slayer mixed in.
The songs are fairly straightforward, with heavy riffs on display throughout. The vocals are a bit of an acquired taste, very rough raspy singing that sometimes sounds slightly off key. It's catchy, heavy and groovy, but the listener's tolerance/appreciation for the vocals will probably make or break your decision on whether you like XIII.