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Verse and Another Breath…

Posted on Monday, July 31st, 2006 @ 12:00pm » permalink

Verse - From Anger and Rage"From Anger and Rage" is my first exposure to Rhode Island's Verse, and, well… I guess Rivalry Records has done it again. Like several other bands on the label's roster, Verse plays a melodic and energetic form of hardcore with just the right amount of metallic crunch thrown in, making for 25 minutes of powerful and memorable material that totally hits the spot with me. If every hardcore band sounded like this I'd be in heaven, I just love this shit. It's those speedy picking patterns and upstroked chords with octave harmonies and dissonant little arpeggiated riffs, man… that shit gets me every time, I fuckin' eat it up like candy. I can't get enough. And when the recording's solid and there's a truly heartfelt sense of emotion coming from the tracks, how can you go wrong? On occasion these guys toss around some Burn-ish sounding runs and unexpected clean breaks that separate them from some of their contemporaries, as do the surprisingly socio-politically oriented lyrical themes and such, but there's always a personal element involved that keeps things sounding wholly authentic. Yeah, this is an excellent fucking band right here. That's all there is to it, my friends.

Verse "Start a Fire"
Verse "Stolen"

I've said it before and I'll say it again (see below): Rivalry Records is probably the best hardcore label out there right now. I'm constantly amazed by how awesome their releases are. Buy this shit straight from them and show some love:

@ Rivalry Records

Another Breath - Mill CityAlmost exactly two years ago, it was Another Breath's "Not Now, Not Ever" EP that provided me with my first clue that Rivalry Records was really onto something. And now, their "Mill City" full-length is just another in a long line of examples proving that the label is in fact among the absolute greatest sources of amazing hardcore these days. This particular outing provides 15 explosive tracks in 35 minutes and is basically bursting with completely relentless energy. While a good level of melody is still present (in the form of many of the playing styles mentioned above with regard to Verse), I'd say that this material seems slightly more straightforward and aggressive overall, though part of that might just be because they plow through song after song almost nonstop and the energy simply never drops off. Despite a few tracks that accent slower tempos or increased levels of melody, it's a fairly consistent listen for the most part, but this is one of those bands that just exudes sincerity, and you can't argue with that shit – especially when the songs are so damn good! And like most everything else this label graces us with, the recording is strong, the layout looks slick, and everything about the release exudes an admirable level of quality. Sign me up, I'm hooked yet again.

Another Breath "Off With Your Head"
Another Breath "Jailbreak"

If you download this record instead of buying it, I hate you. Support this fucking label by purchasing this and all of their other top-notch records straight from their webstore so they can keep putting out insanely awesome material for years and years to come:

@ Rivalry Records

Withstand "…And Anger Was a Warm Place to Hide" CD

Posted on Friday, July 28th, 2006 @ 12:19pm » permalink

Withstand - ...And Anger Was a Warm Place to HideI know almost nothing about Withstand other than the fact that this band was so ridiculously underrated in their day that I didn't even get introduced to them until earlier this year, which is just fucking pathetic. They were from the Troy, NY area, and their sole full-length, "…And Anger Was a Warm Place to Hide", is jam packed with vicious metallic hardcore in the truest sense. This shit is so inherently 90's it hurts, right down to the strained vocal shouts. I'm talking nothing but sick midpaced crunch through and through, with just the right amount of dissonance and some pretty killer drumming. A surprisingly crisp and balanced recording with an awesome guitar tone definitely accentuates the mosh factor of the rhythms, but don't go thinking this is a bunch of meatheaded chug overload or something like that, because that's not the case at all. They don't sound like Leeway (more like Outspoken with much more metal), but stylistically their riffs are coming from that "Desperate Measures" sort of area in terms of chunky picking patterns and tactfully blatant metallic overtones, so I would've totally flipped out and gone completely apeshit over this stuff if I was aware of its existence in 1997 when it came out (on Mayhem/Fierce). They did do an EP prior, which I believe was almost entirely re-recorded for this album, but why the hell did I never hear shit about these guys when they were around!? I can't make any fucking sense of that at all. See for yourself… this shit is great, man.

Withstand "Maybe Tomorrow"
Withstand "Eyes to Guide Them"
Withstand "Wish You Were"

As is typical of painfully ignored albums, you can buy this fucking thing used for as little as a god damn penny (plus shipping), so fucking do it:

@ Amazon.com
@ Half.com

Zoroaster and Arckanum…

Posted on Thursday, July 27th, 2006 @ 2:00pm » permalink

Zoroaster - s/tThis one practically writes itself. Zoroaster hails from Atlanta, GA and this self-titled EP on Battle Kommand Records unloads four tracks (plus one quick unlisted live bonus track) of monolithic doom in just past the half-hour mark. Think slow, sludgy riffing; deep, snarling vocals; a pounding, pulsing rhythm section; and tracks that average around eight minutes apiece – recorded (to tape, thank you very much) in 48 hours, mixed in 24 hours more. Is it anything new? I wouldn't particularly say so, no. But they do tend to even things out between those eerie kinds of consistently crushing/droning walls of distortion and a subtly more 70's influenced undercurrent of wailing guitar textures and not-quite-rocked-out swagger to some of the riffs, so… it's not just the same thing over and over again for 30 minutes. But at the same time, I think most anyone cranking these tunes would agree that this is pretty textbook stuff – granted that seems to be how many people like it when it comes to this kind of thing, and when it's done right I tend to agree. And yes, of course I feel that Zoroaster is damn sure doing it right. Doom on…

Zoroaster "Defile" (excerpt)

Now make the grab and trample your enemies under hoof:

@ Battle Kommand Records
@ Relapse Records

Arckanum - TrulenHere's yet another Carnal Records release from the longstanding Swedish black metal act Arckanum – this time a CD re-release of the band's 1994 demo, "Trulen". This was Arckanum's second demo, and fewer than 700 copies of the original cassette exist. The material was recorded on a 4-track over the course of about a month by sole member Shamaatae, who constructed all of the lyrics for these tracks in ancient Swedish. Considering both the circumstances and the genre at hand, the sound quality is of course a little harsh on the ears, but it's surprisingly listenable for its age, and I can actually appreciate and enjoy the bulk of this material for what it is – which is basically raw, stripped down, primal black metal with no frills. There are a couple of ambient intros/interludes that are actually quite well handled, but other than that it's generally a fast and rugged attack with vocals that usually stick with patented snarls or occasional wails. There are definitely enough variations in tempo to keep things interesting, though it's worth noting that "Trulen" was quite a massive demo! This fucker contains 15 tracks plus three unreleased versions of some of the demo songs that were recorded a few months prior to the final product – totaling a whopping 18 tracks in nearly an hour's time! The disc comes with a simple black and white layout containing some explanatory text and the types of illustrations and crude symbols seen on past releases from the project, but I have to admit that I really dig the look and overall visual aesthetic of a lot of Arckanum's work.

Arckanum "Hvila pa Tronan Min"
Arckanum "Bærghet"

Completists and diehards, pick one up for yourselves:

@ Full Moon Productions

Viola "Anything Can Stop Us" CD

Posted on Wednesday, July 26th, 2006 @ 9:00am » permalink

Viola - Anything Can Stop UsWell, I can safely say that I never thought an album with cover art such as this would've made it onto the site, but what can you do? I may not like the artwork, but I do quite enjoy the album, which is "Anything Can Stop Us" from Viola, on the rather diverse If Society label. I first encountered this Finnish duo last month on the "It's a Trap! Reader's Companion Volume Two" compilation CD as one of the artists outside of my normal listening spectrum that piqued my interest, and that's basically where this album falls. The band generally seems to be categorized as "pop music", which I guess is the case on some level, though I tend to dislike the negative connotations that are often associated with the "pop" tag. I don't really know what the hell I'm talking about when it comes to a lot of this stuff since I'm not but so familiar with the influences or contemporaries of such groups, but to me there's definitely a dark-ish edge to this material that reminds me of a couple of modern bands that've been deemed "new wave" throwbacks or what have you – though Viola probably has more of a lushness to their sound. The songwriting is awesome, and that's what does it for me. It's catchy without lacking intrigue, and it doesn't feel cheaply "hip" to me at all. There's a weird balance of brightness against the more somber undercurrents that really works, so… hey, see what you think, maybe you'll agree with me?

Viola "Invisible Revolution"
Viola "Breathtaker"

If you do enjoy Viola as I do, please purchase the disc for yourself from the always awesome It's a Trap webstore:

@ It's a Trap

Sphere of Souls "From the Ashes…" CD

Posted on Tuesday, July 25th, 2006 @ 8:36am » permalink

Sphere of Souls - From the Ashes...I recently picked up "From the Ashes…", the finally released debut full-length from Dutch progressive metal act Sphere of Souls on Lion Music (whose website was down at the time of this writing), after quite a bit of waiting. I first learned of Sphere of Souls' existence last summer when I posted about Imperium's overlooked classic "Too Short a Season", as Sphere of Souls features the impeccable vocal work of former Imperium frontman André Vuurboom (who also handles guitar these days), as well as the talents of Rob Cerrone, one of Imperium's guitarists. But while Imperium's songwriting was extremely technical and over the top, Sphere of Souls is significantly more stripped down, tending to follow more of a basic progressive metal format with relatively simple rhythm guitar arrangements accented by surprisingly effective keyboards.

Upon first listen I was a little disappointed by the lack of overt complexity within the tracks, knowing what these guys are capable of. However, given some time I really enjoy this album for what it is, because the songwriting and recording quality are quite professional, and there are still several impressive elements to this album – it's just a different approach than what I was anticipating. The generally restrained midpaced guitar work, for example, sets the stage for some amazing vocal performances from Vuurboom, whose harmonies and arrangements are quite amazing at their best, making him quite the dream vocalist for any band of this nature. And when present, the guitar solos are fuckin' great, so I can only wish they were more prevalent throughout the entire album! I'll indeed be looking forward to hearing what the band comes up with next, as I imagine they'll continue to grow and take things to the next level in the future. This is, after all, just the beginning…

Sphere of Souls "From the Ashes…"
Sphere of Souls "Room 6"

It's also worth mentioning that André Vuurboom and Sphere of Souls keyboardist Joost van den Broek also previously performed with Sun Caged, who I'm not familiar with due to my lacking ability to keep up with the progressive metal genre, so I ought to explore some of their work as well, simply out of respect for Vuurboom's abilities. Whatever the case, this is an enjoyable album that I hope others out there can appreciate, in which case I encourage you to purchase the CD for yourselves sometime:

@ The End Records

Betrayed and When Tigers Fight…

Posted on Monday, July 24th, 2006 @ 8:23am » permalink

Betrayed - SubstanceHaving quite enjoyed everything I've heard from Betrayed thus far, I was quite excited when their debut full-length, "Substance", showed up in the mail from Equal Vision Records. As expected, the album offers up a great mix of extremely solid songwriting that teeters back and forth between the band's more direct and aggressive old school hardcore tendencies and their more melodic and intricate riffing, which is what initially caught my ear in their earlier output (some tracks from which have been re-recorded herein). What makes this material all the better is that the band has finally scored the balanced sound quality they've needed all along, which comes as no surprise with Kurt Ballou at the helm, so whether they're plowing through a fast and borderline caustic track with a classic hardcore/punk aesthetic, or a longer and more developed tune with some badass rocked out riffs or slick melodic dissonance, it all sounds mighty fine. All 13 tracks clock in at a little less than a half-hour, making for a respectably timed listen that feels like just the right amount of material considering the rather relentless supply of energy that the songs carry. Seeing as I personally prefer Betrayed's catchier melodic side overall, I'm somewhat surprised by the amount of straight up hardcore present on the record, but the incredibly powerful anthems and memorable sing-alongs in tracks like "A Light in the Dark" (which is a true classic) certainly clear the way for "Substance" to make its mark. Few hardcore bands are capable of this caliber of riffs, and when you can take quality riffs and piece them into well arranged songs? You can't lose. At their absolute best Betrayed is an incredible group, and if they keep it together I'm certain the best is yet to come…

Betrayed "A Light in the Dark"
Betrayed "Bring it to Life"

The more I listen to this album the more I dig it, and I've found myself spinning it more often than anticipated as of late, so Betrayed seems to be one of my personal favorite acts out there when it comes to contemporary hardcore. Their roots are firmly intact while still pushing the boundaries out enough to secure a distinct edge, and it fuckin' works. Definitely recommended, so pick one up:

@ Equal Vision Records
@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

When Tigers Fight - Ghost StoryGod damnit, I've been waiting for this full-length ever since the band's EP hit the streets, and holy shit does it deliver. If for some bizarre reason you don't know what's up here, When Tigers Fight started out as a studio project a couple of years ago with its lineup spread out across the US and including among its ranks former Damnation A.D. frontman and one of the greatest hardcore vocalists ever Mike McTernan, plus riff machine Jonathan Dennison (The Promise, etc.) on guitar. And since that time Ken Olden has joined the mix on second guitar, making for double the action in the field of amazing riffs. So once the lineup has been rounded out by the rhythm section, the impressive list of bands that these cats have been involved with in the past ends up including American Nightmare, Another Victim, Battery, Death by Stereo, Santa Sangre, The Suicide File, Worlds Collide, and then some. Not too shabby.

Anyway, the CD pressing of "Ghost Story" recently hit the streets on Indecision Records and drops 12 tracks in a concise 28 minutes. The overall sound bounces around a bit but generally sounds about like the fierce metallic hardcore concoction you'd expect given the key players, so it's got a good amount of Olden's sludgy midpaced dissonance countered by Dennison's twisted melodies and energetic picking patterns – with McTernan's inimitable sneers taking care of business throughout. At times there are bits and pieces that sound a little more specifically like some of the songwriters' former bands, but in most cases the riffs fuse together well and create a solid blend of writing styles that's fairly consistent. Olden handled the recording as well, which sounds nice and massive with a crisp sense of clarity that actually all reminds me quite a bit of a slightly dryer version of Damnation A.D.'s "Kingdom of Lost Souls" in terms of overall balance and tonality. Hear the results for yourself:

When Tigers Fight "No Way"
When Tigers Fight "All That's Left"

How can you not be down with that!? I'm already looking forward to more – not to mention the new Damnation A.D. record slated for release later this year! Pick this up and keep your eyes peeled for other related projects:

@ Indecision Records
@ RevHQ
@ Surprise Attack Records

Calhoun Conquer "Lost in Oneself" CD

Posted on Friday, July 21st, 2006 @ 10:01am » permalink

Calhoun Conquer - Lost in OneselfThis is the first time I've ever posted about something that I don't even own an original copy of (which pains me to no end, believe me), but it's so fucking hard to find this album on CD, and it seems to sell for $35+ every time it hits eBay, which is just insane. Roderic Mounir from Knut turned me onto Calhoun Conquer earlier this year (for which I am eternally grateful, thank you) and I was immediately floored by their incredibly unique and innovative brand of off-the-wall progressive thrash, with its twisted melodic riffs and zippy picking patterns, not to mention intriguing vocals and gorgeously jazzy lead passages.

These guys must seriously be one of the most obscure bands ever to have walked the planet, so I really don't know very much about them at all. They formed in Switzerland sometime during the 80's, releasing an EP called "…And Now You're Gone" in 1987 as the duo of Geri Christian Gerling and Stefan Gerling, who were joined by Chris Muzik on guitar for their sole full-length, "Lost in Oneself", which came out in 1989 on the Aaarrg label. I believe both recordings featured a drum machine, though the band did work with live drummers for performances. But the bottom line is just that this is amazing material, and it seems like very few people have even heard of this band. I was certainly disappointed that it wasn't until recently that I was exposed to their work, that's for sure. I don't even know what else to say, this shit is just weird, but I totally fuckin' love it:

Calhoun Conquer "You Mean Nothing"
Calhoun Conquer "Outermost Consequences"

I've been trying to track these guys down all year, because someone badly needs to reissue this fucking material in my opinion, but no one, including the dude that put this record out in 1989, seems to have any clue where these guys are today. My fingers are crossed that someone in the know will stumble upon this write-up and get in touch with me, so… please do if you have any information! Or if you want to sell me a copy of this CD or the EP, because I've never even heard the damn EP! Seriously… help me out on this! Thanks…

Day Without Dawn "s/t" CD

Posted on Thursday, July 20th, 2006 @ 6:13am » permalink

Day Without Dawn - s/tDay Without Dawn is the New Jersey act formerly known as The Postman Syndrome, which was an excellent band, so thankfully Day Without Dawn continues in that same vein. It's been far, far too long since these guys released any new material (four years or more, in fact), but this self-titled EP was worth the wait. The five-song, 16-minute CD actually plays through seamlessly like one lengthy composition, and retains the same progressive edge for which the band was known under their former moniker. There are loads of dynamic shifts between lush, jazz-tinged clean breaks and intriguingly layered distorted riffs with some rather slick picking patterns arising on occasion. They also carry that diversity over into the vocal performances as well, alternating between smooth crooning and strained shouts. For my money the singing is by far the more effective of the two vocal approaches (and rightfully dominates the presence of the shouting), though minor adjustments to the recording quality could alter the way things piece together in a manner that might benefit the more aggressive of the two styles. But it's the musicianship and songwriting where these guys really shine – through incredible drum work; impressively pieced together guitar parts that hit on a number of intense melodies; and thick, roving basslines. I really feel like this band has an identifiable sound that's all their own, and hope they can take advantage of the fact that this kind of thing has become a little more accepted in the years since their inception. I'm more than looking forward to another full-length outing from the band, for sure.

Day Without Dawn "Inquisition"

The EP is selling for a mere $5, but if you've never heard The Postman Syndrome's "Terraforming" album then I'd highly recommend taking advantage of the band's offer to buy both CD's for $12. If you enjoy the samples above, you certainly won't be disappointed. Make the purchase and keep an eye on these cats:

@ Day Without Dawn

William and New Republic…

Posted on Wednesday, July 19th, 2006 @ 9:43am » permalink

William - Surface the VesselWilliam is a solo venture from Will Goodyear, who started out in various metalcore acts like Between the Buried and Me, Hopesfall, and Prayer for Cleansing. "Surface the Vessel" is his second album and Textbook Music debut, and it's also my first exposure to his work under this banner. I'm not entirely sure who handles what on the album since a few outside contributors are credited as simply "additional musicians", but I know that Goodyear himself handles vocals and plays numerous instruments, so I'm assuming he does the bulk by himself, and whatever the case it's very impressive. I don't like the notion of "solo albums" at all, and as a result I had some definite reservations about what to expect from this record, but within seconds of first pressing play I was stunned. If he hasn't already, this dude should quit playing heavy music and devote all of his time to this project, because this material is fucking amazing and displays stronger songwriting than anything I've heard from his past bands. Excellent singing, nice and consistent musical atmospheres that ebb and flow between subtle dynamic shifts, a superb recording that allows the lush instrumentation to layer together with absolute clarity, etc. This is basically a perfect emo/indie rock album with "alternative rock" leanings (for lack of a better term) – to the point where I could totally see this kind of thing getting huge on the radio or something like that. Many of these songs simply possess certain qualities that an enormous audience could appreciate, but I want to stress that I don't view that as detracting from the album in any way. I'm incredibly impressed by what's offered here and have the utmost respect for this guy as an artist. Seriously, this is just an excellent, excellent display. And god damn does this fucker have some of the greatest looking artwork I've seen in ages… Awesome.

William "Life Apart"
William "Magazines"

This one was just released yesterday, so it's brand spankin' new and comes very much recommend from my end. I'll need to check out his prior album as well to see how it holds up against this masterpiece. Please do pick one up for yourself if you enjoy the songs above:

@ Textbook Music
@ Very Distribution

New Republic - LibertadNew Republic is (sort of) a relatively new band led by Panamanian brothers David and Jonathan Julca, who relocated to Ohio in the mid-90's and initially played under the name of The Pits. So, technically New Republic isn't a new band, but it is a new band name, and "Libertad" is their first release under said name (on Tribunal Records). They refer to this as an EP, but with a total of seven tracks (plus a bonus track) in 35 – 40+ minutes it does play more like a full-length. I guess you'd basically consider this material a blend of contemporary emo and "alternative rock" (I hate to keep using that term, but sometimes it just fits), which at times leans towards a slightly heavier edge that does in fact owe more to actually rocking than it does to the catchy vocal hooks and melodies carrying the bulk of the material. On occasion it feels like the band wanders away from the focus of a song and either lets things run on for too long or strays into some riffing/vocal textures that don't quite feel comfortable, which is unfortunate, but when they nail it they can really crank out some massively catchy shit, and I'm a sucker for that stuff. Sometimes I'm mildly embarrassed by the fact that I can get sucked in by a good hook, and I know most of the people who read this site hate this stuff, but fuck it, what can I say? A good song is a good song, and this is another band that with a little more work could become a huge success. Maybe New Republic will be the next act to get snatched away from Tribunal's developing grounds?

New Republic "Pride.Time.Love"

Pick it up if you happen to like it, too:

@ Tribunal Records
@ Very Distribution

Endstand, Fall of Serenity, and Deadsoil…

Posted on Tuesday, July 18th, 2006 @ 8:55am » permalink

Endstand - The Time is NowEven though I'm an enormous fan of Finnish hardcore, despite the fact that Endstand is one of Finland's best known hardcore bands, I had never really heard that much of their material other than a few compilation/sampler tracks here and there. So I was pretty damn blown away by "The Time is Now", the band's latest full-length and Lifeforce Records debut. This album sounds rather different from what little I've heard from Endstand in the past, so I can only assume they've grown quite a bit over the years. Whatever the case, this is a tight and energetic display of midpaced to moderately fast hardcore with powerfully screamed vocals over a musical base that covers a diverse range of influences from traditionally based hardcore to melodic octave chords and catchier song arrangements or post-hardcore dissonance and a darker edge. That being said, the overall impact is very well focused, so the 10 tracks fall into a generally consistent 35-minute timeframe that feels like just the right amount of material. From a songwriting standpoint there are just some excellent tunes on this record, and several of the riffs possess the types of dual guitar interaction and picking patterns that really catch my ear, so I'm really curious as to when this style started to develop in Endstand's output – not to mention looking forward to hearing their future efforts as a result!

Endstand "King of Drama"
Endstand "Empty Promises"

I'm really pleased with this album, so hopefully the band will start to get a little more notice here in the US now. I'm not sure what the hell took me so long to take a closer look at these guys, but I'm definitely glad I've finally had the opportunity with this record. Pick it up if it does the trick for you, too:

@ Lifeforce Records
@ Interpunk

Fall of Serenity - Bloodred SalvationAnother recent Lifeforce Records debut comes from Germany's Fall of Serenity in "Bloodred Salvation", though the band already has quite a few releases under its belt. These cats seem to have a few loose ties to the metalcore scene, but there's really no denying that this shit's all metal: From the chunky midpaced power chords and efficient melodic Swedish styled harmonies to the few instances of raging black metal-esque speeds – not to mention the various forms of snarling, screaming, growling vocals. Upon first listen the instrumental intro got my hopes up quite a bit due in large part to the rather meaty guitar tone, so I was initially undecided as to my take on the rest of the album until my ears adjusted to the rest of the recording – though honestly, aside from minor little adjustments here and there, I can no longer recall exactly what it was that didn't quite suit me at the time. I won't lie, this is a fairly standard album that doesn't particularly separate itself from the pack all that much, but I've not been exposed to as much of this genre in recent months, so my tolerance has built back up a bit. That's not to discredit Fall of Serenity, however, as the songwriting on this album boasts both a strong degree of energy as well as a searing sense of furiousness that, when combined with a solid sound and tight musicianship, effectively holds my interest for the duration of the album. It may not be anything inventive per se, but they're extremely good at what they do, and I enjoy this album. Excellent cover art, too!

Fall of Serenity "Out of the Clouds"
Fall of Serenity "A Piece of You"

Make the grab if you dig the tunes:

@ Lifeforce Records
@ The End Records

Deadsoil - SacrificeOn their second full-length, "Sacrifice" (also on Lifeforce Records), Deadsoil (Germany) seems to be shooting for the next level with their brand of metalcore. For the most part their approach has remained true to the chunky breakdowns and aggressive contemporary metalcore of their debut, but they've definitely increased the degree of melody that's present, as well as introducing significantly more singing vocals from time to time. Don't get the wrong idea though, because harsh yelling and vicious, almost thrashy metalcore riffs still dominate the 42-minute affair, so the band still has a much rougher and less polished attack than American acts such as Killswitch Engage, for example. At first I didn't think I enjoyed this album as much as the band's debut, but with time I actually think I might enjoy it just a bit more. There are definitely a couple of areas where the consistency stumbles a bit and I feel like they lose their focus, but at its best this album throws down some incredibly powerful melodies that are well countered by fierce heaviness. From a musical standpoint, "These Stings" is simply one of the best metalcore songs I've heard in quite some time. I mean, fuck, if these dudes could hit that level of power even 75% of the time they'd absolutely decimate the majority of the genre. In the grand scheme of things Deadsoil is still relatively early in their existence, so the brightest moments of this transitional endeavor still point to bigger and better things to come.

Deadsoil "These Stings"
Deadsoil "Unspoken"

As always, buy the album for yourself if it's something that interests you:

@ Lifeforce Records
@ The End Records

Insuiciety and Mässmörd…

Posted on Monday, July 17th, 2006 @ 10:03am » permalink

Insuiciety - Believe and DieI originally reviewed Insuiciety's "Believe and Die" EP late last year on 10" vinyl from the Polish label Trujaca Fala, but now it's been pressed up on CD with an extra track thanks to Crimes Against Humanity Records. I have to say, the recording still comes across as a little too muddy to really do this material complete justice, but these songs are hitting me harder now than they did in the past – seeming to sound just a hint crisper and more balanced on CD. This German outfit unloads a sinister brand of sludgy, dissonant material that tends to rely heavily on midpaced rhythms that carry just the right amount of obfuscated melody, while sick female vocals deliver a range of tortured snarls and screams. There are elements of crust and doom involved as well, but the end result is one that stays away from straightforward genre classifications fairly well. I'm quite glad that this EP got re-released on CD, because I've definitely achieved a greater appreciation for what this band is doing, and I'm hoping to hear more from them sometime soon. It's been two years since these songs were recorded, though I'm not sure what they're currently up to, but perhaps there's more damage cookin' as we speak… and damn do I love that band name!

Insuiciety "Beautify"

If you're down, pick it up straight from the label's relatively large catalog:

@ Crimes Against Humanity Records

Mässmörd - Inget Liv/Ingen DödAlso new from Crimes Against Humanity Records is the debut full-length from Sweden's Mässmörd, titled "Inget Liv/Ingen Död". As one might expect this is a fairly straight shot of contemporary Swedish crust with a good balance of fierce hardcore and a subtly metallic sense of melody and heaviness, though the band does help to differentiate themselves from the pack with dual male/female vocals and an extremely well-handled onslaught of raging speeds. So, in other words, this is an incredibly pissed yet energetic burst of hardcore/punk and it basically kicks ass. Every time I find myself starting to think I might be growing tired of the same old same old in this particular niche of the genre a band like Mässmörd seems to come along and remind me of what these acts are truly capable of when they go for the throat. I don't know what else to say, they tear through 11 tracks in just under a half-hour and I'm loving every minute of it. It's nothing particularly new or inventive, but all it really takes to nail it with this stuff is a balanced recording, a good amount of anger, and succinct, powerful songwriting – all of which seem to come easy for Mässmörd.

Mässmörd "Wasted Lives"
Mässmörd "Same Old Story, Same Old Shit"

As always, I encourage you to buy the album for yourself if it's the kind of thing you appreciate:

@ Crimes Against Humanity Records

Gordian Knot "s/t" CD

Posted on Friday, July 14th, 2006 @ 12:14pm » permalink

Gordian Knot - s/tI've always thought of Gordian Knot as a full band with revolving membership, though technically it's really a solo vehicle for onetime Cynic bassist Sean Malone, who writes and arranges the bulk of the music and invites outside contributors to apply their own styles to the material. The "band's" debut album was released in 1998 and boasted rotational combinations of a lineup containing Sean Malone (Cynic) – bass, Chapman stick, and keyboards; Sean Reinert (Cynic, Death, etc.) – drums; Trey Gunn (King Crimson) – touch guitar; Ron Jarzombek (Watchtower, Spastic Ink, etc.) – guitar; Glenn Snelwar (At War With Self) – guitar; and John Myung (Dream Theater, etc.) – Chapman stick.

As one would expect, the general style of the album leans towards various realms of progressive rock with smatterings of more aggressive tendencies that could more or less be deemed metal, but I remember that at the time of its release I was somewhat undecided on a lot of the songs on the record. I've never been all that big on progressive rock as it is, and a lot of this stuff was a little strange and atypical compared to my usual listening habits back then in terms of general atmospherics and such. However, it didn't take long for me to grow quite fond of the material's strong melodic undercurrents, and to this day I really admire the feeling and emotion conveyed by many of these tracks. In my experience this can be quite a rare occurrence – not just within instrumental music, but especially within music that's so technically complex and intricate, not to mention songs routinely topping six or seven minutes apiece. But there are elements within these songs that capture both exceptional musical proficiency as well as truly moving sentiments.

Sometimes it can be hard to tell which contributor is playing any given section of music, both because of the way the CD booklet credits the material and due to the complicated and ever-changing arrangements of the compositions themselves. That being said, "Rivers Dancing" has always been my favorite track on the album, and the final guitar solo in the track, which I believe belongs to Jarzombek, is simply among the most amazing and intense guitar solos I've ever heard in my life. That lead has been one of my absolute favorite fucking solos of all time ever since I first laid ears on it some eight years ago, and that will never change. Beyond that, check out the gorgeous acoustic guitars and totally insane panning/layering going on in "Reflections"; while the impressive "Grace" takes things in an entirely different direction with a lush, abstract excursion into fluid melodic ambience. I've really come to love this record over the years, and had it not been for my complete adoration of Cynic I'd probably never have stumbled upon such a gem at all.

Gordian Knot "Rivers Dancing"

This record is still readily available, and I highly recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in "progressive" music. So pick up a copy if you enjoy the above tracks, and look into the second Gordian Knot release as well:

@ The End Records
@ Relapse Records

Zao "The Fear is What Keeps Us Here" CD

Posted on Thursday, July 13th, 2006 @ 10:32am » permalink

Zao - The Fear is What Keeps Us HereDespite various recommendations and levels of hype, I was never a big Zao fan, and didn't really get into the band at all until recent years. It kind of feels like they've experienced a new beginning that possesses more potential than ever, at least to my ears. After all, they're basically the Napalm Death of the metalcore genre in terms of their sheer number of lineup changes: No original members remain in the lineup, and there are enough ex-members to fill out at least two full bands!

"The Fear is What Keeps Us Here", Zao's latest Ferret Music release, is another slight change in direction for the band – taking the tight and aggressive direction of "The Funeral of God" and harnessing that focus into shorter, fiercer tracks that are certainly more frenzied and chaotic. The listen can be quite acerbic at times, but does retain a sense of control, which is always the most important factor for me because I have a hard time backing this kind of stuff when it feels like the bands are going apeshit just for the hell of it. There's some truly harsh vocal work going on here as well, though a minimal number of well placed singing breaks do appear alongside some of the subtle melodic undercurrents – adding some balance to the songwriting. And there are still a good number of sludgy, dissonant midpaced rhythms as well, which I actually tend to prefer when it comes to Zao in particular. Surprisingly enough this outing was recorded by Steve Albini, so of course the result has a nice sense of space and natural tonality happening (which is especially beneficial to the rather impressive drum performance), and they've secured another damn nice looking layout, too – even though the vast majority of the text is printed backwards (including the lyrics). I mean, that's cool and all, but I'd rather not have to use a mirror to read through the fuckin' lyrics, you know?

Zao "Everything You Love Will Soon Fly Away"
Zao "There is No Such Thing as Paranoia"

What a rare but admirable occurrence it is when a band ends up improving quite significantly some 10+ years and 20+ lineup changes later, eh? Make the grab if you feel the same:

@ Ferret Music
@ Relapse Records
@ Very Distribution

Paatos "Silence of Another Kind" CD

Posted on Wednesday, July 12th, 2006 @ 9:40am » permalink

Paatos - Silence of Another KindIt's been just about a year since I was first introduced to Paatos via the Darkdose website and subsequently bought both of their full-lengths, so I was quite pleased when the Swedish outfit's third album, "Silence of Another Kind", recently appeared in my mailbox from Inside Out Music. Much like their past work, this endeavor is a bit outside of my normal listening realm, which makes it hard for to explain what it is that they do with any particular classifications, though of course the band's approach is somewhat atypical in its own right, so it's not something that should be pigeonholed regardless.

The label refers to this outing as "heavier" and tags the range of variety from "dark, gothic rock to mellotron-laded post-rock", which is basically accurate, though to me this is not a "heavier" album at all, as Paatos' music is generally quite lush and beautiful in its relaxed yet melancholic disposition. Certain elements of this material seem a bit more song-based and less abstract in some ways, with a couple of more obvious similarities to certain contemporary progressive rock textures, but for the most part it's still a very chilled out and atmospheric affair driven by gorgeous female vocals over restrained melodies. And the recording is astoundingly awesome as usual, with densely layered instrumentation that still retains a crisp presence amongst such a thick sense of warmth. While I much prefer the incredible artwork of the band's prior albums to his particular excursion, the disc is housed in a die-cut matte digipack, so… there is still some visual appeal to go along with the band's mesmerizing compositions.

Paatos "Shame"
Paatos "Falling"

I'm always on the looked for material of this nature to give me a breather, but it's sort of rare that I come across something that really suits me, so I'm very grateful to have been presented with Paatos' work. They've yet to disappoint, so pick this up if you enjoy the tracks above, and look into the band's other records while you're at it:

@ The End Records

Invade and Coltan Leech…

Posted on Tuesday, July 11th, 2006 @ 9:16am » permalink

Invade - 2006 demoInvade is from Long Island, NY and I believe this self-titled CD-R is their first release. And I must say, despite the fact that the output volume's a little quiet, this sounds pretty damn good for a first shot, especially considering the entire thing was recorded in a mere two days. Offered up are eight tracks of 90's styled metallic hardcore in about 18 minutes, complete with plenty of crunchy power chord rhythms using just the right amount of tempo changes and light melody to keep things interesting. I refer to this as "90's styled" because the approach tends to keep a steady balance by using hardcore as the dominant base and simply amping things up with a heavier edge of metal that totally sounds like it would've been at home in the mid-90's. The distorted guitar tone kicks ass and I really dig the style of the vocals as well, because those strained yells and chugging picking patterns definitely bring me back to a time when "metalcore" wasn't such a dirty word, and there simply aren't many bands that can still capture that era today, so I'm thrilled with that aspect of this material. The D.I.Y. packaging is nice as well, with quality graphics and a simple xeroxed insert with all of the lyrics (which are largely socio-political in nature), etc. There's a note on the insert about this not being the "complete package" since something went wrong in the process, so I'm assuming future editions will look even better. See what you think:

Invade "Pawn to Bishop, Then to King"
Invade "The Beast That Shouted 'I' at the Heart of the World"

Admirably enough the band is giving these demos away for absolutely no charge, which is fucking awesome, so contact them via their MySpace page if you're interested. But I'd say you ought to hit them with at least a couple of bucks for their trouble, you know? Whether they stick to the D.I.Y. path or hook up with a label down the road (as there should definitely be some interest there somewhere), these cats have some serious potential, so I'll be looking out for more. Well done.

Coltan Leech - A Seduction of ShadowsI've been introduced to several solid German acts lately, and the most recent is Coltan Leech, whose latest self-released demo, "A Seduction of Shadows", delivers an interesting blend of styles. Much of the material crosses over from churningly detuned masses of dissonant sludge behind strained shouting to lengthy instrumental passages that often bring melody to the fore via careful buildups from reverberated clean runs to layered distorted textures. There are a few minor rough patches in the recording, but for a self-released affair it really sounds quite nice. Admittedly there are a small handful of instances where misleadingly groovy riffs pop up that could mistakenly cause one to jump to the wrong conclusion about this band (most of them in "And Then, Hammerblows Came Ringing In…", which is the only track herein that feels somewhat lacking in terms of overall force), but I think part of that has something to do with the restraints of the production, and looking at the big picture I could envision these guys delivering some monolithically destructive material with even a modest budget, so there's a hell of a lot of potential present within these five tracks. That being said, do not, I repeat, do not judge the following track by the first riff. After the initial 10 seconds things flip over and become increasingly awesome, so stick with it!

Coltan Leech "A Spiral of Deflecting Mechanics"

Seeing as this is still a relatively new and developing group, you'll need to contact the band directly for ordering information. Who knows what the future will bring, but I'm hoping for the best from Coltan Leech. A couple of these tracks are already pretty fuckin' killer, and with the right opportunity I'm confident that these cats could do some serious damage. Not bad…

Mouth of the Architect/Kenoma split CD

Posted on Monday, July 10th, 2006 @ 9:25am » permalink

Mouth of the Architect/Kenoma - splitThis split CD between Mouth of the Architect and Kenoma (from Translation Loss) has been sitting here for far too long now, and I guess I just kept forgetting to get around to it. Well, when I finally did toss it in, I was pretty damn stunned by the lush, shimmery melodies that opened Mouth of the Architect's single 17-minute contribution – creating an intense build into forceful yet controlled heaviness that never abandons that sense of spacious dynamics or melody, even when the rare vocal appearances are introduced. I have to point out that there is an element of that whole "Explosions in the Sky factor" here that has become so popular as of late, but seeing as there's also that whole plodding, sinister sense of Neurosis-esque atmosphere in place to counterbalance that, the end result achieves an interesting middleground and does amount to one hell of a powerful composition. Now I'm even more curious to hear the band's latest record!

Kenoma follows with two lengthy instrumental tracks that display their own take on bouncing around between slow-paced clean passages and pulsing distorted chords with a great sense of melodic dissonance that reminds me a bit of Engine Kid at times. The recording on these two tunes lacks a bit of the density that Mouth of the Architect had in place, so I find myself wanting to feel a more significant punch from the rhythm section as well as the distorted guitar tone, but it's not a problem. Plus, the writing itself is clearly intriguing, and really carries its time well. When it comes to instrumental music the key element for me is always whether or not the material seems to convey some emotion and feeling, and these two songs absolutely succeed in that regard. I had never heard of this band prior to checking out this split, but apparently there are some former members of Rune involved, which is a bit of a surprise since this feels so much more focused and atmospheric to me. Very nice work, indeed.

Mouth of the Architect "Sleepwalk Powder" (excerpt)
Kenoma "The Nature of Empire" (excerpt)

You know the drill… if you enjoy the sounds, please buy the CD for yourself:

@ Translation Loss
@ Relapse Records

Abacinate "Out of the System" CS

Posted on Friday, July 7th, 2006 @ 10:21am » permalink

Abacinate - Out of the SystemIt was only a few months ago when I was first given a dubbed copy of this demo, so I really know nothing about these guys other than what minimal information can be gleaned online. So, with that being said, Abacinate was a thrash metal band started up in Holland in 1989 by two ex-members of the short-lived act Brain Implosion. They released the "Out of the System" demo in 1991, and actually changed their name to Out of the System a short time later. Under that name they recorded a few compilation tracks in 1993, and I'm guessing they probably broke up not long after that. Who knows? Whatever the case, this is basically fast, aggressive thrash – though to my ears the band's style, while certainly hanging onto the true feel of the genre's glory days, sounds a little more contemporary. The vocals are fairly harsh, for one thing, and the guitar tone also has a pretty hot kind of bite to it that would've made me guess this was recorded in the mid-90's if I didn't know any better.

The sound quality on these tracks improves a bit shortly into the second tune, so the master tape must have been slightly warped or something like that. And "Alive and Well" might be the wrong title for the sixth song: For some reason it's not listed as having been on the demo in the information that I see online (which always lists this as a six-track demo). Go figure. I also have no idea what the hell's up with some of those other song titles. I mean, "Garden Full of Mushrooms"!? Anyway, here's some pretty damn obscure European thrash:

1. "Garden Full of Mushrooms"
2. "Life is Nice"
3. "Sexual Abuse"
4. "Don't Retreat"
5. "I'll Rise Again"
6. "Alive and Well"
7. "Speak Up"

I've never heard either the Brain Implosion "Sandgrains" 7" (which I can't seem to spot for a fair price on eBay) or the Out of the System compilation tracks, so if anyone can provide me with any feedback on that material, let me know. Thanks.

Black Hell and At War With Shadows…

Posted on Thursday, July 6th, 2006 @ 12:16pm » permalink

Black Hell - Deformers of the UniverseAmong the most recent releases from the almighty Hater of God label is the debut full-length from Black Hell. The band features former members of Unruh and Wellington, among others, but "Deformers of the Universe" may surprise you with its rather rocked out and sludgy direction – filtered through lengthy tracks that average somewhere in the neighborhood of seven minutes apiece. However, while thick and nasty southern fried riffs and the occasional fuzzed out lead may be present, the overall impact of this material is pretty damn down 'n' dirty – but I'd neither call it doom nor "stoner rock", though similarities to the two styles do exist, and it's definitely got a downtrodden air to it. So these aren't catchy, energetic rock songs at all; but at the same time, it's not a complete and total pummeling either. They're striking a balance, and the end result is interesting in that loose comparisons could be made to any number of bands from the last three decades, but despite familiarities I wouldn't necessarily see Black Hell being confused for any other group of individuals within this particular realm. I'm also digging the warmth of the recording and the way the forcefully yelled vocals are right in the thick of the mix with the instruments… oh, and of course the badass Mike Sutin cover art to boot!

Black Hell "Cowboy Cold"

Pick this shit up and prepare to bruise your knuckles in one way or another:

@ 29 North Records
@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

At War With Shadows - The Truckstop TapesAlso new from Hater of God is At War With Shadows' "The Truckstop Tapes", and all I can say is holy fucking shit this is awesome and what the hell took so long!? I don't know what the deal is with this release, but it's dated 2004 in the booklet, and I thought At War With Shadows had broken up, so… since I can't really find any tangible details about this recording anywhere I'm assuming it's a couple of years old and for some reason didn't see the light of day until now. Whatever the case, this is some seriously scorching metalcore that's by far the band's best material ever. There are loads of tremolo picked death metal riffs and such on this thing that would probably send some listeners running in fear of this being a somewhat typical contemporary metalcore album. But no. That is so fucking far from the case it's not even funny, so do not get that impression. In large part the songwriting on this fucker is incredibly energetic and teeters on the brink of feeling somewhat chaotic strictly in terms of the mass quantities of riffs and tempo changes flying all over the place, but the picking patterns alone are right up my alley and accentuate some of the dissonantly melodic characteristics of the writing quite well, so I'm fucking loving the twisted and mangled vibe they've got going on here. Some of this shit is just totally sick, and at times it's very diverse as well.

Also excellent is the packaging, which is quite hilarious. Track titles such as "Norwegian Country Classics" and "Learn to Stop Reading Now!!" may sound a little silly, but they take things to a whole new level by having the song titles double as "cassette" titles – going so far as to use fake cassette inserts complete with mock cover art and liner notes for every single song on the album inside the booklet. Lyrics are also implemented into these facades, which is pretty damn priceless when all is said and done. Hater of God never fails on the packaging front, my friends. You can't lose. Now, on with the fucking jams:

At War With Shadows "Shedding Excess Baggage"
At War With Shadows "Amateur Facials"

I'm pretty floored by this one. Great, great work, and probably one of the best metalcore releases of the last six years. Very recommended, so make the grab and try not to savagely slit the throats of all who oppose you after experiencing the album for yourself:

@ Interpunk
@ Relapse Records

I'll also mention that Hater of God recently released the "Skate of Bulgaria" 5" from Japanese grinders Bathtub Shitter (complete with a toilet paper insert), but my record player won't play vinyl that damn small! Shit happens, eh?

Things Fall Apart "We are All…" CD

Posted on Wednesday, July 5th, 2006 @ 8:32am » permalink

Things Fall Apart - We are All...Wow. I didn't even remember that I had heard this band before, but I see that I actually reviewed their last EP about a year ago. Well, what can I say? They may not have completely won me over back then, but they've damn sure done the trick this time around, and I'm extremely fucking impressed by their progress. In fact, I totally love this new EP, and as far as I'm concerned these guys should be well on their way to becoming huge. The band is Madison, WI's Things Fall Apart, and the release is titled "We are All…", on Crustacean Records. As with their past efforts the style here is a blend of metallic indie rock/emo-tinged hardcore/punk with plenty of energetic melody, but the relatively unique vocal performance has improved tenfold, as has the recording quality, and the songwriting feels more focused and memorable overall. So basically this is an absolutely stunning 15 minutes of material that leaves me extraordinarily eager to hear more. At times elements of the work remind of the final EP from As Friends Rust, though a tad more streamlined. God damnit, this is just fucking awesome. I don't even know what else to say. This kicks ass, I love it, and I'm going to let the music speak for itself. I hope you enjoy it even half as much as I do:

Things Fall Apart "The Least We Can Do"

If you don't dig that shit there's a damn good chance that something's incredibly wrong with you, so just face it. $9 may seem a touch pricy for such a short EP, but this shit is just blazing, so it's worth every damn penny. I can listen to this fucker five times straight without even thinking about it. Plus, the disc is housed in an excellent little silkscreened cardstock envelope with metallic silver ink and everything. You don't see many packages of this nature these days, and it's a nice touch. I also really appreciate the mix of personal and socio-political lyrical content:

Hey, a silent affliction is heavier to bear. I want you to know I'm here and I'm willing to carry what you let me.

Man, I really hope these guys keep at it and gain some more recognition. I'm rarely this jazzed about music these days, but these songs are just that good. Buy this shit and buy it now:

@ Crustacean Records
@ Interpunk

The Geeks, Unleashed Anger, and "New Kids on the Townhall"…

Posted on Tuesday, July 4th, 2006 @ 9:45am » permalink

The Geeks - What's InsideI don't get the chance to check out music from certain areas very often at all, so I was psyched when Townhall Records out of Seoul, South Korea got in touch with me awhile back about sending some material my way. Starting things off is the "What's Inside" EP from The Geeks – who may not have the best band name on earth, but certainly deliver some excellent old school straightedge hardcore with a strong recording and memorable songwriting that follows the traditional framework. Expect your usual dose of moderate to fast paced power chords with slower breakdowns but no metal and no lack of energy. There's not but so much to say about this material since the intention is to stay true to the roots of this style of hardcore and that's exactly what they do, right down to the positive lyrics that carry a message of standing up for what you believe in, etc. However, they do so with a great deal of sincerity, and the tunes are strong, so at five tracks in just over eight minutes, I'm definitely left wanting to hear more from The Geeks.

The Geeks "Break the Shell"

Luckily, this one's actually available here in the US thanks to the kind folks at RevHQ, and there's a vinyl pressing as well (from a different label) if you prefer that format. Pick it up if you're into the tracks, and keep an eye out for more from these guys:

@ RevHQ

Unleashed Anger - StraightforwardChanging gears a bit, Unleashed Anger's "Straightforward" full-length (also from Townhall Records) is a much heavier and more in your face attack of vicious metallic hardcore. I believe this is the band's first official release, and it's jam packed with chugging picking patterns, moshy midpaced breaks, strained screams, and even occasional lead bursts that are obviously all influenced by the metallic edge of certain NYHC types of bands, but it does retain an air of hardcore across the board, so they're not going too far into metal territory or anything like that. Since the lyrics are almost entirely in English the language barrier has an impact on the content so the message isn't always clear, but track titles like "Hardcore is My Life" and "Born to Fight", among others, should provide a pretty clear indication of what you're in for from these cats. Another straightforward release (no pun intended) that sticks to the tried and true formula and gets the job done. Not bad at all.

Unleashed Anger "Straightforward"
Unleashed Anger "Rise"

This particular release hasn't been distributed as widely as The Geeks EP at this time, so it looks like ordering from the label is your best shot for the time being. They do accept PayPal however, but get in touch with them via their contact page for specific ordering details since their website's not in English.

v/a - New Kids on the Townhall - compilationAnd finally, Townhall Records has also put together the "New Kids on the Townhall" compilation CD, which includes 22 different bands across varying niches of hardcore, from the straight up youth crew sound to crunchy metalcore or even some slightly more melodic or punk-influenced acts. Aside from one Japanese act (Making Sense) as well as Nothing Left to Mourn from New Jersey (Huh!? Go figure…), I believe all of these bands are from South Korea, but I could be mistaken: The booklet includes lyrics and contact information for each contributing group, but it doesn't always specify what country they're from. Whatever the case, as with most collections of this nature there's a varying degree of quality, especially in terms of the production values, but I have to say that there are quite a few great songs to be heard herein, and some of the bands have really fuckin' strong recordings – almost surprisingly so at times. And even some of the bands that are a little rough around the edges (Things We Say, for example) demonstrate their potential enough to create some interest, so it's cool to get a wide sampling of obscure bands in this manner. Here's a minimal sampling of a few standouts:

The Patience "Life Goes On"
Things We Say "Goodbye to Ourselves"
Lowblow "Take Off"

As with the Unleashed Anger record above, it seems that ordering from the label is the best bet for this one. So the same goes: Go ahead and contact them directly for ordering information if you'd like to check out a shitload of bands that you've more than likely never heard of before. It's awesome that there are so many burgeoning scenes like this around the world, it's just a shame it's so damn hard to get exposed to all of them! I'd love to hear from any other such labels out there, so get in touch!

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