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Hall of Fame Countdown: Cave In’s “Until Your Heart Stops”

You say “Slayer-influenced metalcore” to me now and I just punch you in the face (kidding, you could most likely kick my ass), but back in 1998, metalcore visionaries Cave In dropped the most amazing piece of Slayer-influenced metalcore the world had no idea it needed with their debut real full-length, Until Your Heart Stops.

But it wasn’t just Slayer-infuenced: there were huge, Meshuggah-like grooves (before that reference also became exhausting in metalcore), emo-core tendencies and, most interestingly, melodic aspirations that nod to their next album, the brilliant Jupiter.

Until Your Heart Stops made our Hall of Fame way back in our July 2007 issue, but it’s on our minds now for another reason: the band is performing a special Until Your Heart Stops set at our Decibel Magazine Metal & Beer Fest: Los Angeles event, going down December 10 and 11 at The Belasco in LA.

So, what better time than now to deep dive into the record’s 10 tracks and rank them from worst to best? From concise thrashers to sprawling noise-rock experimentation, this album has a lot going on, so sit back and enjoy Until Your Heart Stops one more time, before you enjoy it one more time again in LA next month.

10. Segue 1
We’re not giving every interlude its own ranking here, but this one stands out, as it’s actually a very cool little breathing-room interlude track, 1:17 of weird ideas and far-reaching sounds that are nowhere near metalcore, more like experimental emo-hardcore of the era, and I’m on board.

9. Controlled Mayhem then Erupts
Of course it’s a 14-minute album closer: this was 1998 metalcore, after all. And you kinda know by this point in the album what’s going to happen: heavy part, atmospheric part, meandering/noisy/experimental part… But Cave In manage to do a great job even if the runtime of this one is a bit exhausting. Love the manic spoken/screamed vocal part that leads into the Meshug-groove and the sideways-Slayer riffing. I love everything Cave In did on this record, even if everything after about five minutes here is filler noise that I could really live without, hence the lower positioning.

8. Ebola
Some good guitar heroics here on a song that is more mean median metalcore than most on this record, “Ebola” buried deep and not thought about often when this album comes up, but it does what it needs to do: uses shards of thrash riffs in a smart metalcore context to shred faces. Shred faces “Ebola” does, especially during the song’s awesome climax. The quiet part that follows carries just as much weight, in that special way that only Cave In can really pull off.

7. Until Your Heart Stops/Segue 2
The second half of the album kicks off with the massive title track, pounding double-bass and jagged riffing, atmospheric melodies and experimental noise rock. It meanders, but it meanders well, despite being pretty difficult to warm up to. Segue 2 (which I’m just smushing into this song like it’s presented on Apple Music, deal with it) is more or less a disorienting guitar loop, which we can totally get behind, especially in the context of the full album. Also, we love the context of this: the title track of this record is a sprawling, eight-minute (if you include “Segue 2,” which we are, deal with it) far-reaching metalcore/mathcore/noise rock/noise piece. In some ways, it deserves to be higher here, but, hey, this song doesn’t even care if you like it, so here we are.

6. Bottom Feeder/Segue 3

This one sneaks in as song 8 of 10 at under three minutes, with tempos at mid and vocals at clean and smart, the band sounding like Helmet at their most relaxed during the verse here, before things get noisy and ugly (although the Helmet reference can still make sense in those parts, too). Totally a forgotten tune here, at least for me, this one is actually really cool in its own way, and then “Segue 3” (which we’re combining with “Bottom Feeder,” you still gotta deal with it) is 30 seconds at the end for weirdo noise, as is this album’s way.

5. Halo of Flies

In some ways, “Halo of Flies” is everything great about Cave In, from the thrash riffing to the atmospheric bits, the builds and ebbs and flows, the emotional release, and the unexpected clean singing—which works better here than anywhere else on the record, and sets the stage for what’s to come next for the band. It doesn’t have as much visceral impact as your “Juggernaut”s or “Moral Eclipse”s but it’s an incredibly solid Cave In song. Plus, the ending climax and riff rule.

4. Moral Eclipse

The Slayer on smart-guy-metalcore attack of this song still just totally smashes, years later: when the band strap in and ride the horses, it’s borderline too much, but then the make-Meshuggah-jealous rhythm-section attack, the Coalesce-loving breakdown, argh, it’s just too good. Lots of this stuff sounded amazing at the time but hasn’t aged well; “Moral Eclipse” shows its age and is most certainly of a certain time and place, but man has it ever held up great. Some days this one sneaks into my number-three spot.

3. Terminal Deity

Cave In are bringing the groove here, the youthful attack totally unrecognizable when held up next to the band’s later-era releases, but it’s also a whole hell of a lot heavier and, you know, glass-eating or whatever. “Terminal Deity” has tons of great riffs, manic drumming, and a production that can barely hold it all together—and it sounds awesome. Some early attempts at more melodic singing try to sneak in here, but they barely make it above the carnage. Love it, and when the final-Unbroken-7” moment near the end of the song when an unbelievably memorable vocal line hits at around 2:30, it’s clear this is a classic.

2. Juggernaut

The first two songs here are killers, but it’s on the third, “Juggernaut,” where Cave In truly established themselves, starting heavy but then dropping some space-rock aspiration, taking us on a completely unexpected journey. Sure, they can throw down King/Hanneman riffs, but they also swoon us through the stars, something Slayer could never do. Then the big grooves, the locked-in rhythm section, the almost Thin Lizzy guitar heroics, the kinda stupid but hey something is happening here riff at 2:11 (brother riff to Dillinger Escape Plan’s circus riff, itself a long-lost stepson of a Toxik riff, if we’re getting serious)… It all comes to a head a couple minutes before the song even considers ending, when things get noisier and noisier and then a quick break and then, good lord did metalcore ever have promise at one point. It’s all here on this most masterful of tracks.

1. The End of Our Rope Is a Noose

So the band lays down three songs that mainly mosh to the finish line, although showing more smarts and aspiration than your average ‘core band of the time, then drop this epic. Really, “The End of Our Rope Is a Noose” is the centerpiece of the album, the band showing their first dive into clean, second-album Sunny Day Real Estate emo-weirdness here, sandwiched between the Slayer and Meshuggah parts… I mean, this is brilliant stuff, and this song is memorable, massive, and moving, and I’m not even trying to alliterate here. Each riff builds on the last in this eight-minute juggernaut (sorry), until the psycho is-it-really-ending fadeout, and, no, it’s not ending, here’s a few more minutes of broken-glass riffing and memorable vocal lines before fuck you we’re done.

The post Hall of Fame Countdown: Cave In’s “Until Your Heart Stops” appeared first on Decibel Magazine.

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Fight Fire With Fire: ‘Crowbar’ vs. ‘Take as Needed for Pain’

Fight Fire With Fire is an ongoing series on our site where we pit two classic genre albums against each other to definitively figure out which one is better. “But they’re both great!” you’ll say. Yes, these albums are the best of the best. But one is always better. Plus, we love these sorts of exercises, and also love watching you battle each other to the death in the comments, so how could this possibly end poorly?

It wasn’t until I was pitching this to my editor that I really connected the dots between these two albums. Both are from NOLA sludge legends, both are the bands’ second records, both are from 1993, both are when the band in question really came into their own. They’re both massive statements of intent that laid down the groundwork for what the groups would do over the ensuing decades. It’s not uncommon for a band to really develop their sound fully on their second record (buy me a beer and I can talk about this happening at length in the hair-metal scene), and that’s exactly what happened with Crowbar‘s self-titled record and Eyehategod‘s Take as Needed for Pain.

But which one is the ultimate early-NOLA sludge masterpiece? Find out in today’s misery-loving, feedback-drenched, swamp-dwelling sludge edition of Fight Fire With Fire.

Crowbar – Crowbar

The opening riffs of lead cut and Crowbar classic “High Rate Extinction” set the mood right away here, the band managing to be outrageously heavy while also hitting all the feels. And that’s what Crowbar do best, and while their debut album—1991’s Obedience Thru Suffering—was massive and impressive, it wasn’t quite the actualization of what Crowbar was capable of. But this album is.

And while this band has had several stellar lineups, it’s hard to find any fault with this one, these four guys absolutely locked in to each other here, musically and, if I may, vibe-wise. I mean, check out ultra-classic “All I Had (I Gave)”: it’s uncharacteristically speedy but sacrifices little of the massive Crowbar power, and when things get slower in the chorus, it’s huge. When the breakdown drops at 1:53, forget it. This song is memorable, moving, and crushes like a ton of bricks.

“Will That Never Dies” drops things down for another soulful journey through the murk, mainman Kirk Windstein doing everything he does so well: mountain-crushing riffs, vocals pulled from the depths of despair, a love of rockin’ out hidden underneath it all.

I generally don’t care too much about covers, but the band’s version of Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter” totally rules, taking the song’s original bad-acid atmosphere and sludging it down appropriately. Windstein’s vocals work perfect here, as do the crushing drumming and huge riffing. The chord changes before the chorus comes could swallow planets.

“Negative Pollution” is actually a late-album classic of sorts, killer vocal lines, great playing, good songwriting, masterful use of sludge and sludgier tempos. “Existence Is Punishment” is another one that hits hard late here, excellent mastery of song, no shortage of emotion seeping out of every slug riff.

“Holding Nothing,” man, in going through this album song by song with a fine tooth comb, I’m realizing something, and this song is another great example of it: Crowbar, even way back in 1993, had the art of songcraft down to a very fine point. They would get even finer (hi, “Planets Collide,” good goddamn are you maybe the best sludge song ever) but this album is just song after song of great, well, song after song. This one proves it, so does the masterful closing cut.

“I Have Failed” ends things off perfectly, and is one of the greatest monuments to sludge ever crafted. It captures the despondent feeling that this music should perfectly, it moves along at an agonizing pace, and the vocals are so honest they hurt to listen to. Pretty bold saving this one for last, although it wouldn’t really make sense elsewhere else on the album, because when it’s done, if you’ve really given yourself over to it, you’re done. Incredible.

Throughout this whole album—throughout every song—the drumming of Craig Nunenmacher is just incredible. The man is a powerhouse, hitting the open hi-hat and toms with an unbelievable amount of force, and the production—courtesy of Phil Anselmo—rules, bringing out every instrument perfectly, especially the drums. Seriously, Nunenmacher just propels this album along, his work here something to be documented and studied for future generations of how sludge drumming should be. Amazing.

This album is phenomenal, great songwriting buried in sludge perfection, heavy music as pure emotion, nothing short of genuine art. Every second of this record feels perfect, a stark comparison, really, to Take as Needed for Pain, which is falling apart the seams, an ugly mess compared to Crowbar’s economic craft. But how does EHG’s sonic embodiment of chaos compare to Crowbar’s perfect distillation of misery?

Eyehategod – Take as Needed for Pain

Man, Eyehategod’s debut—1990’s In the Name of Suffering—is one dark, difficult album, so much so that I rarely spin it. Sludge needs to be antagonistic and ugly, but that album just feels like it hates me, it feels unwelcome. Here though, on their second album, Eyehategod found that sweet, sweet spot and although every record they do is fantastic, this one remains their masterpiece.

As evidence of this, opener “Blank” is without a doubt one of the best sludge songs ever. The feedback, that first riff, the first scream: totally iconic. This song is almost always stuck in my head, and it immediately stepped the band up from the Melvins-but-way-pricklier sewers of their first album to somewhere that, thanks to the feelgood-just-fucking-kidding-you-feel-baaad southern riffing, connects, and is memorable. When the band slow things down and come in together at slug pace at 1:18, again, man, this was history, and history never sounded so heavy unless we’re talking song one side one Black fucking Sabbath. Amazing how this riff makes you feel, and then when Mike Williams comes in with the vocals and things get even slower… then the riff that comes in at 3:37, elevating this to a higher level of sludge that no one else has reached ever since… it’s just perfect, then even more perfect, then even more perfect. Amazing. I mean, no exaggeration, this is maybe the heaviest riff I’ve heard in my life. Then the legendary “suffering from addiction to drugs” samples, the pounding and bashing drumming… This album could end after this song and I would still hold it up in incredibly high regard. Complete perfection.

But it doesn’t end there; the beautiful torture is only beginning, guitarists Jimmy Bower and Brian Patton working together and apart so well on this record, amazing riff after amazing riff just flowing out of the pair.

The second song, the adorably titled “Sister Fucker (Part 1),” has THE riff. The band manage to pick up the tempo here to create what could, in some alternate, wonderful reality, be considered a good-time song, even though it’s pure sludge ugliness. But, man, impossible to not get the, uh, booty shaking to this one, that riff just unbelievable, the band locked together as well as they possibly could be at this point, which, despite the haze of the life they were living at the time, is remarkably well.

The groan at 1:37 of “Shop Lift”; the totally indecipherable first line at 0:25 of, well, let’s call it “White Neighbour” like Apple Music does (lol); the entirety of batshit bonkers 7:01 noise interlude “Disturbance”… This album feels less like a bunch of incredibly well-crafted songs, like Crowbar’s record is, and more like one big mash of atmosphere and nastiness. And that works, that’s exactly what this record is, even incredible songs like “Blank” sort of merging together with other songs here in my head, or being split up into a couple songs (it is a long one), everything just working together to create something horrid, something new, something not really borrowed, something very blue.

Then there’s the title track, which is a huge slap in the face after “Disturbance” lulled us all off to a sort of temporary quiet zone. The grotesque opening line of “Breastfed from a dog from the day I was born” barely prepares us for the beatings that ensue.

And the beatings go on, powerhouse drummer Joey Lacaze (RIP) absolutely destroying on “Crimes Against Skin,” while the band as a whole show some songwriting smarts on late-album smasher “Kill Your Boss.”

And, of course, the maniacal rant of a closer “Who Gave Her the Roses” and final soundscape “Laugh It Off” end things off with a couple tracks that aren’t really traditional songs in a lot of senses, instead just layers upon layers of manic frustration, of danger-zone cautionary tales set to music, 99 more miles of bad road laid down as parts of a glorious, depraved whole.

——-

This fight was a bit more bruised apples and rotten oranges than I thought it would be, really. Sure, it’s a showdown between NOLA sludge titans, but these records are very different strains of sludge, despite the sonic and philosophical similarities. Still, one record does rise up with its stench, its manifestation of total terror, its truly despicable demeanor. Today, we crown Eyehategod’s Take as Needed for Pain as the unlikely and unwilling and unwitting and it just doesn’t fucking care winner, these songs taking the listener to a dangerous place every single time, Williams’ wretched screams the hungover ellipses over Lacaze’s physical acts of violence behind the kit, drumming that’s more than drumming, music that’s really more than music, the record a savage, ugly, grotesque masterpiece, art holding up the broken mirror to society then smashing it and doing unspeakable things with the shards, an uncomfortable monument to honesty through creativity. May its feedback ring through the ages forever more.

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Video Premiere: Cave Bastard – “Anti-Vaxxtermination”

Talk about making a statement on a hot-button issue. San Diego progressive death quartet, Cave Bastard, are building excitement/stirring up controversy for their new album, Wrath of the Bastard, with a startling new video for the track “Anti-Vaxxtermination.” The band’s second full length is set for release on Antrum Records on November 12 (pre-order here), and this track will surely be a polarizing one, as it’s pretty clear by watching the video where Cave Bastard stand regarding vaccines.

According to a statement offered by the band, the genesis of the track, however, preceded the current pandemic.

Written during the summer of 2019 (well before the first COVID-19 cases were reported), the concept behind ‘Anti-Vaxxtermination’ was inspired by the ‘wellness’ community, which is notoriously anti-vaccine and promotes unproven treatments with unsubstantiated claims for several different diseases and ailments, often with the motive of profit by snake-oil salesmen. Diseases such as measles, which were virtually eradicated by the year 2000 in the U.S., rose drastically within the last 15 years, prompting a travel advisory warning for foreigners traveling in the United States. The idea of deadlier and severely crippling diseases returning unchecked came to mind, wiping out a majority of the population whilst humanity tears itself apart, resulting in vulnerability to existential threats. Unbeknownst to us that a global pandemic was right around the corner, we’ve unfortunately seen the continuation of the spread of anti-vaccine rhetoric.”

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Album Premiere: Scarecrow – ‘ Scarecrow II’

Russian retro rockers Scarecrow are doing things right on their second album, Scarecrow II. This record checks off all the boxes—proto-metal vibe, retro rock soul, early doom melodies, trad metal spirit, early British hard blues rock—but does so without sounding remotely forced or cliche. It’s a tall order, but this band pulls it off with grace here.

Decibel‘s own Sean Frasier liked the band so much he’s releasing Scarecrow II (as well as reissuing the band’s 2019 debut I for the first time in the USA) on his own Wise Blood Records tomorrow. And we like the record so much—from the proto-occult-boogie-doom of “Blizzard” to the incredible saxophone-led climax of closer “The Endless Ocean”—we’re giving you a full album premiere right here today.

“This album is about our most important wealth, which is inexorably and absolutely irrevocably diminishing with each passing moment—time,” says founding vocalist/guitarist/composer Artemis. “For most of life, the running of time feels like the flow of a quiet and calm river, but there are times when time shows its true, dispassionate and unforgiving face. At such moments, it runs like a deadly icy stream through your solar plexus, or rolls like monstrously huge waves of an endless dark and unknown ocean that sweeps away all the fragile and ridiculous dams we have built and mercilessly pulls us into its dark depths.”

“At such moments, you look at yourself in shock: yesterday evening, I was happy and carefree, playing with friends in the shade of spreading trees, and waking up this morning, I suddenly found that I had thousands of miles traveled behind me, a lot of accomplishments, past troubles, illnesses and deaths of loved ones, meetings and partings, gains and losses. What the hell happened?! When?! And the worst thing is that at such moments it seems that every year, time flows faster and faster, it remains less and less, and at the same time you really did not have time to do anything.”

“Of course, this goes away with time. A person, by virtue of his nature, cannot look into the eyes of infinity and the unknown for a long time. The sense of time is dulled, we return back to life. And from these meetings with inexorable infinity, we are obliged to take invaluable experience, steadfastly accept it and use it in the future. Because if we are here, then we still have some time.”

All of which—somehow—is to say that the album kills it. Preorder Scarecrow II here and check out the stream right here:

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Track Premiere: Andrew Lee – “Maybe”

If endless riffs and shredding are what you crave above all else, you can scratch that monstrous, gnawing, inner itch with Andrew Lee‘s Heavy Metal Shrapnelout via Nameless Grave Records on December 10.

Also of Decibel death metal faves, Ripped to Shreds, Lee’s desire is to bring the power of the riff and sleazy, grimy stylings back to instrumental music.

The record also features some pretty solid guests, including solos by Hagamoto (Bodies Lay Broken) on “Heavy Metal Shrapnel,” Antoine Daigneault (Chtheilist) on “Deliverator,” and Phil Tougas (Chtheilist, First Fragment) on “Maybe.”

We talked to Lee about the record, and to get everyone stoked for the release, check out “Maybe,” and prepare to get your face melted.

Andrew Lee’s Heavy Metal Shrapnel by Heavy Metal Shrapnel

What inspired you to bring back the precision of instrumental shredding to the world of grimy death metal, and why is this mission important to you?
I don’t think there was ever a question of NOT combining shredding and death metal. The shredding stuff is so formative and important to me when I was getting into guitar and learning how to play, so if there’s any solos in my music, which is a non-negotiable requirement, it’s gotta be ’80s shredding bullshit.
As for why specifically this type of instrumental, solo guitar album, no one’s really done a Shrapnel Records-style album since the late 90s. Paul Gilbert started making dad rock stuff solo pretty early on, Yngwie more or less stayed the course, but his albums have always been vocal-focused;Tony MacAlpine started making djent-influenced stuff, and the entire modern crop of shredders play EDM, fusion, metalcore/djent, or neo-soul/funk. I know Phil Tougas has been talking about making a Shrapnel-style, instrumental record soon, but I guess I beat him to the punch. So, even though shred has been dead for 30 years, I don’t think anyone’s really taken a good shot at resuscitating it.
What was the writing and recording process like for the track?
I knew I wanted this to be a synth-driven track that stays pretty mellow with a slow backbeat on drums that explodes into a big solo towards the end, so I started playing around with my keyboard, trying to find the right riff. Most of the song is key driven; I don’t even use a bass guitar—it’s synth bass. When recording my leads, I focused on trying to find the right kind of articulation and vibrato to give the melodies a really vocal feel.
I considered making this song a drum machine track actually, to give it a really authentic, 80s vibe, but in the end, I’m glad that Alex put live drums on it because it really gives the whole thing a much more live feel. When I got Phil’s solos for the breakdown halfway through the song, I was so excited I jumped out of my chair, I had been planning to do a typical, shred-o-rama thing for my solo spot, but his lead drove me in a totally different direction, much more restrained and stately rather than just balls to the wall fire. I think that ended up serving the song much better, because it leaves room for the solo at the end of the song to really go crazy with fireworks.
Do you have touring or support plans for the album?
Unfortunately not, with finishing up the new Relapse album or preparing for festivals/tours for RTS, I don’t think I have the time. This music requires a huge amount of preparation, and I’d need to find both a second guitarist and a keyboardist who can keep up with the shredding throughout the record. I guess it would be possible to perform solo to backing tracks, but that doesn’t sound very fun from an audience perspective, or for myself as a performer.
What modern-day death metal bands are you digging? Who do you think is moving the sound forward?
For death metal, I can’t say I really care about “moving the sound forward.” I’ll leave that for future generations to discuss who “advanced” death metal because I just want to hear sick shit. I really dug the new Decrepisy album, as well as Witch Vomit.
For modern shredders … it’s really hard to think of ones that play in a style I’m looking for. I really enjoy Marco Sfogli and Martin Miller, but they’ve been around for 15 years now and are pretty pop/fusion focused. Probably Phil Tougas and Steve Janssen (Crypt Sermon) are two “new” and younger shredders that are really sick and play sick metal, but I don’t know if they’re “advancing” shred guitar, because I think they wear their influences on their sleeve (as do I!)
Do you have any plans in the works yet for the next record after this one, or any future projects?
Yes, the second album will be titled “Heavy Metal Hairspray,” and it will be focused around vocal hooks. I’m trying to find the perfect Don Dokken, Mark Boals type glam singer for it. I haven’t started writing yet, being busy with other bands, but I have a pretty solid concept in my head of how I want the whole album to go.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Heavy metal never dies! Don’t ever stop shredding!

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Primitive Origins: Winterhawk’s ‘Electric Warriors’

Primitive Origins is a column where we’ll look back at proto-metal and early metal that deserves a bit of your battered eardrum’s attention. We’re keeping it loose and easy here: there are no strict guidelines other than it’s gotta be old, it helps if it’s obscure, and it’s gotta rock out surprisingly hard for its context. Pscyh-ed out proto-metal from the late ’60s? Of course. Early attempts at doom metal from the ’70s? Hell yeah. Underground Soviet metal from the early ’80s? Sure. Bring it on. Bring it all on.

San Francisco-based Indigenous hard rockers Winterhawk put out two records—one in 1979, one in 1980—that are both about to be re-released next week by Don Giovanni Records, so we thought it was a good time to dive into the band’s first album, ’79’s Electric Warriors, to find out if it deserves the reissue.

This Winterhawk—who, by all accounts, took their culture’s traditions and values into their music and aimed to be good role models to youth—isn’t to be confused with Chicago’s Winterhawk, who were also around at the same time. (This band’s “Don’t Die” shirt is one sXe slogan away from being a piece of Earth Crisis merch.) Indeed, this Winterhawk took a positive and damn near squeaky-clean approach to their craft, and it only adds to the music.

“Prayer” is a killer opener, starting off with a slow burn that has tons of ’70s feel to it; it’s a courageous way to kick things off, not exactly diving head first into hard rock, but setting a mood, and doing it with authority. Then on to “Got to Save It,” and, man, I really like what this band is laying down here, incredibly solid on their instruments with a fantastic vibe—good-time KISS at its best—and a strong message. Fantastic opening pair of songs here. This song is 5:30 but doesn’t get old, it actually just gets stronger and stronger as it goes on.

“Black Whiskey” tells a tale of the evils of alcohol over a mid-tempo kinda-mellow tune, a song that wouldn’t sound half bad playing in a car stereo at 8pm on a summer night while you’re killing time in a parking lot with the buds. Winterhawk is doing absolutely nothing wrong on this record so far, three songs in. Win, win, win.

“Dark Skin Lady” ends off the original album’s side A with some killer guitar work that immediately brings to mind classy and classic Thin Lizzy, the band just incredibly solid, tight, working as a cohesive unit here. Love it. Side A done and done and absolutely no complaints here.

“Restaurant” is a slinky groover with tons of attitude, kinda absurd lyrics, and—I can’t stress this enough—a tight delivery. Seriously, these guys were incredibly locked in together on this album. This song rules, and, honestly, those stoopid lyrics only help.

“Selfish Man” is when the band’s personality really starts to shine, with some of their traditional Native American musical sounds coming through both in the music and vocals. Excellent track here, one that handles both quiet and louder parts with ease and power.

“Custer’s Dyin’” absolutely kills it, the band laying into a slinky boogie with charged lyrics and tons of their own flair in there. A great song, and then they end the album even stronger with “Fight.” This closes the album off with another streamlined rocker, vocals threatening to be a bit much at points but generally staying just this side of too much and instead rocking all night long, the band showing off their excellent riff skills one final time here, drumming concise and tight, everyone locked in for one final groove, bassist holding it down, man… I love Winterhawk, and the spoken part that ends off this song, and the album, just nails that home. Incredible.

I’m thrilled to see this, and follow-up Dog Soldier, being reissued, this record being legit rocking, with tons of personality and a positive message behind it to boot. It’s aged perfectly and is one of the finest pieces of shoulda-been early metal/hard rock we’ve come across in this column to date.

Winterhawk’s Electric Warriors – The Decibel breakdown:

Do I need to be stoned to listen to this?: Nope.

Heaviness factor: Somewhere between KISS and Thin Lizzy. Not wildly heavy, but wildly rockin’.

Obscura Triviuma: Info is hard to come by, but it appears that the band’s last release was a 1984 7” with a cover of “Good Golly, Miss Molly” and an original, “Rock and Roll Soldier.”

Other albums: 1980’s Dog Soldier.

Related bands: Jim Boyd, V.C. & the Saucers

Alright, fine, if you must: Nope. The band wanted to be good role models, so let’s keep it clean.

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Fight Fire With Fire: ‘Suicidal Tendencies’ vs. ‘Dirty Rotten EP’

Fight Fire With Fire is an ongoing series on our site where we pit two classic genre albums against each other to definitively figure out which one is better. “But they’re both great!” you’ll say. Yes, these albums are the best of the best. But one is always better. Plus, we love these sorts of exercises, and also love watching you battle each other to the death in the comments, so how could this possibly end poorly?

Let’s talk crossover. We haven’t dabbled into the genre yet in this column, so what better place to start than with Suicidal Tendencies‘ self-titled 1983 debut and D.R.I.‘s Dirty Rotten EP debut, also from 1983?

These records are both absolute genre classics, we love them both and they both hold up perfectly over the years, the youthful angst in them actually translating into something that still sounds relevant decades later, which isn’t always the case.

So, yes, two great records. But one is better. Read on to find out if it’s Suicidal’s suicyco punk moto-ramblings or D.R.I’s blinders-on take on HC/crossover that we crown king of the crossover records today in Fight Fire With Fire.

Suicidal Tendencies – Suicidal Tendencies

This album was where we were introduced to the wonderful rantings of vocalist Mike Muir, and while the band underwent many changes in sound and lineup over the years—putting out albums that I much prefer over this one, even, and albums that are much more metallic—there is absolutely no denying that this is a punk/hardcore/crossover masterpiece.

Sure, we all know “Institutionalized” to an almost exhausting degree (which is impressive; not many crossover albums of the era—or any era—had a song that became this ingrained in everyone’s mind, punkers and metalheads alike), but this album is just hit after hit after hit, and they come fast and furious, as they should on a good punk record.

The ST saga in years to come was one of highs and lows indeed, and it often confused us along the way, but this record is an amazing document of punk, hardcore and crossover, and while they would drop albums far more metallic, they would rarely tap into the anarchic power and glory of this record.

Take manic opener “Suicide’s an Alternative/You’ll Be Sorry”, the vocal tradeoffs a thing of beauty, the pure punk forward momentum just perfect; then the quirky ST personality comes in at around a minute and a half, immediately establishing this band as something different—really, something different from any other band, to this day.

“Two-Sided Politics” shows off some cyco guitar soloing in its one-minute runtime, the band also managing to craft incredibly memorable songs—memorable vocal lines, memorable riffs, hell, memorable drum beats—and “I Shot the Devil” (with Muir’s unforgettable opening scream of “I shot Regan!” both setting the song in a particular time and era and also, somehow, making it ageless) continues that, being a mixture of catchy crossover, quirky ST, and great Cyco Miko ranting.

“Subliminal” also places the album very much in its era, given how much of a going concern subliminal messages were in 1983 and for several years after. This song is a bit longer but rages hard, the slower verse making way for the great, speedy chorus, ST showing off how great they are at both here, the verse sticking in our heads forever, and the chorus just forcing us to turn off our brain and slam dance until we’re seeing multiple Muirs dancing around in angsty glee in front of us.

“Won’t Fall In Love Today” barely hits one minute and is a classic loner anthem, the band managing to squeeze in everything a song needs—couple verses, couple choruses, guitar solo—in 59 damn seconds. And it’s catchy, hooky—it’s ridiculous and not talked about enough just how well this band was crafting memorable songs back on this album.

“Institutionalized,” well, we all know it, and you know what? I’m not sick of it, I don’t think I’ll ever be sick of it, it still rules, Muir still wants a goddamn Pepsi, and I still want more of this song, which honestly just sounds better and better as the years go on. This is a classic for a reason.

The second half of the album doesn’t lose any steam, as the band slam through great song after great song: “Memories of Tomorrow” and “Possessed” may not get stuck in anyone’s head as much as anything discussed so far, but as soon as you hear them, yup, it all comes back in a heartbeat, no matter how long it’s been. “I Saw Your Mommy…” threatens to wear out its welcome at almost five minutes, and it’s pushing it as far as the humor goes, but, hey, the choruses are classic raging crossover, although it’s the goofier verses that we all remember regardless (even though the verses kinda sound like choruses and the choruses kinda sound like verses).

“Fascist Pig” is a classic punk call to arms buried way deep here, while “I Want More” nods heavily to what the band will sound like two or three albums from now, something far more serious and mature; it’s easy to forget this song is on here, given how much it sticks out from the rest, and that’s a good thing. Well, the slower parts anyway; the fast parts then blast right back to IQ-bashing punk/crossover.

“Suicidal Failure” ends the album perfectly, a great companion piece to the opener, some killer solos and a slower tempo foreshadowing what will come a bit later, like “I Want More,” the band stretching out just a touch, and in the process helping to give this album a bit of variety, adding immensely to its longevity.

No one player really stands out as incredible, the sound more of enthusiastic young punks than virtuosos of any kind. It’s fine: we don’t need—or want—virtuosos in punk, we want spirit, which this record is just absolutely overflowing with.

Good god, what an album, perfect crossover, great punk (yes, definitely more punk than crossover, if we’re splitting hairs), tons of personality—this thing just drips with personality—from a band that made a career out of always showing off that personality. The production holds up just fine, the teenage angst that this album is built on actually transferring to an enjoyable listening experience for all ages.

It’s hard to imagine a crossover record better than this. But then D.R.I. come moshing in.

D.R.I. – Dirty Rotten EP

Man, what a glorious racket this one is.

What I love about this album is that while ST’s is a collection of very distinct songs, this one sort of blends into one big mush of chaos, D.R.I. creating a cohesive record here, 22 songs flying past in under 18 minutes, end result being nothing less than one of the most important crossover records of all time.

(And a quick note about methodology here: while pitting an EP against an LP might seem unfair to some, I argue that it’s absolutely not: especially in punk and hardcore, an EP is just as valid a complete work of art as a full-length is, in my eyes [also, in punk and grind, some of my favorite full-lengths ever could fit on a 7″]. More of us are familiar with this release in its reissued form with extra tracks, but in my eyes the extra material lessens the EP’s incredible impact, so we’re sticking with the original release here. And when you’ve got 22 songs on a record and we’re still talking about that record decades later, yes, it can go up against a full-length that’s only like 11 and a half minutes longer than it.)

Opener “Sad to Be” is, naturally, one to remember as it announced to the world, “Here’s D.R.I, they are a mess, and they are awesome,” the band packing an alarming amount of noise into the song’s 2:13, instruments coming and going, a part where the tempo picks up faster and faster, there’s noise, feedback, man, this is barely a song by any conventional sense, but the parts where the band is locked in and raging, and Kurt Brecht’s vocals are a rallying cry, it’s excellent, pure early-crossover DIY underground punk chaos. Then “War Crimes” follows it up with a song that wouldn’t sound wildly out of place on Suicidal’s debut, both bands tapping right in to what makes crossover and early hardcore/punk so great, D.R.I. absolutely nailing it here, scaling down the noise of the opening track for something more conventional, and it’s a huge victory.

“Busted” brings some humor before more chaotic punk/HC, and we’re into a rapid-fire approach now for the next several songs, “Draft Me,” “F.D.R.C.” and “Capitalist Suck” doing what they need to do in their 30 seconds, as does “Misery Loves Company,” before “No Sense” spreads its wings a bit more at 1:16 and “Blockhead” closes off the original side A with another near-epic at 0:55.

Side B continues with some classics, “I Don’t Need Society” and “Commuter Man” kicking it off with a killer one-two punch before “Plastique” and “Why” basically drop the same song two times in a glorious row, and, man… side B is awesome, short song after short song just killing it, “Balance of Terror,” “My Fate to Hate,” “Money Stinks” and on it goes, every song a winner, every song kinda the same at this point in the record, but, as I mentioned earlier, D.R.I. making that work, the songs on this album coalescing into one incredibly satisfying ball of what would later be coined crossover, here, it’s just punk/HC, less metallic than ST but with a heavier sonic punch, more singularly focused and racing to the finish line.

And to the finish line we go, with the frantic “Human Waste,” the fun “Yes Ma’am,” the falling-apart-at-every-second “Denis’s Problem,” then a couple more gotta-love-’ems in “Closet Punk” and classic closer “Reaganomics,” this record’s memorable anthem. It’s maybe not quite as ingrained as “Institutionalized” is in all our heads, but it’s killing me, it’s killing me, it’s killing me, it’s killing you. You know it, I know it, and it’s awesome, what an ending to a totally killer record.

The non-stop drum barrage is impressive, and, importantly, D.R.I. does get mentioned in talks about early blast beats, let’s not forget. This release—in particular, the grinding parts of “No Sense”—often gets brought up in these intense, nerdy discussions, so that gets huge points from us here, as we’re always interested in the history of such sonic extremity. Everyone else does a just fine job on their instruments, and, like ST, it’s more about the sloppy energy than it is any sort of jaw-dropping precision. But, a pioneering release for blastbeats means that we at Decibel HQ are slipping and sliding in our drool.

I love the production on this one too; not sure how punk records from 1983 can sound so damn good to me all these years later, but they do, D.R.I.’s in particular having a bass-heavy, sludgy, raw sound to it that matches the attitude in the music absolutely perfectly.

It’s all about spirit with this stuff, and while DRI’s EP doesn’t quite have the personality quirks that ST’s has, it hits the finish line with a more solid sense of accomplishment; they did what they set out to do, and it just sounds better and better as the years go on.

—————-

Both records are fantastic, trailblazers, and have a youthful energy that holds up wonderfully today. I love them both. However, one stands out a bit more due to the band’s never-ending well of personality and sideways humor. Only one has rants that became legend. Only one wanted a Pepsi: today we’re declaring Suicidal Tendencies’ self-titled album the winner in our crossover battle, may Muir rant and rave forever more, soft drinks just out of reach as the echoes of this legendary debut hang above the punk, hardcore, metal and crossover scenes for all time.

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Video Premiere: Bleach Everything — “Bound”

C’mon now.

You must have suspected a band that rages through songs such as “I Killed a Werewolf Once (It’s on Film),” “Facehugger,” and “Witch, Please” was eventually gonna make a horror flick, right?

And so it has come to pass with the new interconnected videos for the Bleach Everything tracks “Bound” and “Cured.” In recognition of the crossover, Decibel is exclusively premiering the first part, “Bound,” below, and the horror movie mag Rue Morgue will simultaneously premiere the second part, “Cured,” here.)

So this is what we had to say about “Bound”/”Cured” when we premiered the tracks back in January:

In little more than two-and-a-half minute this pair of tracks somehow manages to call to mind the work of such wildly disparate bands as Husker Du, Integrity, My Bloody Valentine, Drive Like Jehu and more without losing the sneering heart and kinetic soul of Bleach Everything past. It’s a brilliant, condensed piece of transcendent avant punk that speaks to listeners on a more fundamental, primal level than ever before.

And here is what frontman Brent Eyestone has to say about the “Bound” video:

“‘Bound’ is part one of a two-part music video series we made with our friend Nath Milburn of Lil’ Baker Films. The first part finds all of us trapped in an old haunted house with the added terror of being isolated from one another. A demonic presence [Jenn Muse] stalks and toys with everyone’ psyche accordingly.

“We shot everything in a historic section of Redondo Beach, California using a vintage camcorder to mimic a lot of the direct-to-video creations that ourselves and Nath have enjoyed as horror and thriller fans for decades. It’s a treat to be able to share both these videos as part of most metal and horror fans’ favorite season.

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The Lazarus Pit: Maineeaxe’s ‘Shout It Out’

Welcome back to The Lazarus Pit, a look back at should-be classic records that don’t get nearly enough love. Today, we’re going to take a closer look at Maineeaxe’s 1984 debut, Shout It Out.

This UK-based trad/NWOBHM band is definitely more or less forgotten or maybe remembered for the outrageous matching-red outfits and utterly charming “Look at us, mom!” photos on their second album, 1985’s Going for Gold, but probably basically just forgotten. But there’s a reason that their 1984 debut Shout It Out gets reissued every decade or so (okay, fine: once in 2010 and once in 2019), and it goes beyond the fact that, admittedly, lots of old stuff gets reissued these days, for better or for worse. It gets reissued because this is good stuff, the band coming out strong here, laying down a white-hot economic sound that straddles the line wonderfully between the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, trad metal and even early hair metal if you really think about it. It’s a fun record, it’s not perfect, but it’s deserves to be remembered, which is what we’re going to do today.

Opener “Run to the Angels” immediately shows tons of smart riffing, like NWOBHM filtered through prime-era Ratt with a soaring trad metal chorus that sticks in your brain. And the Ratt reference is important: I mentioned early hair, and this is what I meant, the reputable stuff that even the most hard-nosed NWOBHM rocker had to admit was good—your early Quiet Riot records, your early Twisted Sister records. The riffs here are next-door neighbors to the riffs there, and it’s all good, man.

I love “Gonna Make You Rock”’s almost-smart riffing and song structure, and the chorus is ambitious but works, in a charming way. It shows the two things this band really were strong at: riffs and songwriting, and here the chorus vocal line is one to remember, and the riffs back it up exactly as they should.

The ballads on these records almost always stink, but “The Game” is actually a pretty likeable and ambitious attempt at one, the band reaching for something a bit more intelligent than the usual pandering broken-heart hit single and almost getting there.

“Steel on Steel” kicks off asking if they are evil, and yes they are, well, kinda, not as much as Diamond Head, as the first riff here would like you to believe, but… okay, Maineeaxe are not evil, but Maineeaxe are kinda more fun to listen to than a lot of Diamond Head songs are because they know when to end the damn song, and they know how to have fun. “Steel on Steel” is fun.

The title track again flirts NWOBHM, trad, and early, ragged Sunset Strip rock and I’m sold, I’m wondering why we’re all not more sold on this album, really. Sure, it’s not like the vocal performance is one you’ll be talking about for years after—if anything, it’s a bit unremarkable—but it serves the greater good of these good-and-almost-great songs.

“Rough Trade” is a fantastic deep cut, majestic, tapping into how metal makes you feel ready to take on the world, tons of excellent riffs again making you think, wow, this band is all about the power of the riff. Again, it’s nothing you’ll be talking about years later—pretty sure no one has talked about Maineeaxe’s riffs in a long, long time—but they hold up a record that, yes, maybe isn’t breaking down to the doors to our Hall of Fame, but is certainly worth remembering all the same.

I love all songs called “Rock City” or any variations of that name, and here “Rock City” showcases both great vocals and a wildly energetic verse, set over killer riffs—again, I’m thinking the good stuff from Ratt—that close off the album with style, the band blazing off into the sunset before releasing one more album shockingly soon after this one then really blazing off into the sunset, destined to be just one of countless metal bands watching their dreams slip through their hands in 1986, 1987, left wondering why the almighty riff didn’t give them more. Hey, no need to worry anymore, guys. The riffs live on, not forgotten, still delivering power and energy decades later, giving us everything they couldn’t give you as the ’80s started coming to a close, riffs echoing in the sky, making promises that they will ring forever, even if it’s only for the chosen few and not for the masses.

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Justify Your Shitty Taste: Twisted Sister’s “Love Is for Suckers”

Almost every band has that album: you know, the critically and/or commercially reviled dud in an otherwise passable-to-radical back catalogue. Occasionally, a Decibel staffer or special guest will take to the Decibel site to bitch and moan at length as to why everybody’s full of shit and said dud is, in fact, The Shit. This time around, Greg Pratt defends Twisted Sister‘s Love Is for Suckers.

You should see me right now. Well, no, you shouldn’t: I’m two beers in, I’m laying in bed next to a sleeping child and listening to Twisted Sister’s Love Is for Suckers album on headphones, cackling to myself at how great is is, slight air of terror around me because, shit, this story is due in like a day and I’m just starting the thing now. Why am I just starting it now? Because life is off the charts, which is—work with me—why this album rules so much and why I’m justifying the hell out of it today. I’m 44 years old and have no regrets about anything I’m about to say.

So, many of us know the drill: Twisted Sister put out some legit rocker albums, then got batshit huge off one also legit rocker album, then followed that up with the album with the stupid cover song on it and it was the beginning of the end, then they put out this one with the dumb cover art and it sucked so bad it killed the band. Right? No way, man. That version of history is for suckers, about as interesting as “Nirvana killed metal” in the grand scheme of metal revisionist history, and I’m not buying it.

So, a quick bit of backstory you may already know: fighting burnout after becoming one of the biggest goddamn bands in the entire world, TS wanted some time off, but the record label said LOL and this record, originally imagined as a solo project from vocalist Dee Snider, had the TS logo slapped on it, and there we are, 1987’s Love Is for Suckers. Also, notably, A.J. Pero was no longer behind the kit and the end result of that was a very cold and programmed/sampled drum performance by Joe Franco.

So, this is a product of forced commerce and total exhaustion. Didn’t exactly have all the planets lining up for it. Yet, it’s great.

This album starts off with the massive “Wake Up (The Sleeping Giant)” and I’m not sure if “Wake Up” or “Wake Up the Sleeping Giant” would have been a better title but damned if I haven’t been mulling it over for like 35 years, and it really doesn’t matter because this song crushes it, maybe the only song here really considered a TS classic. Everything that makes TS great is on this song: it’s a mountain-moving anthem, and it’s a great opener.

“Hot Love” follows it up with, I guess, what everyone considered the sellout stuff, extremely of-the-era riffing and guitar moves, but, man, do they ever hit the spot now. This song makes me feel good—like, it’s not just the beers talking, I swear—and that’s sort of what rock and metal is all about at the end of the day, isn’t it? This song was probably made for no other reason than in the hopes of getting a huge hit, but here a million years later, it has a whole other meaning, a whole other purpose: it’s making me happy.

The title track is awesome, man. There was a time where I didn’t listen to this record for like 20, 25 years or so, give or take, and in my head it was just bubblegum tripe, but it’s actually heavier than that, and it packs a punch. And remember earlier I said this album rules so much because life is so off the charts these days? Here’s what I mean: this opening trio of tunes when played loud at the end of a day as you’re recharging the ol’ batteries is absolutely perfect for getting motivation going again, forging the fire, Snider leading the charge as always, hot lixx riffs lifting spirits after another long day. It’s perfect. That’s what I meant.

Now, “I’m So Hot For You” has the IQ level of, say, an Asylum B-side, and it kinda sounds like that, too, and, well, my love of ’80s KISS is pretty well documented, so, I’m sold. Plus, the song blends right into “Tonight,” which isn’t something you hear too often, so points for that.

Points, however, taken off for “Tonight”’s horrible feel-good-rock-and-roll chord changes, but, man, points then added back for the verses’ classic TS melodies. It’s just that pre-chorus that can fuck right off, because the chorus rules too.

“Me and the Boys” kicks off side B with a bit of a fey attempt at an anthem, but damned if it doesn’t make me raise my beer high every time, although it’s pushing it a bit. “One Bad Habit” continues to push it with those chord changes and riffs; I mean, re-imagine this as Snider solo and it makes sense. But two albums after the album that gave us “Burn In Hell” and “S.M.F.”? Nope, this ain’t really TS, is it? So, we’re starting to see a pretty front-loaded album here. Still.

“I Want This Night (To Last Forever)” showcases Snider’s always-on vocals with, again, some ’80s KISS stylings but a chorus that’s even poppier, the song a charming piece of cavity-inducing ’80s hard rock/metal, yeah, maybe with a bit less bite than we’d hope for from the TS of old. But it’s a fun song and some of those chord changes make the listener feel like kicking life’s ass, so that counts for something, doesn’t it? Plus, hey, there’s double bass, and they sure as hell want you to hear it. (Even if, again, it kinda sounds more machine than man.)

“You Are All That I Need,” man, the Crüe beat out TS to that song title by a few months, and also made it a bit less formal sounding, but you know what? This is a really good ballad (okay, Crüe’s was way better, but, to be fair, Crüe’s was really, really good). I mean, Snider’s voice is really well suited for this sort of nostalgic whisper of a song, sort of like first-album Poison meets second-album Frehley’s Comet meets something I would be quite comfortable hearing as I slip away from this mortal coil, hopefully with a beer in hand, again cackling to myself at the absurdity of it all, this song just kinda the best thing ever, the worst thing ever, the most forgettable and inconsequential thing ever, except to those who it probably means a whole lot to. I justified Def Leppard’s Hysteria here a while ago (and, oddly, wasn’t fired) and that sort of sentiment stuck with me when I was living with that album for a while during the writing of that piece: sometimes these records mean a whole lot to people, which doesn’t inherently make them good records, but it does make you think about how certain chords strung together can just stick with a person throughout their life. I have no doubt this song has that significance to a person or two out there, and in listening to it here in 2021, with headphones on and a couple beers in you, you can tap right into that.

“Yeah Right!” is one of the faster and more metallic songs here, but it just doesn’t connect quite as much as the more bubblegum-y stuff, which probably says a lot. Still, the chorus sticks with you and it’s an admirable enough closer, not my favorite song here but definitely nothing to be embarassed about.

Look, I’m not easy: I’m not going to sit here and justify the band’s Christmas album or anything like that. It’s not like I can wax nostalgic over any ’80s hard rock/metal album, although it’s not exactly a difficult assignment for me, to be fair. But this record, there’s something here. It may have been kinda shit when it came out, but, man, expectations were high in 1987 when you were Twisted fucking Sister, exhaustion was overwhelming, and those record labels were ruthless. Now that it’s had some time to sit and some of that context can be removed, Love Is for Suckers can be seen as the great record it is, a document of a time and place, rock songs evoking tons of feeling, Snider’s vocals moving as always, half these songs legit killers, half fun, a couple throwaways, but even those you gotta tip the hat to because you get the feeling that the feel-good-rock-and-roll crap comes from the artist, not the label.

There’s nothing not to love here unless you don’t like ’80s hard rock, and if you don’t like ’80s hard rock, I don’t know what to say except this: a wise and opinionated music-industry friend of mine recently told me I need to learn to turn my brain off when listening to music, put aside all the backroom dealings and insider stories that make up any album and just enjoy the song. I, of course, was too stubborn to fully agree, but now here I am telling you to do that exact same thing. Sure, Twisted Sister’s Love Is for Suckers may kinda suck as a concept, as a moment of history, as a thing that happened, as a record in context. But here in 2021, if you remove context, have a couple beers, put on the headphones, slap on “Hot Love” and close your eyes and let it wash over you, it’s going to absolutely rule, and I can absolutely guarantee that. (I guarantee that to the point where, should we ever meet and you honestly tried this and it honestly was not a great experience, I’ll seriously buy you a beer) (which I will then seriously try to see if Decibel can reimburse me for).

So, yeah, turn your brain off and turn this one up, because this album isn’t for suckers, it’s for every one of us who knows the power of melodic hard rock, the power of letting it take you away from your all-too-human concerns and worries for a brief period, and, sure, the power of stoopid metal, which sometimes is the best metal of all.

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