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Local CD Reviews

| July 30, 2008 | 0 Comments

“Around Hear” is a monthly feature where a stable of IE writers review albums sent to us by local musicians. If you are interested in having your CD (must have a minimum of three songs) reviewed and are Illinois-based, mail it and any other media materials to 657 A W. Lake St., Chicago IL, 60661. Everything that meets the aforementioned guidelines will be reviewed in the order received. This may take several months.

It’s clear from the opening track, “With Or Without The Universalator (Birdie’s Dream),” bassist/composer Jason Ajemian‘s impressive collection of slow-burn, free-form jazz on The Art Of Dying was honed live with a solid chemistry of backing musicians, most notably saxophonist Tim Haldeman and drummer Noritaka Tanaka. The tracks have an invitingly warm, live sound – exemplified by the hiss of the snare drum and tangible vibration of the sax reed on the snappy, Miles Davis-like “Your Shirts.” “Smokeless Heat,” a 23-minute live-radio recording, serves as a satisfying ending and an overall metaphor for the band’s cool-jazz approach. (www.delmark.com)
– Jason Scales

Judging by the modern digital references of the name, band logo, and cover art, one might expect some futuristic-sounding, digital, cut-up sound collages or some big-beat techno workouts. Instead, The Avatars deliver some devilishly playful pop punk. Snarling guitars and snotty attitude drive “Only One” and “Burn You,” but it’s not all blazing speed and spit. In a dazzling twist, “Oh Denise,” with its soaring, multi-tracked vocals and upbeat glam presence, recalls the sexy swagger of T. Rex and Queen. (www.myspace.com/theavatarsus)
– Patrick Conlan

It’s becoming very easy to be jaded with this “thrash revival” scene. What initially seemed like a good idea, digging up the music that put American metal on the map in the ’80s, has already worn out its welcome in the minds of many metalheads. That’s not to say they’re aren’t some worthy acts out there, though. On Messenger Of Death (Rotting Corpse), Deadnight combines Testament’s technical proficiency and Dissection’s attitude (“With hate and despise I spit on the cross,” frontman/guitarist Mike hisses on “Divine Lair”) to create blackened thrash never short on razor-blade riffs. (www.myspace.com/deadnightthrashmetal)
– Trevor Fisher


Ezurate fan the flames of orthodox black metal on An Ending To Revelations (Rotting Corpse), the cleanest-sounding effort to date from this rotating crew of area malcontents. “Damnation,” a berserker of a song written when the group formed in 1993, is the sound of pure adolescent rage (thunderous axing, apt wail) boiling over (frog-croak gurgling, spite). Most tracks are re-recordings of the band’s earliest trials, which won’t interest Nachtmystium collectors looking for evidence of Blake Judd’s tenure. They want 2000’s Infernal Dominatio, though it too has been re-recorded. Revisionist or not, the barbarism of Ezurate still slays. (www.myspace.com/ezurate)
– Mike Meyer

Groovatron is a jazz-based band that blasts into several genres on its nine-track instrumental CD, In The Machine. Consider “Seizure Salad,” which has a soulful intro that blends Pink Floyd-style prog rock and ska. The band should have skipped the outdated synth rumbling descending upon “Scuffmu-ffin” like a dark cloud and makes a minute-long untitled track a throwaway. The more modern-sounding “Star Biscuit” maintains an infectious techno beat for almost eight minutes while “Falafel” has a playful jazz arrangement. (www.groovatron.com)
– Terrence Flamm

I Shalt Become shows mountains of Burzumic design on the eerie Requiem (Moribund), an album where minimalist background ambience effectively chills the bones. After a 10-year break, multi-instrumentalist/glossolalist S. Holliman returns to black metal just as Burzum gets its first widely distributed U.S. release (Anthology). The Illinois solo act best rivals Norway’s creepiest on “Enigma,” a dead, cold ringer for “Det Som En Gang Var.” Moans, buried deep in snow, gasp for equality but receive thin air. Drums, strictly economical, pack no wallop. Requiem doesn’t attempt an avalanche; it’s satisfied just lingering above us from symphonic heights, chuckling, even, as we suffer (“The Corpse In The Forest”). (www.myspace.com/ishaltbecome)
– Mike Meyer

We can thank Amy Lee and Evanescence for busting the door wide-open for spirituality oriented, female-led hard rock bands. Of course that means any bands following in their footsteps must endure the endless comparisons. That hasn’t stopped Chicago-based J’espere, whose latest, Live As Loud As You Can, boldly proclaims the group’s faith in God and their commitment to rock. While drawing obvious influences from Evan-escence, Dakoda Motor Co., and Flyleaf, J’espere does set itself apart with a more raw sound and a formula of starting each song slowly and introspectively, and letting the rock build. Both the lyrics and music are worth listening to and, better yet, contemplating later. (www.myspace.com/jespere)
– Carter Moss

League Of Shadows delve deep into both the sounds and emotions of classic rock and metal on their four-song Resurrection. They move easily from slower, more emotional material to face-melting rock without missing a step. The band really have a handle on old-school rock and make a connection many modern bands fail to achieve. True believers, this is one for you. (www.leagueofshadows.net)
– Mike O’Cull

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Category: Around Hear, Monthly

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