Movies for the Blind (3/4)- 2002
Chris Palko is a man who has been through hell and back to say the least. I won’t explain his whole story, but it involves child abuse, drug addiction, being force fed medication in a mental hospital, suicide attempts, and helping his father inject heroin as a child. Unfortunately, you won’t hear much of Chris Palko’s story on Movies of the Blind, but instead an exaggerated character telling horror stories for the sake of shock value. While Chris Palko is the man behind the music, his alter-ego Cage Kennylz is the storyteller here. It’s vile, vulgar, and intentionally shocking, but Movies for the Blind is also oddly engaging. It’s the rap equivalent of a horror film, but despite its attempts to scare and shock, it’s nowhere near as disturbing as Cage’s far personal follow up, Hell’s Winter.
Hell’s Winter (4/4)- 2005
Movies for the Blind may have been going for shock value, but Cage is at his most shocking when he abandons his character and just tells it like it is. Hell’s Winter is a tragic masterpiece, and an album that is among the personal hip-hop releases of all-time. Cage is nothing short of masterful as a storyteller, and the haunting production gives him the perfect canvas to paint his lyrical art.
Depart From Me (2.5/4)- 2009
Cage’s third studio album is less of rap record, and more of a combination of punk and spoken word with the occasional rap. It’s certainly unique, and at times it’s absolutely masterful. Songs like “I Never Knew You,” “I Found My Mind in Connecticut,” “Nothing Left to Say,” and the incredible title track are thought provoking gems that are guaranteed to send chills down the listener’s spine. Much of the album, on the other hand, is just plain awful. A number of tracks consist of Cage yelling seemingly random phrases over and over again over equally repetitive and unoriginal instrumentals. It’s a weird combination, and not just stylistically. As a whole, Depart From Me has too many highlights to be missed, but it has just as many lowlights that make this one album that is impossible to wholeheartedly recommend.
Calexico (Indie Rock/Folk)
Carried to Dust (2.5/4)- 2008
Carried to Dust is somewhat of an inconsistent album, but its standout moments are among some of the 2008. The single “Two Silver Trees” is mesmerizing in its beauty, and while the rest of the album doesn’t quite reach that same level, it’s still a solid album worthy of a strong recommendation. There are moments of experimentation as well, and it’s when Calexico breaks from their usual sound that this album works best.
Candlemass (Doom Metal)
Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (3.5/4)- 1986
Candlemass’ oddly titled debut is one of doom metal’s greatest and most influential albums. It’s hard to believe that this came out in 1986, as even by today’s standards it’s a raw and tragic doom masterpiece. The only thing holding it back is the awful production.
Caribou (Electronic/Indie Pop)
Andorra (3.5/4)- 2007
Andorra is a beautiful melodic album that belongs in the collection of every music fan. Nearly every moment of the album is exceptionally unique, even to the point where its genre is almost impossible to determine. Caribou certainly has influences that shape the parts of their sound, but the sum of those parts has never sounded quite so beautiful or unique. Andorra is an album that almost anyone can like, and you don’t have to know anything Caribou to be able to appreciate it. It’s simply a beautiful and melodic piece of work that is an example of music and art in its best and most creative form.
Vena Sera (1.5/4)- 2007
Other than an occasional catchy chorus, Chevelle does absolutely nothing to differentiate themselves from other radio rock bands. Vena Sera isn’t so bad as it is boring, and it shouldn’t appeal to anyone outside of its core audience. Even for post-grunge, this is below average stuff.
Children of Bodom (Melodic Death/Power Metal)
Blooddrunk (2.5/4)- 2008
In no way is Blooddrunk Children of Bodom at their best. However, as evidenced by Hatebreeder, Follow the Reaper, and Hate Crew Deathroll, Bodom's best is a hard standard to maintain. 2005's Are You Dead Yet? fell well short of that standard, but that's not to say it was a bad album. It was a more accessible, albeit much lighter, sampling of Children of Bodom's combination of power and melodic death metal, and the album as a whole was a rather mediocre experience. Blooddrunk is a moderately successful combination of Are You Dead Yet?'s accessibility and the more developed style of Hate Crew Deathroll. However, anyone looking for Bodom's earlier and heavier style will be disappointed with Blooddrunk. It may be just as much Hate Crew as it is Are You Dead Yet?, but longtime fans will find a Children of Bodom that's far more accessible than anyone could ever imagine, and not nearly as heavy or varied as they should be at this point in their career. Alexi Laiho's guitar work and vocals are still great, but for someone who has the talent of an iconic guitarist and has been one of the best melodeath vocalists in the past, simply being "good" here is certainly disappointing. Blooddrunk isn't a bad album by any means, and fans of Bodom's more recent material should be pleased with its accessibility, but it's more of a small step in getting back to greatness than an strong achievement.
Chimaira (Metalcore/Groove Metal)
Resurrection (3/4)- 2007
Forget what you think you know about Chimaira. Resurrection takes nearly all of the band’s past flaws and throws them out the window. The band has made a full transition from nu-metal to true heavy metal, and the result can be recommended to just about anyone that hasn’t already passed Chimaira off a no-talent band that will always be awful no matter what they do. For everyone else, Resurrection is an album that takes the band’s angry sound to a new level. This is the type of album that can cause severe headbanging, and deserves to be listened to with the stereo turned way up. There may have been a large number of subpar angry metalcore albums released this year, but Resurrection is not one of them. Chimaira’s rage takes things to a new level, and their musicianship has improved dramatically. Resurrection is pure calculated rage, and if that’s what you’re looking for, this album should satisfy.
ChthoniC (Symphonic Black Metal)
Mirror of Retribution (3/4)- 2009
Mirror of Retribution is a far more straightforward album than Sediq Bale, but it’s still very good at what it does. It’s essentially a heavy symphonic metal album with a black metal vocalist, and if that sounds like something you’ll enjoy, chances are you’ll find Mirror of Retribution to be a great listen.
Circle Maximus (Progressive Metal)
Isolate (3/4)- 2007
In any other year, Isolate might have been an essential album for progressive fans. Unfortunately, playing some of the most complicated instrumentals this side of Dream Theater isn’t enough to put this album on the same level as many of the other creative masterpieces that 2007 has brought us. Even when you consider that Isolate is an incredibly polished and focused effort from a band that has the potential to rank among the genre’s elites, Isolate is still an album that can only be recommend to fans of the genre. There may not be anything new here, but what’s here is done exceptionally well, and for that it earns a 3.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (Indie Pop)
Some Loud Thunder (1.5/4)- 2007
I wasn’t the biggest fan of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s debut, but at least that album had some originality. Some Loud Thunder is essentially the same album as their first, but this time around, the originality has worn off. What you’re left with is the mostly awful and incoherent music found beneath the surface of their overhyped debut.
Clutch (Stoner/Hard Rock)
From Beale Street to Oblivion (3.5/4)- 2007
From Beale Street to Oblivion belongs in the collection of every rock fan. It’s an album that’s accessible to fans of mainstream rock, heavy enough for metalheads, creative enough for alternative fans, and just plain great enough for any rock fan. Clutch is the hardest working band in music, and they’ve created a sound that’s the epitome of both uniqueness and rock ‘n roll. This is one of the best albums Clutch has ever released, and it’s also one of the most accessible. If you’re a fan of any type of rock, it’s highly recommended, as well as their entire discography. Although not every song is a gem, the list of things Clutch does well is endless. The superb energy, intelligent and sometimes humorous lyrics, outstanding instrumentals, and an overall unique sound are just a few of the things that make this band and album great.
Resurrection (4/4)- 1994
On “I Used to Love H.E.R.” Common personifies hip-hop as a woman who he falls in love with a young age. That be just a metaphor, but Common treats his art form with the same respect that one would to a person they loved. Resurrection is an album that shows this man’s passion and love for hip-hop, and that same passion shines through to the listener.
Communic (Progressive/Power Metal)
Payment of Existence (2.5/4)- 2008
Payment of Existence is a perfectly fine album made by some very talented musicians, but it treads too much familiar territory to earn a recommendation to anyone outside of the progressive power metal fan base.
Cult of Luna (Sludge Metal/Post-Rock)
Eternal Kingdom (3/4)- 2008
Cult of Luna is easily one of the most creative bands in modern metal. Eternal Kingdom is in no way the definitive Cult of Luna album, and it was a disappointment to a certain extent, but it still comes highly recommended. Not only will this band appeal to fans of doom and prog metal, but also to fans of post-rock bands like Explosions in the Sky and Mogwai. Cult of Luna is widely regarded as post-metal, and they could very well be called the definitive band in that genre. Once again, Eternal Kingdom doesn’t necessarily show what Cult of Luna are capable of, but it’s still a solid metal album, and easily the best post-metal album of 2008.
The Cure (Alternative Rock)
Disintegration (4/4)- 1989
The Cure’s classic Disintegration is one of the most beautiful and haunting rock albums of all-time. Robert Smith’s emotional songwriting and melancholic vocals are absolutely stunning, and just about aspect of Disintegration works beautifully.