Houston Bands Network

CD Reviews by Alexander Dorian

Krippled Dogz "Judgment Day", Self-produced 8/10.

Krippled Dogz is a Houston-based hard rock outfit that comprises mostly of military veterans, some of them disabled, thus the inspiration for the name. The musicians are proud supporters of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association and part of the proceeds from their album sales go towards that association.

The album opens with "Trial By Fire", an industrial metal tune, with its main riff highly reminiscent of Rammstein.

The band sounds tight, although the riffing is somewhat generic.

What I like about the Dogz is that they don't lock themselves into hair metal territory as most new hard rock acts, but instead they take a more traditional rock approach. The lyrics hint at army life, and the music also hints at military themes. The drums on the album were recorded by Jason Mancuso, who wears two hats, as lead guitarist and drummer for the sessions. The production is top notch, thanks to mixer/producer Stephen Bogle coming on board to work with the Dogz.

There's no doubt that this is a real man's band, as when the Dogz are not singing about army life, they talk about other problems that the ordinary guy might have to deal with. "I Quit Drinking" is probably my favorite, the lyrics definitely brought a smirk to my face and deal with something I can definitely relate to. "Fast Track" was also a high adrenaline rocker, reminiscent of some good old Lemmy Kilmister tracks but with a more diverse delivery. The lyrics to "Heart Burn", while simple strike with a deep message:

"do you hate what you see in the mirror 'cause only you can make the change".

The album is quite pleasant and well put together, the band is tight, the tunes are good, but I feel that it misses a certain luster and memorable performances that would put it over the top and make it something more than a local act's self-financed release.

Overall a pleasant release and I would definitely enjoy hearing the band live in a local drinking establishment, which is probably what the Dogz have in mind, as in the band's bio, founding member Tony Mancuso is mentioned as just wanting to get his music out there while he can.

Reviewed by: A. Dorian

Link: Krippled Dogz

Reviewed by A. Dorian more reviews at HoustonMusicReviews.com

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Dennis Michael "Soulitude", Progressive Edge Record (self-released) 7/10

According to Dennis' website, his first release, titled "Soulitude" is a blend of blues, a dash of Country and Southern Rock with a touch of smooth jazz and Americana Pop groove. Dennis lists John Mayer, Counting Crows, and Matchbox Twenty as influences, and he definitely touches a bit on those sounds but overall he does his own thing. The album was recorded at Sugar Hill Studios by Andy Bradley. For the sessions, Andy helped Dennis recruit talented local players, and considering the result, they were picked very well.

Listening to the 7 songs CD "Soulitude", I feel that the country influence is heavier than stated, especially in Michael's voice. Some of the tunes don't work quite well with his voice or vocal delivery, which is a bit too "twangy", especially on "Choices". It might be a personal thing but these line phrasings just had me cringe a bit:

"Sometimes emotion has you tangled up inside

Youre (sic.) prior painful choices got you leaning to one side".

Overall the musicianship is solid and the production is top notch. The vocals work well on the other songs, even though I feel some of that twang comes in to play in a few places that seems to be an acquired taste for me.

"Pleasure That You Sell" has saxophone work by David Caceres that really stands out. The bass performed by Yusef Elkourchi also caught my attention. Michael plays some very solid guitar and his leads sit in well with the arrangement. It is a very pleasant and well performed album, and if you can skip "Choices" it is well worth checking out.

Link: www.musicbydmichael.com

Reviewed by A. Dorian more reviews at HoustonMusicReviews.com

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Oz Knozz "True Believer", self produced 8/10 Reviewed by A. Dorian

In a way Oz Knozz reminds me of the old Schlotzsky's commercial, "funny name, serious sandwich". Not that the last album production was bad but this one is downright impressive thanks to having Brian Baker on board as engineer. Just as on "10,000 days and nights", Ozz Knozz delivers somewhat formulaic power prog rock, maybe with this one having a bit more commercial appeal as it seems to be geared more towards mainstream audiences. I am perfectly fine with that as the prog rock genre can get quite self-indulgent .

There are some very 70s moments, like the song "Far Away" with an opening that could easily be on a Foreigner album. All of the guys in the band are no slouches - "True Believer" features great performances by all. Marty Naul kills on drums, and the drum sound is nothing short of amazing. Duane Massey (keys) and Robert Guinea (lead guitar) trade searing leads, while Bill Massey holds the foundation, opens up with jazzy feel in places and locks in effortlessly on the groove with Marty. Milton Coronado's masterful vocal performance shines in every respect well beyond what is usually seen at the local level.

When it comes to the compositions, I found some of the material to be too derivative of 70s and 80s music, but if that is your thing, they do it well. The lyrics at times also got somewhat cliche. Duane Massey handles all the songwriting as he did on the last album and again I have to say that in places it wouldn't hurt to have an extra writer or two in order to inject a more original vision. Overall, an exceptional band but compositions, especially lyric writing could use a bit of a touch-up.

Link: OzzKnozz.com

Reviewed by A. Dorian more reviews at HoustonMusicReviews.com

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Spunky Munky, "Munky Business" - self produced 2/5

This band plays pop punk. I guess you can call me old but I remember when the punk genre used to be dangerous and fun. It was not originally infused with high production values, but with pure attitude. The likes of Greenday changed that and when it comes to the modern kind of punk , or maybe the proper term should be alternative, the expectations are high.

Spunky Munky presents 10 songs on this cd, most of the tunes have good potential but are delivered with the wrong approach. The production is slightly on the better side of garage quality, it is quite decent if it weren't for the singing, which needs more polish. The vocals seem to be the biggest shortcoming of this band, and in this as in most genres the vocal is what sells the tune. That coupled with a nasal vocal production (something should've been done there - different mic, some distortion/fx treatment?) and you're left with a real feeble feel. What I mean is that the guy is so un-punk rock, that he can't even deliver a convincing "f... you" (Petrol) or a decent "I am f.....ing piece of sh.t" (Suitcase) and do it like he means it. Not that I blame him, as these are not the world's smartest lyrics. Most of the tempos simply drag too slow. There isn't a single song here that can't use a serious kick in the keister in terms of tempo and/or more conviction in the delivery. Even the rhythm section seems half asleep and phoning it in most of the time.

There is no discernible key player in Spunky Munky, and the sum of the parts is not that much greater than the lowest common denominator which in this case is the vocal. Guitars are decent, so is the rhythm section, but there is nothing exceptional, seems like the whole CD just goes, without much fervor or interest even from the performers. No fire or conviction is evident on any of the music. Get off the anti-depressants and get some speed in your system...or a producer, your fans will thank you!

Link: spunkymunkymusic.com

Reviewed by A. Dorian more reviews at HoustonMusicReviews.com

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Mercenary X - "Influence" (self-produced) 8.5/10

Mercenary X have been on the Houston scene since 2009. According to their website, they've opened up for some big name bands such as Saxon, RATT, and LA Guns. While those names are associated with the 80s glam metal movement, Mercenary X are far away from it. The band plays a high octane power metal now laced with some heavier prog leanings due to the addition of multi-instrumentalist Jeff Nordin (drums/keyboards).

The original core of the band consists of Chris Shields on lead guitar, Rus Gib on vocals, and Andrew Sutton on bass. "Influence" is the first LP by the band, with some songs on it being a rework from their previous demo. Being familiar with "Destroyer", "Darkness Descending", "Wheels of Corruption" and "Payin' the Price" from their earlier demo and live shows, I can definitely appreciate the crisp production and the added extra dimension that Jeff brings to the table, especially in terms of orchestration.

From this LP it is obvious that Mercenary X is a well tuned machine - these guys have honed their stage skills and know how to work with each other. Rus Gib has one of the best melodic male voices in Houston and he makes great use of it on this LP, as the harmonies and melodies are relentless. Chris Shields is solid on rhythm guitar and provides some intricate lead work which meshes well with Jeff Nordin's lead keyboard lines as they trade leads. Jeff wears two hats on this album, as he is also the band's drummer (he plays both keys and drums live as well) and honestly I can't say which one he does better, as he covers both quite proficiently. The bass work of Andrew Sutton is solid and provides some very interesting counterpoint ideas, that particularly stood out during the guitar solos in a way that reminded me of Steve Harris' work in Maiden.

"Spirit Cartography" - a clean piano/vocal ballad on which Andrew plays upright bass completely took me by surprise as I didn't expect the guys to go to such mellow territory and pull it of so effortlessly. Honestly, can't think of any other Houston metal band that can pull this off and do it so well. This song blends well into the next piece, "Abaddon" which hits hard with some really thick intro orchestration. Honestly, I can't find fault with any of the songs on this release as they are multi- dimensional in such a way that the longer you listen something new comes out.

I felt that the keyboard patches were a bit overindulgent in a few places, which took out some of the underlying heaviness of the rhythm. People that know me are aware that I tend to be a little keyboard-phobic so it could be that as well. The cymbal mix might've been brighter in the mix that I would've preferred, but these are small issues on an otherwise great LP.

In terms of production - this album sounds honest as most of the 70s/80s rock and metal does before more recent studio trickery. It is refreshing to hear such a well captured honest performance, especially in the metal genre, where thanks to a few signature producers the drum kit is triggered and everything is squashed to death in post production. Overall, great release by an awesome band - Mercenary X is definitely worth watching out for as they are going places!

Make sure to check them out at their CD release party on March 24, 2012 at Acadia. Show link

Link: Mercenary X - "Influence" (self-produced) 8.5/10

Reviewed by A. Dorian more reviews at HoustonMusicReviews.com

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Candence "Kisses Before the Sun" - Self-produced

According to their website, Cadence is Shatera Anderson on vocals and Brandon White on guitar. Since there is no mention on the rest of the musicians featured on the album, I believe it safe to assume that they are session players. The band categorizes itself as a mixture of Blues / Hip Hop / Neo-soul. I also noticed some strong jazz, funk and rock influences. The songs are heartfelt and have a good mixture of dynamics, groove and drive. The production, while not bad, leaves something to be desired, especially when it comes to vocals. The opening tune, "Melodies", while very heartfelt, could use some further vocal tuning as Shatera didn't sound quite sure in her delivery. There are also other places on the album where some little pitch issues are noticeable.

A few more hours spent in the studio could have made this a flawless release. Don't get me wrong, I love the opening tune, and actually think it is probably the most original on the album. Great acoustic guitar groove, cello and the vocals make this a very heartfelt performance. Regardless of the production issues, this writing duo has its own sound and when it comes to music that means they've already won half the battle. Other notable performances on this CD are "Sketches" and "Inner Me", which are acoustic guitar/vocal tunes in the vein of the album opener. Overall, the duo seems more suited to their acoustic part of their set as opposed to their more electronic r&b and hip hop leanings, which while still good don't seem to have the vibe, presence and personality of their acoustic offerings. Either way, this is a very interesting, original sounding album.

Link: Candence "Kisses Before the Sun" - Self-produced

Reviewed by A. Dorian more reviews at HoustonMusicReviews.com

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Intergalactic Banditos - Self-released, 7/10

The Intergalactic Banditos are self described as garage rock act. Their self titled 5 song CD was released in 2011, and Robb & Bob (guitars and vocals) and Fabe (drums) have been at it ever since. This CD was recorded with a guest bassist, but since then the band has added Jamie as part of their lineup.

I've seen the Intergalactic Banditos live a few times and every time their show is loaded with high energy veering on the brink of disaster. It is rough, rowdy and real. So, with this demo out, it was really interesting to hear how it all translates on a recording. I have to say that the guys sound on record just as they do live - what you get is a live performance, with all of its blisters and glory. The recording quality also adequately captures a band grooving together in a time and space, drenched in sweat and chugging whisky and beer as they go at it, something rarely heard nowadays in the age of overdubs and pitch correction. Let's be honest - some things could have been fixed, some pitch issues, guitars going out of tune in places, the drum and bass mix could've been crisper but the band chose to go for an extremely raw live sound that might find some detractors. While not flawless, this performance makes a statement. With a cleaner production probably something bigger would've been lost in the process - the feel of the record, and don't get me wrong - there is a huge feel to this CD. The atmosphere almost transforms the listener to a sweaty Texas bar, to the bad part of town, where smoking is still allowed and Tarrentino-type of outlaws still skulk in the shadows.

I really like the high energy rock of the Banditos - it is a rowdy blend of proto punk akin Richard Hell or early Ramones, mixed in with stoner and sludge influences. All songs focus on appropriate content, boozing and women, just like they should. "Whisky, Witches & Romance" is a definite hit and managed to stay stuck in my head for days. According to their website, the Banditos are working on their followup EP, so crack open another bottle, maybe with one of those stainless steel teeth, and enjoy!

Link: Intergalactic Banditos - Self-released, 7/10

Reviewed by A. Dorian more reviews at HoustonMusicReviews.com

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Oz Knozz "10,000 days & nights" - Self produced, 8/10

Progressive rockers Oz Knozz (pronounced oz ka-nozz') say that they've been on the Houston scene since 1969 and like a well hidden jewel they somehow managed to be under the radar, well, at least for me. I am really surprised that I haven't heard of them sooner, considering that I've been around the scene since the early 90s and I like this kind of music. Oz Knozz bio says they've opened for Supertramp, Kansas, Peter Frampton, Point Blank, and Judas Priest and judging by the quality of the musicianship and production, I can definitely hear why.

The band kinda reminds me of more modern production Schenker-era UFO crossed with mid 80s Van Halen. The songs are strong, with superb musicianship by all band members. The album for review was produced by the band in 2008 and has local audio guru Greg Gill doing the mixing. Going over the CD, it is obvious these guys have been playing together for a while as they play off of each other effortlessly. If I had one complaint, it would've been the overabundance of keyboards in the mix, which didn't always work in favor of the song. Some of the patch choices, especially some synth leads should've been better left to the guitar. Highlights from the CD for me are the guitar leads on "Midnight Mambo" and "Who's The Hero". As far as favorite song from the album, I'd have to pick "Hear What I'm Saying".

Overall, Oz Knozz, despite the funny name, manage to put together quite a package.

Link: Oz Knozz "10,000 days & nights" - Self produced, 8/10

Reviewed by A. Dorian more reviews at HoustonMusicReviews.com

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IceArc - "Sea of Lies" (self produced) 7/10

This band took me back to the early 80s, and in a good way. If someone heard IceArc circa 1980 they could easily mistake them for one of the bands from the NWOBHM movement. For those too young to remember - that is the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, with bands such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Angelwitch, Diamond Head, Tank and so on. In modern terms the band's sound would be described as traditional or power metal. They seem to sound to me like an earlier era Judas Priest/Iron Maiden, including the production as well. That's not necessarily a bad thing as they seem to have qualities that made these bands great, such as melodic double tracked guitars, melodic vocals and their overall drive and dynamics. My main problem with this kind of music is that I use Judas Priest's "Sad Wings of Destiny" or Iron Maiden's "Killers" as a measuring stick and in many cases the new bands fall short of these classic LPs (yeah, I am that old). It is up to you to decide if there is enough interesting material here to warrant a purchase. With that in mind, Ice Arc, have tastefully put together 12 tracks that are interesting and pleasant to listen to, so if you want to hear something new and well crafted in that genre - these are your guys.

The album starts up with Ride of the Valkyries by Wagner and ties into the first song, "On the Wings of the Gods", which seems to prod at a somewhat awkward tempo that seems a tad too slow. That is overall my complaint about this album - a little speed, maybe another 10 beats per minute would've brought more excitement to the arrangements. The band crafts many catchy titles, such as the midtempo rocker "She Waits", the ballad "Fallen Angel", the powerhouse "Nordic Crossing". My favorite song has to be "Where Are You Now" - a brooding doom opening paired with an uptempo attack. The closing "Sea of Lies" could comfortably fit as a B side on any earlier Maiden album.

To sum it up, IceArc have created an interesting if somewhat nostalgic release in the traditional/power metal genre. If you want to hear the lost art of metal song arrangement, double tracked solos, harmonies and powerful male vocals from a new band - they are your ticket.

Link: IceArc - "Sea of Lies" (self produced) 7/10

Reviewed by A. Dorian more reviews at HoustonMusicReviews.com

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Ed Maly - "Guitar Jock" (Hot Texas Tunes) 7.5/10

This is the third album that I review from Houston-based blues/rock guitarist and vocalist Ed Maly. If you want gritty, down to earth Texas workin' man's music - Ed Maly is your man. Like other Ed Maly albums - there is an open jam policy at Ed's studio and only talented folks are invited, and by talented I mean sizzling hot. A variety of guest musicians could also result in some production discrepancies. Not a big deal but it was somewhat noticeable mostly on drum sounds. The lyrical content on the tunes could get somewhat repetitive - there were 4 songs with the "guitar" in the title, but yet again they somehow seem to work. After all this is a blues record - if you want thinking man's music you might be more akin to something along the lines of Porcupine Tree. My favorite song on this CD is "If You Were A Guitar" - basically a description of a man's obsession with his guitar and the resulting jealousy from his woman. As a guitar player I can definitely relate...and so does my old lady. Guilty as charged - my Strat gets more pampering than the missus. As a final test to Ed Maly's magic - I snuck in some of the tunes at a recent bbq party and people were really digging it and asking where to get it.

The answer: www.hottexastunes.com

Link: Ed Maly - "Guitar Jock" (Hot Texas Tunes) 7.5/10

Reviewed by A. Dorian more reviews at HoustonMusicReviews.com

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The Hectic - "The Hectic" self produced, 8/10

Upon opening Hectic's self-titled release, I was greeted by the label: "Warning: This product contains a brutal dose of Texas Industrial Alt. Metal". Now is that the genre where one should expect brutality? Brutal as in Creed or P.O.D.? Now, if it were say Watain (black metal) or Vital Remains (death metal) or the latest release from Napalm Death - I can see that, but with this band I sincerely hope it was considered as a joke. Inside the disc there is a "Certificate of Authenticity". Now, if this were a major label band that is concerned with music piracy in say a 3rd world country, I'd understand the reasoning, but again this seems corny as is the personally autographed and numbered section (woohoo, I got 567/1000, hope it is worth something!). Again, great move if you're Black Label Society, not so great if you're a local band. I've been wrong before, but the whole thing smacks of a bit of self-indulgence. Looking at the band lineup I am also thinking that it is possible that these guys suffer from a musical personality crisis. They have 2 members dressed in masks as in Slipknot (Kevin Reed - guitars, DJ Hard Core - turntables & Samples), a cellist (Marilyn Tovy) that could fit in a symphony, a guitarist wearing corpse-paint (Chris Owen) and 3 regular looking guys (Ken Pride - drums, Danny Acker - bass, Ronnie Tinsley - vocals) that look alt. metal. From their website: (the band is) "a collection of accomplished musicians with diverse styles and influences whose musical alchemy has been characterized as Nine Inch Nails meets Pantera...The band writes what they feel at the moment, there are no imposed boundaries on the music. The Hectic unapologetically sprawls across musical genres like the city they're from sprawls across Southeast Texas." So is a personality crisis a good or a bad thing?

Well, I personally find alt. metal to be quite a limiting genre, with all the bands sounding the same - same production and stage personas, just listen to the radio and you would know what I mean. So with that in mind - Hectic have managed to spice things up and keep it interesting. Overall I find the production good with some flaws with some levels and guitar and drum sounds not always staying constant from song to song. That is understandable since the CD features 13 tracks and clocks at close to 60 minutes.

So with the varied band members and no holes barred when it comes to song writing, how does the band integrate all these varied personalities? I for one am not a huge fan of the DJ effects. For example, the scratching and goofy effects ruined "Circa Now" and "Automatic Freedom" for me. The cellist also got a solo track "Kjot Bolti" (#10) which stood out as an oddball decision and sounded not up to par. On other tracks as "No Regret" and "December" which to me were the best showcasing the band's full talent, the cello worked wonderfully as a support instrument. Ronnie Tinsley (vocals) and Ken Pride consistently deliver the goods on this album as does Danny Acker (bass). The guitar section of the band delivers varied results, for the most part good. They achieve great layered sounds as in the songs "No Regret" and "December", the Sepultura-reminiscent thrasher "Cut Out", and the inspiring layered delay lines on "Another Foot in the Grave" that really propel the track. "24/7" is also another track that really drives home with a molten rhythm track. The leads are so-so, and don't really deliver as far as I am concerned. As seems to be the trend today, bands that release albums tend to want to put in as much music as the CD will hold, which while commendable, has its setbacks as well as you can't inevitably write 70 minutes worth of hits. I feel that there are songs that should have not made the cut, including the atrocious cello solo that seemed pasted in there for no reason.

Overall I feel that "The Hectic" is a diverse and interesting album, with mostly good tunes and a few overindulgent moments that probably could've been trimmed from the release.

Link: The Hectic - "The Hectic" self produced, 8/10

Reviewed by A. Dorian more reviews at HoustonMusicReviews.com

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CROSSING TOGO "Of Love, Scorn & Insecurity" 7/10

CROSSING TOGO is a writing partnership between Scott Spencer (guitarist and songwriter), Ko Nakamura (vocalist and lyricist). They enlisted the help of producer and multi-instrumentalist Eric Jarvis, with the writing partnership resulting in the CD "Of Love, Scorn & Insecurity". The album was recorded at Eric's Houston studio, crushpad productions. The project utilizes a wide pool of talent, including drummer Matt Johnson (Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright), percussionist Brendan Buckley (Shakira), Ben Peeler (Shakira, The Wallflowers) on lap steel, oud and saz, Kevin Lovejoy (Spoon, Kat Edmonson, John Mayer, Fastball) on piano, organ and keyboards, Max Dyer (Houston Ballet Orchestra, Moons of Jupiter) on cello, and Houston producer Dan Workman (owner of SugarHill Studios) on SK-1 keyboard.

So with all these names involved in the making of the album, one would expect a world class production and in that aspect the CD is truly flawless. The style overall could be described as folky-eclectic, with occasional touches of other genres such as pop, latin, rock . The overall impression of the work is that the title fits well with the mood that the album creates. For the most part the tempos are slow and moody with some occasional upbeat song splattered throughout. The musicianship is there and so are the vocals but my main issue with the CD is that a lot of the songs seem to blend into each other. It suits a lazy Sunday afternoon perfectly as you can really sit down and relax with a homemade cigarette to this one. It would make you think about the state of affair or elicit memories of lost love or opportunities. It could also make you fall asleep.

There really isn't anything there to make you move in any other way but in sombre melancholy fashion. Maybe track #6 "Walk" stands out as the best piece as it moves in a more non-linear fashion and elicits more of a different feel than the rest of the album. It is also the most rocking track on the CD.

I personally would've liked to hear more variety, maybe a few more rockers, a classical ballad, or maybe more vocal variety which maybe is the biggest problem. Ko is definitely a very capable singer but he seems to stay in a comfortable zone that he never leaves. I don't hear him straining a nerve anywhere on this CD and so does the rest of the crew - it seems overall that they are just phoning it in. Which brings me to my next point - that maybe a raw local pub production approach with warts and mistakes might've added another dimension to this album. Or maybe the fact is that I am not really suited to melancholy music since I am writing this on a Friday afternoon.

Link: CROSSING TOGO "Of Love, Scorn & Insecurity" 7/10

Reviewed by A. Dorian more reviews at HoustonMusicReviews.com

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Maria Williams "Hybrid" (9/10)

Maria Williams has been on the scene as a band leader and lead vocalist over 20 years and it shows. Her performance is stellar, she could literally do any style, her voice is present, emotive and heartfelt. She can conjure the spell of music and so can her band. "Hybrid" is what the title suggests - a walk through Maria and her band's varied repertoire. There are several styles covered on the CD - jazz, latin, pop, some country. I personally find Maria and her band to be at their best in the latin (bossa nova, Samba, etc.) and jazz genres. The performance of these songs is really moving - the grooves are perfect and the vocals are soaring. Songs that really stand out are "No Me Queda Mas" (#2), "Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars" (#3), "Mais Que Nada" (#4), "Color of Rain" (#7), and the bonus track "Corvocado" which is a duet with Alan Lett. Overall the CD is impressive but I felt that I would've preferred to hear a more streamlined effort in the latin of jazz genre where I feel Maria and her band shine the most. Overall this is a very tastefully done album, great musicianship all around with some especially outstanding percussion, lead guitar and brass work. The production is also world class.

Link: Maria Williams "Hybrid" (9/10)

Reviewed by A. Dorian more reviews at HoustonMusicReviews.com

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Darwin's God "Shoes For Fish" 8/10 (self produced)

Darwin's God's debut release "shoes for fish" shows an already mature band, especially considering that this is their first CD. As far as the band's sound I hear classic to alternative rock influences, maybe a cross of Bon Jovi and Alice in Chains. On a first listen I was particularly impressed with the interplay between the bassist (John) and drums (Chris) - these guys were very tightly locked in and provided a great groove foundation for the sometimes simplistic and at other times eclectic or aggressive guitar sounds of DOM (lead guitars). Over this sonic landscape presides Hook's powerful vocal and a touch of steel string acoustic guitar. The production is impressive, especially considering that this is the band's debut album.

The CD consists of 10 songs and Darwin's God is not afraid to print the lyrics. I am simply captivated with the lyric writing on this CD, with an exception of "The River", which has so many cuss-words that it might even make a sailor blush. Apparently the band is aware that not everyone would enjoy hearing it and they reworked it in the form of a radio friendly version that is included at the end of the CD. The lyrics have a folksy, almost old school country reality that grabs the listener and doesn't let go. As far as the performances go - this is probably as good as it gets. Everything is flawless, but I am not really sold on the vocals as they seemed a touch raspy for this genre and better suited for slightly harsher material, say the likes of AC/DC. There is also the issue of the acoustic guitar on almost every song - there were places where it felt like it was killing the edge of the tune, which might not be a desirable element.

As far as songs go I was really into "Worn Out Tapes" - a tune about days gone by. Another favorite was the radio edit of "The River (Radio Edit)". Darwin's God is definitely a great sounding band that is trying to carve a niche for itself in a densely populated alt. rock market but with song-writing this good they should be able to pull it off!

Link: Darwin's God "Shoes For Fish" 8/10 (self produced)

Reviewed by A. Dorian more reviews at HoustonMusicReviews.com

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Orents Stirner "Sweet Happy Sadness" 7/10 (self produced)

Just by reading the album title I expected to find a CD drenched in melancholy sounds and a band with a slightly offbeat style that will probably go well with the Rudyards crowd. It turns out that Orents Stirner is just that. Big kudos when it comes to the cover - it really shows what the band is about!

The production is campy and definitely has a cheap feel, especially when it comes to drums and guitars. The vocals are kinda drifting in and out of pitch in places. The guitars seem like they are also not adverse to the occasional pitch issue. The whole performance has an overall grungy Austin bar club vibe and the band's sound is somewhat evocative of corduroy jackets and vintage jeans circa brit rock revolution era. Listening to this CD I am thinking that these guys go really well with the college crowd, although there are lots of bands doing pretty much the same thing as them at this time. I still wouldn't completely write off Orents as they have some well crafted compositions. I really liked "Moonbeam" and "Two" - I hear some Doors, Beatles and post emo influences that blend really well together. Even with its budget production there is a reality and vividness to the sound that is captivating.

Link: Orents Stirner "Sweet Happy Sadness" 7/10 (self produced)

Reviewed by A. Dorian more reviews at HoustonMusicReviews.com

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Stephanie Briggs "Spark" 6/10 (self produced)

To me this CD appears to fall in the category of typical chick songwriter fare. There really isn't anything to grab me and keep me into a song for very long, even though Stephanie has a very capable voice and the musicianship and production are decent. The music on this CD seems to be more a vehicle for Stephanie's voice than anything that can stand on its own, with the exception of Daniel Rhodes' bass lines who seems the only musician on this CD capable of doing anything more than punching in the clock. Stephanie covers the usual topics of a girl living in the city - love found, lost, he likes me, he likes me not, dolls and pretty much every female songwriter cliche. Her voice is somewhat reminiscent of Alanis Morisette but with a bit more of a folky feel and she commands it well. I think I would've liked this better if it had more of an early 20th Century cabaret band backing her up with some sax, jazz brushes, stand up bass as her voice has a bit of a retro appeal to it.

I think my main beef with "Spark" is the fact that the song-writing is too common to make anything stand out. This is by no means an unpleasant CD to listen to - I am just not really blown away by anything that I've heard here and am not really sure that Stephanie can live up to her own press kit descriptions....well, maybe if paired with the right producer.

Link: Stephanie Briggs "Spark" 6/10 (self produced)

Reviewed by A. Dorian more reviews at HoustonMusicReviews.com

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Cafe Khytaro - "Distancia" - Score: 10/10

I was introduced first to the music of Jeremy Garcia a few years ago when I reviewed his release with Rosendo Reyna, "Baile del Sol". I was impressed with the musicianship and was definitely looking forward towards hearing some new material by them. As luck would have it, Jeremy Garcia contacted me a few weeks ago and wanted me to review his new CD, "Distancia", with a new band called Cafe Khytaro, where he is the sole composer and arranger. Cafe Khytaro consists of Jeremy Garcia on guitar and percussion, Chris Howard (cajon, bongos, congos, brazilian drums and percussion), Richard Saldivar (bass, keyboard, trumpets and percussion), Alex Serrano (drum set), La Paloma (vocals), La Tempestad and Maria del Espadin (palmas). This is definitely a guitar-oriented album, with the flamenco guitar taking center stage, with vocals playing a very sparse role on "La Luvia". Jeremy makes no excuses for this as he is well suited for the role of the flamenco virtuoso who totally rips through 9 tracks of flawless perfection. "Rips" maybe is not the proper word here as the man has lots of texture, nuance and feel to his playing. I can probably best describe it as a fiery, passionate and virtuoso flamenco performance. The texture provided by the other instruments enhances the compositions and provides a multifaceted bed to Jeremy's wonderful guitar playing. It is really hard to pick what is the best song on this CD. I personally liked the closing track, "Malaguena de Rosita" which probably illustrates Jeremy's talent the best and provides contrasting flamenco elements and some wonderful buildups. This is one CD definitely worth getting - a world class flamenco performance!


Reviewed by A. Dorian more reviews at HoustonMusicReviews.com

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Slivered - "Thought You Could Soar" (self-produced) Score: 8/10

Slivered provides an interesting mix of eclectic psychedelic and alternative rock, in times reminiscent of Porcupine Tree, Voivod circa "Angel Rat" and the british masters Pink Floyd. Their latest CD consists of 12 songs which might be just too taxing to the listener. There are variations and changes but the mood is "eclectic" and at times simply dour. I had a really hard time taking this album in a full listening session, as first the material seems too much (12 songs) and the sound starts to blend in after the third song. Things get more interesting towards the middle of the album as the overall energy picks up a bit on later songs as on "Dead by Mourning" (#10).

The band has been around since 2003 so they definitely play well and interact together - lots of interesting stuff happening on all instruments. I was particularly impressed by the rhythm section of Corrigan Luckey (bass) and Viet Doan (drums) kept things well grounded while Justin box (guitar) and Robin Moore (guitars and lead vocals) kept interweaving chord structures and Lynsey Moore (keys, synth, vocals) added an extra dimension with her performance. I was a bit let down on the vocals as I felt that the band could use a bit more variety in that area. Robin is a fine vocalist but there were times that called for more range or more drama to a vocal and I kinda felt that it wasn't there, maybe the band felt this as well as some of the vocals were mixed in a bit edgier with some fuzz to them. Overall the production is very well done, especially the guitars have a very lush and organic 70s sound. The 70s feel to it is great considering that everything nowadays sounds so digital. This CD actually sounds big and warm and fluid. The drum sounds felt a bit campy in my opinion, but not a huge deal breaker.

It is hard for me to pinpoint favorite songs, but overall I enjoyed the guitar and keyboard interaction as it was particularly well done, especially on song such as "Devotion Undone" where Robin plays probably what is my favorite guitar solo from the CD. "Dead by Mourning" was another song that I particularly enjoyed as the band picks up the tempo on that one. The CD closer, "Goes on Forever" also was another tune that really clicked with me as I feel that it provided the overall picture of what the band is about. I think that a shorter CD tune selection would have been better here, as this CD really felt as two albums worth of material. Definitely a worthy release, especially if you want to hear something different coming out of the Houston scene.

Link: Slivered - "Thought You Could Soar" (self-produced) Score: 8/10

Reviewed by A. Dorian more reviews at HoustonMusicReviews.com

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Ed Maly - "Best Kept Secrets" (Hot Texas Tunes) - Score: 7/10

After reviewing Ed's previous effort, "Walking Shoes Blues" I can say that the man has done it again! I have in my hands Ed Maly's 2008 release, "Best Kept Secrets". The CD opens with an organic sounding cover of "C.C.Rider", which although being a very convincing performance suffers from a buzzy steel string guitar sound that dominates the mix. The song features some great trade off licks between Ed Maly on lead guitar and Darren Ross on keyboards.

Up at number two is "Matilda", a cover of Cookie and the Cupcakes'. Ed and the band lock up really well on this one and deliver a bit of a raw jam feel than gives this one an added kick. Again - some great performances by all. "Barefootin'" is yet another cover that the guys do well. The performance captures an old school feel that brings one back in the days of analog recordings and bands playing live, very well done! After opening with 3 quick covers, Ed & band jump into the originals. First up is Ed's collaboration with Craig Davis - "Bungalow 9". The song is a classic slow blues, somewhat reminiscent of Gary Moore's "Still Got the Blues". The song features some sublime understated guitar licks and a totally killer piano track. Next up is "Mr. Ed" which is somewhat a comical tune about people confusing Ed with the horse in the 50's TV show. I can't say that I am ecstatic about the lyrical idea on this one, but it groves just as well.

At number 6 is the song that steals the show - "Give Me Back My Rib", a somewhat comical take on the biblical tale of Adam and Eve and Adam's first wife, Lilith, that he rejected because she always wanted to be on top. The lyrics definitely brought in some chuckles, and Ed really hits gold with the relationship advice: "...in this world man has a choice, Fight with the woman or save his voice, Let her win; give in". Very well crafted lyrics and a great performance, definitely my favorite on the record. Next up is a Sonny Williamson cover, "Don't Start Me Talking" that Ed & band do very well. "Tear a Honky Tonk Apart" is a country tune where Ed & band show that they are well versed in that genre as well.

"Best Kept Secret", the album title track at number 9 is somewhat a hit and miss for me. I felt that the backup vocals didn't quite stand up to par with the rest of the production, a good tune but it could've used more polish. "Hound Dog Cat" is a well done southern rocker, with some wonderful piano and harmonica performances. "Howling", the CD closer picks up the pace. On this song I felt that Ed was out of his element and the vocals didn't quite seem to sit well with the song. Overall - I can say that Ed has done it yet again! This album will definitely have you grooving and enjoying yourself. It has a wonderful assortment of tunes with some sizzling performances by some very talented Texas musicians.

Compared to his previous effort I felt that this CD could've used a few more hours of studio time, as the change of rhythm sections was reflected in the production, thus affecting the overall flow of the album.

Link: Ed Maly - "Best Kept Secrets" (Hot Texas Tunes) - Score: 7/10

Reviewed by A. Dorian more reviews at HoustonMusicReviews.com

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Truck - "Redline" (self produced) - Score: 6/10

Upon first impression Truck's music can be easily described as radio-friendly alternative mixed in with some traditional hard rock. This CD brings similarities to Tool, Creed and even Houston band Hollister Fracus. The band is Adam (vocals & guitars), Kyle (bass), Mike (drums), Tank (guitar). Out of the CD there are some interesting moments - the song "Trust" is probably the one that I liked the best, with some good riffing on other songs such as "A Home Among Us" and "Indecent". Overall unfortunately I have to say that I am not very impressed. The vocals are pitchy in places, the music is good but nothing stands out as a stellar performance or a hook or chorus that you'd be singing later on. On the other hand this would be the perfect band that I can listen to while being out on the town with friends - not very engaging but good background listen, perfect for Sherlock's.

Link: Truck - "Redline" (self produced) - Score: 6/10

Reviewed by A. Dorian more reviews at HoustonMusicReviews.com

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Three Fantastic - "Three Fantastic" (dotpointperiod) - Score: 10/10

Again, lately I just can't express the sheer joy of receiving such great production quality recordings from unsigned and indie label bands. Three Fantastic are one of these bands - great warm sounding record and exceptional performance captured on CD! I was putting off the review for a while looking at the cover that had me thinking that I just won't enjoy this band, must 've been the orange or the retro-styled picture of some asian kids holding tableclothes and a bird (or kites?) and on the back some dudes (the band) sitting at a table with leftovers. Looking at this I was just thinking badly recorded pop punk, but boy, was I surprised!

The band's sound is hard to describe - I hear some post punk and emo influences, some classic rock influences and even a bit of dance. The song "20,000 Worlds Away" combines these for a great effect. There are moments that sound like Annie Lennox mixed in with moments along the lines of Primus. Definitely an interesting sound! The performances are all aces, Charles Peters' vocals work great with the arrangements, reminding me of a mix between Elvis and Glenn Danzig (also known as "Evil" Elvis), so in that case it'd be a mix of good and evil Elvis. The rhytm section consisting of Evan Groeshel's (bass) and David Tashery (drums) is definitely slamming, while the guitars, synths and pianos performed by Kelly Doyle and Charles Peters weave interesting sounding patters. Wonderful band and my first 10 out of 10 score! All I can say is - GET THIS CD!

Link: Three Fantastic - "Three Fantastic" (dotpointperiod) - Score: 10/10

Reviewed by A. Dorian more reviews at HoustonMusicReviews.com

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Ed Maly - "Walking Shoes Blues" (Hot Texas Tunes) - Score: 9/10

From the opening riff of this CD I was taken aback by the wonderful production - this is how a blues/rock album should sound! This is especially a great feat since we're talking about a self release. Ed Maly breathes the blues, the band is hot and the performance is definitely there. Ed is on vocals and guitar, Keith Cannon is on lead guitar, Don Irby - bass and vocals, Mike Snelling - drums and vocals. As expected coming from Texas, Ed has to be influenced by SRV and I think he really captures that influence well on the song "Telepathic Love", which is also my favorite. There really isn't a bad song on this release, if I have to complain my only gripe would be that the lyrics get a little trite in places, but after all it is blues rock which is supposed to be down to earth so this works well. The tribute to Jimi Hendrix "While His Guitar" was a miss as far as I am concerned, Ed should've done "Along the Watchtower" and call it that instead of doing such a blatant copy of the tune.

Overall this is a great blues record from a sizzling hot band, captured well and definitely worth getting if you're a fan of Texas rock and blues.

Link: Ed Maly - "Walking Shoes Blues" (Hot Texas Tunes) - Score: 9/10

Reviewed by A. Dorian more reviews at HoustonMusicReviews.com

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Primary - Crashing Into Nothing (mini CD, Produced by Barett Jones) Score: 9/10

The first phrases off the CD opener "I'm sorry for everything..." caught me by surprise. Jason Allen's voice sounded like a perfect but more tuneful version of Curt Cobain. Seeing that the CD was recorded in Seattle I guess that comes as no big surprise.

Mentioning the recording - the production is FAT. The guitar textures on this CD are incredible.

The music itself probably would be classified as emo or some type of alt. rock. My favorite song out of this CD would be #2 "Ghost" due to the varying feels and the interaction between guitar and vocals. I wish there were more songs on this CD since it seems to end rather quick but 3 song format seems the right choice for industry representation, so we wish the boys luck at getting signed.

Primary yet again provides for an interesting listen and stands out with an excellent production.

Link: Primary - Crashing Into Nothing (mini CD, Produced by Barett Jones) Score: 9/10

Reviewed by A. Dorian more reviews at HoustonMusicReviews.com

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Organ Failure - "All Over" - Score: 7/10

Organ Failure is a quirky humor based performance band in the spirit of Frank Zappa, Weird Al and the list goes on...The band definitely has an interesting sound and a different approach to production which is quite interesting. The bandmember names were downright funny to straight outrageous: Brian "Flakey" Arthur (bass & vocals), Steve "Dr. Compostulous" Grubbs (vocals and tenor sax), Olivia "Poopy" Dvorak (guitars and vocals), Erik "Leif" Moore (drums and vocals), Michael "Mad Mike" Wiley on organ and vocals. The music performance is good, especially with some interesting percussion and drums. The guitars are off or badly tuned in places - either on purpose or not this works great with the idea behind the band. There are some covers - the Johhny Cash parody "Cookie Prison Blues" as well as "Rock the Casbah", which are well...definitely not true to the originals. "Cookie Prison Blues" is sang in a cookie monster voice, which I thought was especially stupid...so in this case - successful. Vocals - well if you're looking for funny, goofy and straight outrageous - these guys deliver well. If you're looking for Mariah Carey, Bono or in another words a performance worth listening to - well, it isn't there. The female vocals of Olivia "Poopy" Dvorak were well...quite "poopy", reminding me of russian singer Alla Pugacheva, in other words screechy and outright annoying. Overall, this band is worth listening after you've thrown in a few whiskies or have smoked some herb and you want to get a few laughs. I wouldn't rate these guys along the talent of Weird Al or Zappa, this is definitely more garage talent, but for sure a band that will be fun for your dorm party.

Link: Organ Failure - "All Over" - Score: 7/10

Reviewed by A. Dorian more reviews at HoustonMusicReviews.com

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Meyvn (Austin, TX) - Splintered Skies, self produced - Score: 8/10

After reviewing Meyvn's last demo, a lot of things have happened in the Meyvn camp. First it is worth noting that this CD has landed them a record deal with Killzone records which is currently remixing some of the songs on the CD. So this is officially the last indie CD for the band at this time. Congratulations are definitely in order! Overall Meyvn continues in the progressive metal path. The most notable improvement between this CD and the previous release is that Liao's bass parts seem to work better with the arrangements. He takes some chances and plays out of pocket which pays off. Drums (Brad Olson) sound much better on this CD as well due to a more polished production. Rick Clark (vocals) is as always in top form and the guitar duo of Drew Creel and Jon Simpson slays.The keyboard work is a bit of a hit and miss for me and the arrangements sometimes seem a bit forced but on the overall I feel that this CD follows a natural progression toward better things for the Austin band. Songs that really struck home due to the catchy vocal hooks are #1 "Answer Me" and #3 "Arise". The problem with the prog. metal genre is that there is quite a lot of instrumentation and on a full lenght CD it seems to get a bit repetitive, i.e. I can take small doses of guitar virtuosity before it all starts to blend in and become the same. On the overall Meyvn has managed to keep it interesting enough for uninitiated prog. metallers to enjoy while they provide instrument mastery for the die hard fans of this genre.

Link: Meyvn (Austin, TX) - Splintered Skies, self produced - Score: 8/10

Reviewed by A. Dorian more reviews at HoustonMusicReviews.com

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Letters of Warning (Austin, TX) - "Dreams of Darkening Spain" (produced by Freddy Hinojosa) - Score: 9/10

My initial impressions upon listening were that this band mixes in some Tool power rock and mild Evanescence influences, but overall they sound original and at ease with the music.

The CD opener "Out of Love" and "My Greatests Failure" right away grab the listener with Lauren's beautiful voice. The guitar work (Freddy) and drums (Dan) are simply amazing. Both songs are heavy and dynamic with some really interesting guitar stops and interplay. The bass (Butch) prefers to stay in the pocket and provide a heavy foundation.

"Sonata Sympatica" (track #3) showcases Freddy's classical guitar skills and some tasteful cello backing by Jody Smith.

"Dreams of Darkening Spain" (track 4) is somewhat a hit and miss for me. It starts great off of track 3 by providing some interesting industrial samples on top of the cello and Lauren's voice raising the bar a bit. What ruins this track for me is that the band decides to go latino on the listener and Lauren seems to be struggling with her high school level Spanish. With that in mind the track is still quite a powerful ballad, but considering the immaculate sound of the CD up to then it seems to be a letdown.

The closing track "Monologue", is an interesting power rock number again with a wonderful performance by the band.

This band has spent some money on a professional production and the sound is really happening. Perfect performance and musicianship blended well with professional skills. This CD will be staying in my player for some time.

Link: Letters of Warning (Austin, TX) - "Dreams of Darkening Spain" (produced by Freddy Hinojosa) - Score: 9/10

Reviewed by A. Dorian more reviews at HoustonMusicReviews.com

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The Black (Austin, TX) - Tanglewood (self produced) - Score: 8/10

The Black (David Longoria - vocals, guitar; Andy Morales - drums; Alan Shaefer - lead guitar; Nick Moulos - bass) according to their website describe themselves as R&B / Powerpop / Country band. What I liked instantly on this recording is the "70s vibe". What I mean by that is that the music breathes, the production is centered on the band rather that at a "spit and polish" immaculate sound.

As far as their sound goes I can say that I notice some Bob Dylan and Beatles influences, some Pink Floyd influences, definitely a retro rock vibe. I liked the swaggering, jam quality of the music. Everything on this record flows nicely. I can definitely say that these guys jam.

The CD opener, "Cell Block", has a Dylan style to it. It is a catchy tune with a pretty groovy harmonica solo.

The upbeat rock numbers "Appletree" and "Disrespecting Dirt" somehow just go by without leaving much of an impact.

What seems really strange is that from tune 4 to 7 the band does a 180 degree turnaround and they settle into a somber mood. It seems to suit them much better and David Longoria really seems to find his voice there. On songs 1- 3 it seemed just to be there, while from 4 on it really starts to make an impact. The songs that appealed to me are the tunes "Silverfist", "One Second to One","HC","Wasn't It a Good Year" the second being written by Charles Eyo-Ita. "Wasn't It a Good Year" seems to come together rather nicely and showcases the band's abilities at their the best.

At track 8 ("You Made Me Realize") the heavy dark clouds seem to dissipate for a sunnier day. This song shows some quite pitchy vocals and it is my opinion that it should've stayed off the CD.

The CD closer ("Lenoir Street") is a nice rock number along the lines of a Rolling Stones tune. It works nicely.

Overall, these guys are adequate musicians and know how to groove together well; however, there seems to be quite a discrepancy between the styles that can make some fans wonder what exactly what they are listening to. It is my opinion that they are at their best in the "vein slicing" mood, and they should lay off the anti-depressants.

Link: The Black (Austin, TX) - Tanglewood (self produced) - Score: 8/10

Reviewed by A. Dorian more reviews at HoustonMusicReviews.com

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Funky Mustard - "Traiga la Paz / Bring the Peace" - Moosepie Records - Score: 6/10

The impression I am left with after reading the liner notes is that Robert Taylor (vocals & harmonica) used the help of his buddies Kevin Crenshaw (drums & vocals); Uncle Gary White (bass); Larry White (guitars & vocals) and Frank Cupal (bass on tracks 1, 4, & 5) to pull this project through.

Listening to this CD I am reminded of the many run-of-the-mill bluesy funk rock bands that one might see at downtown food festival or an event like "Holiday in the Park." What I mean is that you can easily eat your food or walk around vendor tents listening to the music as a pleasant background. You won't drop your fork, or become overly excited either.

The production is good, especially considering it is a live recording. The musicianship is adequate as well, but the compositions and lyrics don't seem to be quite there. If anything there were some interesting harmonica solos by Robert.

Link: Funky Mustard - "Traiga la Paz / Bring the Peace" - Moosepie Records - Score: 6/10

Reviewed by A. Dorian more reviews at HoustonMusicReviews.com

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Irene - Constructing Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (self produced) - Score: 9/10

After being very impressed by Irene's 2003 demo (see previous review) I was anxiously awaiting their first full length album. The music clocks in at about 45 minutes, which combined with Irene's intensive style makes for a marathon listening session. Most of the time it was hard to go beyond song #8, not because the songs are bad, but it was quite an effort to listen for it for that long.

I actually liked the production on their 2003 demo better but this one is adequate, with some vocal clipping present on a few songs. The performance is amazing - great moving bass parts (HECTOR OVIEDO), mellow cooing vocals switching to monster screams and aggression in no time, the drums (OSCAR T. OVIEDO) are either jamming or slamming, the guitar never quits dishing out the grooves.

The guitar parts are very interesting and diverse - on the 2003 my only complaint was the lack of guitar solos and on this one Dan Oviedo (who is also the vocalist, talking about having the toughest job in the band, huh?) really obliges. Amazing guitar performances, especially on "Jazz in the Ass". The songs that really stood out for me were "The Principle" (#3) because of its catchy chorus, "Protest Song" (#11) - great political commentary with very musical funky slow groove, reminiscent of the Chili Peppers. "Side to Side" is a great opener - great jam that grabs you right away.

A hard to describe band stylistically, always changing it on you when you started to get comfortable. Irene is kinda like your favorite cover band doing all original tunes and sticking most of their influences well blended and well crafted in one song. As far as I am concerned this is probably the most original band I've heard from Houston, ever.

Link: Irene - Constructing Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (self produced) - Score: 9/10

Reviewed by A. Dorian more reviews at HoustonMusicReviews.com

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The Black Math Experiment - What We Do... Is Secret E.P. - self produced - Score: 7/10

The Black Math Experiment? Well, that is definitely an interesting name and the band is definitely weird, with its own unique style. They describe themselves as "an unsigned band of questionable taxonomy". on this 4 song EP I heard lo-fi influences, some new wave, straight forward rock and a bit of techno. Overall they project a technological weirdness, I'd call it a "nerd rock". Hearing this CD one imagines Cobol programmers on their day off doing robot moves. I have to say that this EP registers somewhere on the "interesting" scale. Definitely not music I'd listen to for enjoyment, but not a; bad CD just to hear something different. The vocals were strange - wouldn't call them really good, but they weren't bad either. The female vox were flat in places, the male vocals a bit monotone in places. The guitars and keyboards were adequate, some nice samples thrown in there, some nice driving guitar parts. If I have to pick songs, for me the one that had the best drive and vibe was #4, "One and One is One". The production was decent for the idea, but I thought an improvement on the sounds, especially guitars and keys can go a long way. An interesting band if you're into that quirky goofy semi depressed mathematical state.

Link: The Black Math Experiment - What We Do... Is Secret E.P. - self produced - Score: 7/10

Reviewed by A. Dorian more reviews at HoustonMusicReviews.com

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Meyvn (Austin, TX) - Last Rites, self produced - Score: 8/10

This band plays technical power metal, and the bands I will compare them to is a mix of Symphony X, Dream Theater and Watchtower. The things that really stand out on this 6 song CD is the exceptional guitar work by Drew Creel (who also plays keys) and the searing vocal performance by Rick Clark. The bass (Ken Liao) and drums (James Beeson) provide a solid structure upon which the guitar and vocals take center stage. The production is definitely demo quality but it does a decent job at displaying the band's abilities. I'd have liked to hear better captured bass and drums on this CD.

The songwriting on this CD is exceptional, especially on songs like the opening "Cadence" and the fifth song off the CD - "Last Rites".

My overall impression is that Meyvn managed to carve a niche for itself in the densely populated technical metal genre. They have good songwriting and technical proficiency and with the right production I can definitely see this band going a long way

Link: Meyvn (Austin, TX) - Last Rites, self produced - Score: 8/10

Reviewed by A. Dorian more reviews at HoustonMusicReviews.com

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All Is Black - self-released demo - Score: 9/10

Every once in a while a new band enters the Houston scene and every once in a while they turn out to be exceptionally good. Well, All Is Black is definitely one of those bands. They have an interesting style and a good grasp on their music. As far as sound this band reminds me of some of the more straightforward early 80's NWOBHM bands. What sets them apart is the fact that their singer is actually a girl. She does quite a good job on this recording - interesting vocal lines with plenty of variety.

All the songs off their 4 song demo are very well written. Especially notable is the great arrangements and interplay between guitar and bass. Very fluent guitar riffs and great pumping bass lines.

As far as the production goes - it sounds like a plug and play live recording, which is not necessarily bad because it captures the band's energy quite well. What ruins the feel is the ridiculously heavy amount of reverb on the lead singer's voice. This makes the vocals sound sketchy at times and I think takes away from the timbre of the vocalist. The drums could've been captured much better.

Quite an interesting release from an up and coming Houston band. Hopefully a proper studio CD is in the works because I'd definitely like to hear more from All Is Black.

Link: All Is Black - self-released demo - Score: 9/10

Reviewed by A. Dorian more reviews at HoustonMusicReviews.com

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