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Test Your Metal

By David King

The Knife

Silent Shout (Rabid)

You may have first encountered the Knife the way I did—as a MySpace featured artist—or perhaps as a review on pitchforkmedia.com You may have suffered from the same negative initial reaction I had to the band: immobilizing disgust manifested in hate-fueled body tremors. Or maybe I’m the only one who suffers from IMPHOS (Indie Music Press Hype Overdrive Syndrome.) However, one day I was driving around listening to satellite radio, bobbing my head to a ridiculously catchy dance tune, happy as a clam, and then I looked up at the display to see the artist’s name, and there it was, plain as day: the Knife. My initial reaction was fear, then denial: “No way I like this song, no fucking way,” I told myself. (I had an unfortunate youthful obsession with Ace of Base.) But later, in front of my computer, I collapsed, done in by the catchy reggae- flavored technopop tune that was stuck in my head. Silent Shout has since become my favorite chill-out album of the year. Crisp dance tracks, distorted bass lines and the absolutely irresistible chorus of “We Share Our Mother’s Health.”

Bloc Party

A Weekend in the City (V2)

“I’m trying to be heroic in an age of modernity,” meekly sings Bloc Party lead singer Kele Okereke, with no backing instrumentation, on the opening to Bloc Party’s sophomore effort, A Weekend in the City. Then an urgent bass line picks up behind him like a rush-hour bus coming up behind you in a tunnel, and Bloc Party’s dance-punk-rock opera about racism, alienation and sexual frustration in London is off to the races. A Weekend in the City is the audio translation of being an immigrant youth in the mean streets of London, with the skinheads, noblemen and the average Joe telling you that you shouldn’t have a voice.

“Hunting Witches” deals with the riots and tensions that dominate Muslim ghettos in England: “I’m sitting on a roof of my house/With a shotgun/With a six-pack of beer/The news copter says the enemy’s among us.” In “Prayer,” Okereke pleads for wit, power and the grace to confront his audience. (Okereke has been harangued in the British press for his ambiguous sexuality.) Despite all of Bloc Party’s shining nobility and struggle for righteousness, they barely ever get hung up on message. Like being out in the city on a Friday night, no matter how ugly it gets, A Weekend in the City almost always feels like a party.

Skinny Puppy

Mythmaker (Synthetic Symphony)

Skinny Puppy have rarely, if ever, been described as listenable. The industrial legends, whose stage act has included fake vivisections and the burning of American currency along with their screeching electronics, have made sure that getting through every one of their past 12 albums is a fight. However, with Mythmaker, Skinny Puppy combine the ever-too-sweet sound of the vocoder with grinding, skittering techno and schizophrenic chattering to create listenable dance pop for the seriously twisted.

 

 

The Faceless

Akeldama (Sumerian)

Just how metal are California’s latest metal-core export? So metal that they might not even need the “core” part of the label. Avenged Sevenfold they are not. The Faceless play an inspired type of tech-metal derivative of bands like Between the Buried and Me, Carcass and occasionally Meshuggah. The best tracks on Akeldama come hard and fast, with blast beats raining down along with off-time riffs and gut-belching screams. Akeldama is tripped up, however, when the band delve into familiar metal territory. Are their quick leads In Flames-inspired or Killswitch Engage filler-drivel? Are the keyboards on “All Dark Graves” a nod to Dimmu Borgir or pathetic emo-goth tripe, a la Bleeding Through? These are all question the Faceless will have to answer on their next full-length. But judging by Akeldama, it will be worth hearing their answer.

Psyopus

Our Puzzling Encounters (Metal Blade)

Our Puzzling Encounters is wacky —wacky in the way that a serial killer dressed up in clown makeup is wacky. Rochester tech-grindcore maniacs Psyopus put together their music like a puzzle: a scale run here, an arpeggio there, a mind-numbing lash of über-processed guitar here. The picture you get after the puzzle is assembled is not a field of flowers or a lovely windmill. The imagery that goes along with their music is more akin to an expressionist painting, maybe cubist, perhaps The Scream. What makes Our Puzzling Encounters different than any other tech bands’ mishmash of guitar tapping, distorted screaming and polyrhythmic drumming is the sheer irreverent joy that soaks the entirety of their work.

 

 

Norma Jean

Redeemer (Solid State)

Praise the Lord, another Christian-core album! But this time, its producer is Ross Robinson. At the Drive-In Ross Robinson, not Slipknot and Vanilla Ice Ross Robinson, silly. Norma Jean try really hard on this record, really hard to hit the same chugga-chugga-chord and squealing note over and over again into eternal redemption . . . er, redundancy.

TV on the Radio

Return to Cookie Mountain (Interscope)

It was the best album of 2006, ac cording to . . . well, everyone who didn’t feel the need to fellate the cranky one, Bob Dylan. So why take the time to say what everyone else has already said? Because Return to Cookie Mountain is simply that undeniably good. Imagine David Bowie singing over a blend of funk-driven indie-pop dominated by pinpoint dance drumming, distortion and pulsing electronics, and you might get a sense of Return to Cookie Mountain. In fact, the Thin White Duke makes a guest appearance on “Province,” and Bowie’s vocals add more soul to an album that already aches with passion. TV on the Radio’s soul-punk-indie-hop is some of the most exciting music being made today; Return to Cookie Mountain is simultaneously an amalgamation of the best traits of popular music today and a rejection of everything that is wrong with it.


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