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The Man With the Golden Throat

Angie Aparo
For Stars and Moon (self-released)

I t’s been wonderful to hear Angie Aparo develop—or deconstruct, depending on how you look at it—his sound over the last several years. Following his sparse, spiritual debut, Out of the Everything, he hitched himself up to the major-label wagon. Unfortunately, producer Matt Serletic (Matchbox Twenty) sugarcoated and overproduced every last moment of what should have been Aparo’s breakthrough, The American (an album rife with powerful songwriting, but drenched with so many damn synthesizers, it was almost embarrassing to listen to). To his ultimate advantage, he was the victim of cost cutting and ship jumping at his label, and with 2001’s collection of cover songs, Weapon of Mass Construction (retitled The One with the Sun after Dubya began the war on, well, whatever that’s about), Aparo was back among the ranks of the do-it-yourselfers. Around that same time, a couple of Nashville producers took note of a little song of his called “Cry,” which they turned into a monster hit for Faith Hill in 2003. Trouble no more. Thankfully, the financial breathing room provided by a hefty handful of mechanical royalty checks hasn’t affected Aparo’s muse. His latest release, For Stars and Moon, continues to move away from The American’s glossy sheen, and back toward a more honest, no-frills sound. It’s his best work so far, less for what it does than what it doesn’t do.

His voice is a real treasure—a truly beautiful instrument that he wields with a masterful finesse. He has reined in the tendency to overemote, which marred some of his previous work, focusing instead on the needs of the individual songs. Stars’ production, too, is subtler and less crowded than on any of his releases since Everywhere. Aparo and longtime drummer Derek Murphy, along with a crack collection of Atlanta musicians, cement the album’s foundation with rich acoustic guitars, upright piano, earthy organs and natural, roomy drums, adding mandolin, harmonica and the perennially inviting sound of a Fender Rhodes piano for color.

Aparo has frequently cited Neil Young as one of his heroes—he often tackles “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” and “Heart of Gold” in his live sets—and his Young jones is in full bloom here, the spirit of Harvest looming large on the opening stretch of “Hard Woman” and “She’s Alright by Me.” Stars’ 11 tracks are more uniformly concise than on past efforts, with even the ballads that seem to be his bread and butter dispersing their bombast in measured doses. The album’s second half kicks off with “Love” and “Sweet Loretta,” a pair of near-perfect pop tunes that ought to have those former label heads kicking themselves for not hanging on to Aparo a little longer. Besides the faux-reggae and goofy patriotism of “Child You’re the Revolution,” Stars is another bold and engaging signpost on the road less traveled.

—John Brodeur

Various Artists
Uncorrupted Steel 2 (Metal Blade)

Foaming-at-the-mouth ferocious, this 2003 “tour sampler” from one of the leading extreme-metal labels includes a few hellishly tasty demos and one iconic live track from progenitors Cannibal Corpse, who reminisce with a purgative rip through “Born in a Casket.” Along the way—from gory Florida to thrashy Great Britain to blackest Scandinavia to hardcore California—the second Uncorrupted Steel compilation charts the tectonic shifts of post-Slayer heavy metal while previewing some of the better releases flowing through the ever-widening underground pipeline.

Paced with enough variety to keep its throttling tempos and roaring vocals freshly blistering, the disc starts off like a hurled sledgehammer with “Amerika the Brutal,” a primal political rant from frequent area visitors Six Feet Under. Next up is an old-school thrasher, “Contagion,” from Detroit newbies Black Dahlia Murder, and then the disc earns its price of admission with the bone-crushing “Cloacula,” marking San Diego’s Cattle Decapitation for lasting infamy with their ripped-from-the-bowels-of-hell vocals and vertiginously inventive guitars. Who’da thought this over-the-top gorecore act had it in ’em? And in case you’re wondering whether the heat-seeking debut from As I Lay Dying is worth shelling out for, their corrosively eerie “Forever” should allay all doubts. Also worthy of mention are the sulfurous yet catchy “Falling Apart” from the Heavils; “Death in Fire,” a slab of majestic pagan mayhem from Sweden’s highly regarded Amon Amarth; and the reigning track of shuddering rage, “Kill for God” (“Religion is the end of humanity”) from technically impressive Vehemence. And if you’ve ever been curious about the legendary Vadar, “Epitaph” provides a definitive blast of black metal from behind the Iron Curtain.

There isn’t a single weak assault among Uncorrupted Steel’s 17 tracks, although “Damn That Money” from the Dave Brockie Experience is accessibly gonzo. (Brockie is otherwise known as Oderus of GWAR.) Most of the bands have been around for a while (or in the case of Vadar, for a long while), and their experience—and willingness to deviate from expectations—shows, as does the evolution of extreme metal from its shock-value, speed-metal roots to unimaginable leaps of bizarre melodicism, by way of the flame-throwing experimentalism of its furthest reaches. May the worldwide pummeling continue ad infinitum.

—Ann Morrow

Fantômas
Delirium Cordia (Ipecac)

According to my half-assed two-minute investigation, Delirium Cordia means “crazy tree.” I’ve no idea what the hell that has to do with anything, but you’ve gotta start somewhere, and when attempting to describe the latest release from Mike Patton’s Fantômas project, any door will do. The press release accompanying Delirium would have us believe that this is the only one-track, 55-minute-plus album out there, an argument that Brian Eno’s Thursday Afternoon immediately disproves, but we’ll let that one slide. However, the same press release suggests that this is the quieter side of Fantômas, and it’s right, at least in part. In actuality, Delirium is not sonically all that different than previous Fantômas releases, but the madness is framed a little differently this time around. Theirs is a world where Gregorian chant, African drums, death-metal blastbeats, operating-room voice samples, Tuvan throat singing, and a number of approximations of the nails-across-a-chalkboard sound come together to make beautiful music. Patton and company employ everything but the kitchen sink, and quite possibly the kitchen sink as well, in creating their mini-symphony. This is a headphone record, unless you’re prone to seizures or crippling nightmares, in which case you might want to consider passing on it altogether. Delirium is as non-linear and sharply contoured as a film soundtrack—you can practically see the shadows form and dissipate with the swells in the music, and there’s a distinct, edge-of-your-seat jolt when the bursts of noise come bashing along. If you can imagine a Bernard Herrmann score being drawn and quartered by Cannibal Corpse, and if that sounds like something you’d be interested in, this one’s for you.

—John Brodeur


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