Monday, April 29, 2013

The Resistance-Scars

Armoury Records

I really enjoyed the blitzkrieg metal assault that was "Risen From Treason" (link below to that review).  Now The Resistance is back with the follow-up to that hardcore/thrash-infused EP. The only issue I had with the groups last last EP was it's short length. For a debut-release "Risen From Treason" was too much of a teaser. "Scars", with it's 12-tracks of punch you in the face metal, doesn't have that problem at all. Thankfully the sonic assault is longer and, dare I say, much more intense! Vocalist Marco Aro (ex-The Haunted, Facedown) leads this motley bunch of metal misfits into battle and from the word go (or in this case "fire in the hole!") it's nothing but one brutalizing track after another. Good clean, brutalizing metallic fun. Founded by former In Flames’ founder, main songwriter and guitarist Jesper Strömblad in 2011 the band also includes guitarist Glenn Ljungström (ex-In Flames), and drummer Chris Barkensjö (ex-Kaamos, ex-Repugnant). The unholy racket that comes thrashing out of these Scandinavia’s instruments is technically skilled in nature, but it's played in such a fast and furious fashion that it makes your ears bleed! While the band's EP had me thinking more along the lines of hardcore/thrash this new album cranks things up a hundred times over into a hardcore/thrash/death fusion that is seriously insane, sick and down-right twisted! Imagine old-school Swedish death metal bands like Entombed, Grave and Dismember getting sonically raped by Pantera and Slayer. However this all takes place in an alternative universe/time-line where Slayer's greatest influence was a more straight-faced and angry S.O.D. Yeah, "Scars" is a nasty little album folks. It's intense, dark and angry from the opening moments of "Clearing the Slate" until it closes with "(I Will) Die Alone" (something I fear could be my theme song). It's close to 40 minutes of beat-down, thrash your ass off,  over the top death metal from seasoned professionals. One can only dare to imagine the impact (or more likely chaos!) The Resistance will have when they play material from "Scars" live. No doubt there will be bloodshed and mayhem in the pits. Sounds like a good time to me! This LP is highly recommended for those looking for the musically equivalent of metallic anarchy!

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Surgeon-Chemical Reign


As I clicked on "Chemical Reign", the sophomore release from Philadelphia’s Surgeon, I caught a glimpse of the band's description as a "bold new name to the progressive metal genre". Whoever came up with that gem had to have been high. Sorry, but progressive metal? Not quite. If anything Philadelphia’s Surgeon has managed to combine a little of this (thrash) and a little of that (doom) along with heaping handfuls of street metal, alternative metal, industrial rock, crunchy hard rock, punk and the glory of the N.W.O.B.H.M. movement. It's hardly fair to call this 3-piece band "progressive metal" then when they sound more like a weird cross between British metal (Iron Maiden, Witchfinder General), Therapy? ("Screamager" anyone?), a more punk oriented version of Metallica, Danzig, Urge Overkill, Mind Funk, Queens Of The Stone Age and any number of post-grunge/modern metal bands. Or, if you will, they sound like a garage metal band with a huge collection of vinyl featuring everything from Black Sabbath to M.D.C. That's not to say they're punk per say, but it's obvious that Surgeon march to the beat of their own drummer and, in this case, that's Ruston Grosse (ex-Rumpelstiltskin Grinder, ex-Woe, Master tour drummer). Lead by vocalist/bassist Sean Bolton, whose voice has a truly unique and almost sinister edge to it, the band is rounded out by the talented guitar playing of Lydia Giordano.Speaking of Lydia Giordano her guitar playing is sharp and her lead work echos everyone from Tony Iommi to Kirk Hammett. Meanwhile Sean's bass playing adds a serious heaviness to this heavy metal band. The reality is these three musicians perform like a well-oiled machine so there's obviously a lot of chemistry between Surgeon's members. As I wrap this review up I must say that I'm dreadfully sorry if my description leaves some of you wondering exactly what I'm getting at with this 3-piece group of hard and heavy rockers. Even as I listen to the album a second time through while I type this up, hearing everyone from later period C.O.C. to Black Sabbath to Nazareth, I can't quite put my finger on their truly unique sound. All I can say is that if you're looking for some new hard, heavy and slightly "alternative" (in a good way!) metal then be sure to track down a copy of this album. 

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Silentlie-Blood Under Snow


As they so often say "don't judge a book by it's cover". The artwork of "Blood Under Snow" might be one of those cases where I get lost wondering about the who/what/where and why (especially as it gives off this bad black metal vibe), but the music hidden inside this 5-track EP, which is a simplistic and yet charming blend of gothic rock and dark/traditional heavy metal, is anything but a head scratcher. Hailing from Trieste, Friuli-Venezia Giulia we find this Italian band who, after having been formed in 2008 by lead singer Giorgia Sacco Taz and guitarist Luigi Pressacco, found quite the positive reception to their first recording. That release, the demo EP "Behind My Face", had one song that ended up on two different compilations and another that was used in a movie soundtrack. "Silence Of Your Mind" ended up appearing on two compilations :"The Funeral Vol. 2" (272 Records) and "Maximum Rock Attack" (for the magazine Maximum Rock) while the demo's one other track, "River Of Torments", was used on the soundtrack for the movie "Blood Sisters". Listening to this band's new debut-EP, which was recorded and mixed at Palo Alto Studios (Trieste) and mastered at Finnvox Studios (Hesinki, Finland), was a pleasure seeing as SilentLie never over-think the process or become too fancy for their own good. David Sportiello, who was the founder of SinHeresy, handles bass and keyboard duties while Andrew Piergianni (formerly of Fuel From Hell) sits behind the drum kit. Together the pair allow Giorgia and Luigi to create atmospheric heavy rock/dark metal. In fact it's partly Giorgia, whose voice is as striking as she is, that helps SilentLie perfectly balance a style that should be equally appealing to goth rock and dark metal fans. That is not necessarily an easy task, but while Giorgia pulls the listener in with her haunting voice the rest of the band is busy keeping a steady eye on the fact that they can be all things to all people while truly forging their own identity. Kudos to them for crafting such an intriguing sound that is light on the ears and yet deeper then it might lead listeners to at first believe. And, because I truly believe that we can never have enough good female-fronted rock/metal bands, I'll be rooting for this young band from Italy to find greater success.Find out more from the band's Facebook page below.

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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Cathedral-The Last Spire

Metal Blade Records / Rise Above Records

If this is indeed to be Cathedral's last dance then by god they are going out in style. Having given doom fanatics two decades of blissfully dark, slow and painful metal the band now rides off into the sunset the right way. It's always good to see a band take the high road and fold before they destroy any semblance of credibility (Metallica) and "The Last Spire" is Lee Dorrian saying goodbye the right way. With the almighty Sabbath riffs of guitarist Garry "Gaz" Jennings (somewhere Tony Iommi must be smiling knowing what he inspired) and the rhythm section featuring Repulsion's Scott Carlson (bass) and Brian Dixon (drums) backing Lee up tracks like the 11-mintue "Pallbearer" are epic and truly beautiful. Can darkness and despair truly be this beautiful? Even when Lee Dorrian ups the stakes on "Pallbearer" by invoking evil and misery the band still manages to sound grandiose. Speaking of grandiose material, one must hear the menacing "Tower Of Silence" themselves to truly appreciate the epic nature of this album's highlight. All I can say is wow. About 5 minutes into this track the guitar playing of Gaz takes on this otherworldly quality. As the album opens with the atmospheric "Entrance To Hell", a dark and sinister way to welcome in the damned to Cathedral's swansong, it's only fitting that ends with another unholy number in "This Body, Thy Tomb". This 9 minute plus track wraps things up nicely and encourages fans that while Cathedral will be missed, and they will be, at least the band gave their fan-base one last near classic to remember then. Thanks for the memories Cathedral and for what you meant to doom metal. May the gods of darkness forever bless the rest of your journey. 

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Forgotten Gems: Rellik-Killer

Iron Glory Records

As I was adding this album/compilation to my "Current Playlist" feature for the week it dawned on me that it would make a pretty good "Forgotten Gem" addition. Based out of San Jose, California the band Rellik (not to be confused with the half-dozen other similarly name outfits) was formed back in 1983. "Killer" (which is just Rellik spelled backwards) is a post-breakup compilation album which collected the EP "Remember The Future", which they self-released in 1986, the group's one demo ("1990 Demo") and a few unreleased songs. The group was lead by Mike "Sleaze" Moore and featured guitarist Michael Scott as well as three musicians with ties to cult eighties heavy metal band Tyton (guitarist Kent Robertson, bassist Fabrice Bellini and well-traveled drummer Steve Pelletier*). Musically these guys took the best parts of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden and mixed them with the likes of Exciter and Grim Reaper. While it's not quite as epic as that might sound, as the band does occasional fall into the old sameness trap where some songs blur together and they had that "raw" vibe going for them, the band has a ton of energy and spirit which shines through. Or at least they did at the time. Eighties metal fanatics will appreciate this compilation and it's pretty easy to find on Ebay for a reasonable price. 

* Steve Pelletier is a well-traveled drummer indeed. He's also played with Hellbound, Ikki Crane and Rapid Fire.

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Saturday, April 27, 2013


Massacre Records

On "Evilution", the full-length debut album from Sacramento, California-based act Deadlines,  it's a toss-up what will get more press-will it be whose in the band (among others you have one time Vicious Rumors lead vocalist Brian O’Connor) or who all shows up as a guest (Merciful Fate's Hank Shermann for example). Formed in the summer of 2010, and playing a heavier style of power metal that often borders on thrash, the band is filled out by lead guitarist Michael J. Gardner (The Council), lead guitarist Kevin Rohr (Spectre), bassist Steve "Dedbass" Northam and drummer Danny Sablan (HateFX, The Council). Since forming they've shared the stage with the likes of Exodus, Anvil, Y&T, Great White (really?) and Death Angel so that says something about their ability to adapt and appeal to a wider audience range. While the band certainly steers closer to Exodus than a band like Y&T there is a remarkable about of talent with the highlights being the one-time Vicious Rumors vocalist and the guitar duo. And then there are the guest musicians Deadlands managed to snag. As hinted at there are a lot of excellent musicians who stop by to lend a helping hand besides just Hank Shermann. While the promo material doesn't let on who plays on what track-wise the band is aided by Michael Denner (Mercyful Fate, King Diamond), Andy LaRocque (King Diamond), Claudeous Creamer (Dragonlord), Mike Wead (Mercyful Fate, King Diamond), Glen Alvelais (Forbidden, Testament, HateFX), and Steve Smyth (Nevermore, Forbidden). Not to shabby at all. The album was mixed and mastered by the band themselves along with Juan Urteaga (Machine Head, Testament) at Trident Studios. Originally this one appears to have been released on Molten Metal Records in 2012 with Massacre Records releasing an edition that contains a bonus cover of "The Last in Line" by Dio. For whatever reason though my promo version doesn't have that cover which is a shame. Still, a quick look over at Amazon affirms that it is on the 2013 re-release so that should be considered another incentive if you're looking for new power metal/thrash. As it's well-crafted and well-executed there isn't much not to appreciate about "Evilution" other then perhaps a feeling of sameness you can get from a few of the songs. Still, Deadlands looks like a band with promise and one to keep an eye on down the road.

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Potential Threat SF-Civilization Under Threat

Old School Metal Records

There can't be that many surviving Bay Area thrash bands left from the eighties that weren't signed to majors right? And yet here we have this 5-piece bunch that, despite not signing to a record label until the release of 2009's "A New Threat Level", have been (seemingly) active since they formed back in 1986! With their first recording,  "Demo #1", coming out in 1988, this San Francisco, California act has managed to keep the Bay Area thrash spirit alive with "Civilization Under Threat" just their second full-length release! Sure, there has been a few demos in-between, but that has to say something for their dedication. The Metal Archives claims that they've opened for the likes of Testament, Slayer, Cro-Mags, Nuclear Assault and Death Angel since forming. I don't doubt that at all and I'd wager a buck or two that, given when they formed and where they hail from, they have probably shared the stage with a ton of equally impressive thrash metal artists. Potential Threat SF (with the "SF" added on later in what I would suspect to be an attempt to differentiate themselves from the excellent female-fronted UK hardcore/punk band of the same name) are probably not going to set the world on fire anytime soon with their own take on thrash, but that doesn't mean you can't just sit back and enjoy this one on it's own merits. The engineering and mastering was done by Juan Urteaga (Machine Head, Testament, Heathen) at Trident Studios and, at close to sixty minutes in length, there is a lot to appreciate here if you love old-school thrash. And make no mistake about it folks as this is thrash. No crossover and no death tinges. Just pure old-school thrash. If that's your thing then scoop this up. Otherwise the only things left to say is this: Does TT Quick have an issue with your logo guys?

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Friday, April 26, 2013

Current Playlist

It's been awhile since I did a "Current Playlist" update, but I've been trying to get back into the old routine as best as possible. I finally seem to be on the mend from my inner-ear infection which wrecked havoc on all these other aspects of my life (such as missing out on a chance to see Diamond Head live and interview them all in person!) and things have settled down mostly in regards to visiting family and friends. While it was wonderful spending time with old friends and especially my sister and niece things around here were crazy. As I sit here and wonder what life will hold next for me (again I find myself in a holding pattern as far as my disability goes and my inter-personal relationships) I hope to review albums by Cathedral, The Unconscious Mind, Deadlands, Integrity, Noesm, The Resistance and (the) Melvins in the next week or so. In the meantime here is what I've been checking out.

Listening to:
Death-Spiritual Healing
Griffin-Protectors Of The Lair
Witch Cross-Fit For Fight
Metal Masters, Volume One
Berlin-Count Three & Pray
Powertrip-When We Cut, We Bleed
Cloven Hoof-Cloven Hoof
Beholder-The Order Of Chaos (review also coming soon...hopefully)

Old Rock/Video Monthly Videos that were discovered in a box at my house (forgot I even had these still!)
Django Unchained

An Invisible Thread

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Iron Tongue-The Dogs Have Barked, The Birds Have Flown

Neurot Recordings

"The Dogs Have Barked, The Birds Have Flown" is the 7-track debut album from Arkansas-based Iron Tongue. Prior to this the band, who are fronted by Chris "CT" Terry of  Rwake fame, released a split 7” with The Dirty Streets. On that split the band covered "Two Timer" by Kiss who, the band claims at least, influenced Iron Tongue along with the likes of  Blue Cheer, Grand Funk, Deep Purple, Buddy Guy and Lynyrd Skynyrd. While Kiss might have served as an influence lyrically, as Gene Simmons and company certainly knew how to write a heart-felt song or two, Iron Tongue are more southern-flavored & blues-infused then anything. The group has shared the stage with everyone from High on Fire to Lita Ford and was created out of a "common interest in the need to get down and dirty and way, way gone". Mission accomplished I'd say. Billy Anderson (Melvins, Sleep, Neurosis, etc) recorded and produced "The Dogs Have Barked, The Birds Have Flown" at Iron Tongue guitarist Jason Tedford’s Wolfman Studios and his hand is felt all over this slab of gritty and raw southern rock. In addition to vocalist CT and guitarist Jason Tedford the album features guitarist Mark Chiaro, bassist Andy Warr, keyboardist JR Top, backing vocalist Stephanie Smittle and drummer Stan James. While the group manages to play some really good down and dirty rock that is quite soulful (see opener "Ever After") it's actually "Lioness", which recalls a southern-style Black Sabbath, that is my favorite track here. Doom and southern rock are no strangers of course and "Lioness" shows how a good band can combine the two into one sweet combination! Iron Tongue has the feel of a well-traveled band who has seen their fair share of heartache and despair even if they are a relatively young act. With it's bear-soaked blend of blues-rock, doom, stoner rock and southern rock this 7-track album is comforting like an old friend when your in need of companionship. Recommend.

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Cancrena-Hidden Depravity


Hailing from southern Italy (Bari to be exact) comes Cancrena and their 10-track debut album, "Hidden Depravity". Formed in 2000 the band was said to be initially influenced by the likes of Pantera, Testament and Sepultura although further down the road they seemed to pick up on the southern sounds of groups like Down and Black Label Society. Prior to this release the band put out a few demos, but for all intensive purposes this is the real deal for this band and, if you didn't know they were from Italy, you would almost swear this one came stumbling out of the backwoods of down south, USA. Francesco Morgese leads this 4-piece and, for a band that only has that 4-piece Pantera like line-up (singer, guitarist, bassist & drummer) they sure as hell make a lot of racket! The words "bone crushing heavy" come to mind and that album art above really does a bang-up job of representing the southern-fried, nightmare-inducing dark metal on display here. There's no need for me to get all cute and fancy with words here (as far as describing this one) other than to just say if the idea of a band influenced by both Slayer and Pantera appeals to you then Cancrena are worth tracking down.

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Brujas del Sol- Moonliner

Devouter Records

And now for something completely different. Spaced-out, surf-infused, psychedelic drone anyone? Brujas del Sol are the sound of a band born out of improvisation and imagination. "Moonliner" doesn't really remind me of anyone or anything as it's like this crashing wave of fuzzy psychedelic garage rock wrecking glorious havoc on a collation of ambient, drone-loving hipsters while a bunch of old hippies have a sit in where "everyone  must get stoned!". Oddly weird and yet rather refreshing. This one must be heard to be appreciated and absorbed, but I can say/will say that this release, as odd as this sounds, sounds like home to me. And yes, I am looking for home these days so thank you "Moonliner" for providing a map.

Buy the album here:

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Gama Bomb-The Terror Tapes

AFM Records

I've been hesitant to cover this album if only for the band's name. Weird I know, but it somewhat bothered me in light of recent events. Yes, of course I can separate a band's name from awful events perpetrated in the name of evil (see Anthrax for example), but even I have become bothered by the state of this God-forsaken world. Regardless, Gama Bomb is just a band and a name is a name just as words are only words. In this case we have a band that hails from the United Kingdom and, unless you've been living in a cave somewhere when it comes to thrash metal bands, Gama Bomb crank out tongue-in-cheek thrash metal that is more retro then anything. Think mid-eighties to early-nineties speed/thrash with some crossover tendencies done up with a modern bent and you've got Gama Bomb in all their glory. The band came thrashing head first out of Northern Ireland in 2002 and, judging by album number four, they have no signs of slowing down or changing gears anytime soon. Lead vocalist Philly Byrne leads these misfits and with titles like "Beverly Hills Robocop", "Smoke the Blow with Willem Dafoe", "The Cannibals Are in the Streets - All Flesh Must Be Eaten" and "Shitting Yourself to Live" you know these guys don't take themselves too seriously. All in all album number four is perfect for those who loved old-school speed/thrash/crossover or those folks into the current crop of retro-thrash bands. 

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Divided Multitude-Feed on your Misery

Nightmare / Fireball Records

Divided Multitude are a  Norwegian "progressive metal" band that was formed back in 1995. With a pair of demos out of the way ( 1996's "Stranded" and 1997's "Tale Of Tomorrow") they found themselves signed to Sensory Records and, four years after forming, they issued their debut-album, "Inner Self". By all accounts the group's debut album fell into a sort of Dream Theater/Symphony X groove and from there the band played on.  A 2001 self-titled collection was released next (featuring several songs from "Inner Self") before the band issued a proper follow-up in the form of 2002's "Falling To Pieces". At that point the group went on hiatus while members went on to play in Triosphere, TalRusha and Wattamezz. It wouldn't be until 2010 that the band would return with "Guardian Angel" followed by the album you see before you know. As Dived Multitude are not exactly well-known to begin with I'd be really surprised if "Feed on your Misery" was able to suddenly catapult them to the next level. Let's just be honest with each other here and I'll confess that it was more about the album's title and artwork (both the cover-art and cover-design were done by Per Spjøtvold) that intrigued me then anything else! And in both cases I really don't have a good explanation as to what draws me to either. Regardless it's the music that matters most so let's talk about that. Vocalist/guitarist Sindre Antonsen leads this group and from the sounds on "Feed on your Misery" (great title by the way!) the band's early Dream Theater/Symphony X comparisons have evolved quite nicely. Earlier I wrote that Divided Multitude were a "progressive metal". At least that is what they have been tagged. It's often times the case that there's so much more to the picture then a simple title can describe. I was lead into a false sense of "well, I believe this will just be another blah progressive metal band", but, truth is, this is some rather HEAVY stuff these guys shred out for the listener. True there are keyboards, but the guitars are heavy and crunchy. Divided Multitude have a splendid progressive power metal vibe that ends up meeting AOR and the heavier side of hard rock for a few shots of ice cold Jägermeister after work. As technical and well-crafted these guys are they know how to throw down some sinister licks and, even if those keyboards do ruin a bit for me, the band flat out rocks! It's not a perfect album, but this is likely to be adored by it's target audience anyway. That is of course if it reaches them. Check this out if heavier progressive/power metal with majestic leads and epic overtones is up your alley.
"progressive metal"

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Slaves On Dope-Covers EP Vol. 1


Slaves On Dope are one of those polarizing groups where people seem to be either crazy about them or dead-set on writing them off as nu metal cast-offs. I'll come right out and say that I'm not here to argue either point, but rather I'm here reviewing this EP because I dig cover songs/cover albums. I especially dig album's/artists like this that offer metalized versions of songs you wouldn't normally expect to be heavy and twisted. With the exception of "Digging the Grave" (Faith No More) these are all tracks that fall well under the tag of "hard and heavy". You could perhaps argue that Loverboy's "Working for the Weekend" (which opens this EP up) or Genesis ("Mama") are not too far removed from getting a serious heavy metal look, but covering Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" and Sheriff's "When I'm With You" are kooky choices on any level! So, what do these Canadian alt-metallers do with the material at hand? It should first be mentioned that this isn't the band's first rodeo as they have covered Black Sabbath in the past as well as Poison. So, Slaves On Dope know their way around cover songs. With that said the first single from the EP was Slaves On Dope's take on "Mama" (which you can hear below) so let's tackle that one first. "Mama" was actually the first single from Genesis' self-titled 1983 album and this one-time hit, at least in the hand of Slaves On Dope", is tapped for into for it's sinister and dark nature. While their version is obviously heavier it's a good choice for the band as it translates rather well into a gritty street-rocker. While "Mama" was a good choice for the first single as it's a dark and crunchy rocker "Working For The Weekend", which actually opens this EP comes off (unfortunately) as a tad lifeless. In a way I think trying to make Loverboy's 1981 hit into something dark (when it's clearly meant to be an upbeat nod to having fun) was a bad call, but it's not without merit as the band does give it their all. "Digging the Grave" works well as a grunge-inspired thrasher as the source material was heavy to begin with. And then there is Sheriff's "When I'm With You". I was really wondering about how they would pull off this cheesy ballad. As I never liked the original (it made me want to puke) I feared it would be truly dreadful, but it's a cool take on the cut and actually makes it bearable to the listener! It's a really interesting choice to make into a heavier rocker so what do they then do with "Sexual Healing"? Well, it's both good and bad. It does work as a heavier, almost sleazy, grunge cut and Slaves On Dope play it full-tilt. It's only that when you've heard the original and experienced the original (if you know what I mean) then hearing it like this takes away a lot of it's "power". As it's played for fun though it's all good in the hood as they say. Of the bunch my favorite is probably "Mama" followed by "Digging the Grave" with "Working for the Weekend" being my least favorite. All in all it's a cool little EP though.

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De La Cruz-Street Level

Frontiers Records

De La Cruz hail from Gold Coast, Australia and their interests include " Rays, Babes, Good vibes , Epic Nights, Music, Rxck n roll!!!!". When you consider that little bit of golden knowledge and that their influences include Motley Crue, Winger, Dokken, Ratt, Lynch Mob, Van Halen, Def Leppard, Skid Row, W.A.S.P, Cinderella, KISS and Steel Panther then you should be able to figure out what "Street Level" is all about! The band was formed in June 2011 and, in addition to having a lead singer named Roxxi Catalano (Roxxi being his christian name I suppose) the band is rounded out by guitarists Casey Jones & Rory Joy, bassist Grant Daniell and drummer Lacey Lane. Quite honestly as I listened to "Street Level" I had vivid flashbacks of the eighties/early nineties. The only difference is that De La Cruz doesn't make me want to rip my own ears off like far too many L.A. bands did back in the day! Really, despite this being ever so cheesy, I have no objections to it. These guys seem like they are having fun and it's never a case of being overly obnoxious or anything so "Street Level", while maybe not my cup of tea completely, is fine enough arena-like/eighties rock/glam/sleaze rock. Worth picking up if you're into that kind of thing.

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Nightglow-We Rise


Italy's Nightglow began life back in 2003 with two demos, "Introduction" in 2004 and "Metanderthal" in 2007, preceding this 8-track debut-album. Vocalist Daniele "Abba" Abate leads the band into battle as it were and while it's easy enough to just say that the 5-piece band bridges the gap effortlessly between classic heavy metal and power metal/thrash (in regards to their style) perhaps a little bit of history will help shed some light on just how that sound came about. By the band's own admission they came together "inspired by the English trend of the 80’s", but in 2006 they would be drawn to an American band for inspiration and as a means to pay tribute to their love for true metal. The band started a tribute band to the one and only Manowar called, what else, "ManOwar" and by 2007 they had become the first band in both Italy and Europe to have been recognized by both of Italy's Manowar fans club ("Manowar Italia" and "Army Of Immortals") as the official Manowar tribute band. Now, if you know Europe then you know they love Manowar so that says a lot about Nightglow and their ability!  This Italian band's love of Manowar duly noted, the band continued to forge their own identity and, as Nightglow, it was their other cover choices that helped their sound take on a life of it's own. Live they were known to cover Manowar of course, but they also were known to cover Iron Maiden, Metallica, Black Sabbath, Gamma Ray and Megadeth. Given all of that then it should come as little surprise to learn that Nightglow evolved into this extremely talented hybrid act that walks that thin line between classic metal and power metal/technical thrash. Or at least for the most part. Let me explain. The first three tracks ("We Rise", "Time Lord" and "Between Heaven & Hell") had me thinking along the lines of Dio meeting the technical metal appeal of Metallica's "Ride The Lightning" and "Master Of Puppets". The band's two guitarists, Andrea "Moret" Moretti and Giulio "GNG" Negrini (both of whom came along in 2010) offer up these tasty leads that make these first three tracks some superb power metal. In fact the title cut, which starts off with some chilling sounds effects, sees Nightglow go into full-force heavy metal/thrash overload! It's a power metal assault on your eardrums and wonderfully sets the stage for the rest of this killer album. Technical and heavy, with a slight old-school vibe, these early cuts are played with power and procession making "We Rise" a worthwhile pick up for those first few cuts alone! Drummer Marco "Riskio" Romani and bassist Davide "Fantu" Fantuzzi fill out Nightglow and even if this band wasn't capable of writing great tracks like "Evil Dust", which they are and then some, they could easily stand on the skill level and talent of these musicians alone! All five musicians are at the top of their game here giving Nightglow a mature sound that is highly addictive. I've already listened to "We Rise" several times through and it was hard for me to accept that I needed to tackle some other reviews!  Either way this Italian heavy metal act isn't just about crafting Iron Maiden meets Metallica style material. For you the album takes some interesting twits and turns that you don't see coming. It ends up making "We Rise" all the more appealing. For example the cut "Don't Cry" combines the likes of Danzig, Pantera and "Load" era Metallica into one neat little package while "Dreamland", which is driving heavy metal with fantastic leads and an almost classic rock like structure, sounds somewhat foreign to the album and yet ultimately familiar! And then there is the great "Shine Of Life" which carries itself along nicely and takes on this almost European power metal vibe. It's one of the more catchy numbers and a true highlight. While I touched on the group's obvious love for old-school metal (band's like Dio, Iron Maiden and UFO can be picked up on "We Rise" if you listen between the lines!) they original opted to also have a band "embellished with more modern, sophisticated sound". So, despite the fact that their sound is often a throw-back to the eighties the modern production makes this is album a real pleasure to experience. Without a doubt 2013 and has been a great year so far for heavy metal and band's like Nightglow are keeping the true spirit of the genre alive. you can find out more about the band and how to get a copy of this smashing album for yourself at the link below!

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Cardinals Folly-Strange Conflicts of the Past

Shadow Kingdom Records

Cardinals Folly are a Finnish heavy metal/doom metal band. This is a collection of all of their early, out of print material arranged in one simple package. The band is lead by bassist/vocals Mikko Kääriäinen who, in addition to being the main songwriter/lyricist for Cardinals Folly, is the only remaining original member. Mikko Kääriäinenand is a former member of  Whorrornight (interesting name for a band eh?) and he also plays with black metal band Sathyricorion where, incidentally, he is known as Lord Santhyr. Alongside Mikko is guitarist Juho Kilpelä (who also plays with thrash/death band Intervention) and drummer Sebastian Lindberg. Sebastian Lindberg has played in indie rock band Murmansk and is also a visual artist. Just an FYI. As stated this collection gather's together a ton of material that was out of print. The track listing is as follows:
1. Intro
2. The Right Hand of Doom
3. Rasputin (The Mad Monk)
4. Serpent Nights
5. Opening Ceremony
6. Blood Axis Raider
7. Cardinals Folly
8. They Found Atlantis
9.The Model (Kraftwerk cover)
10. Transmission From the Mad Arab

The first three tracks are from the 2008 "Heretic´s Hangover" EP. This was the first release for the band under the name of Cardinals Folly and is fairly solid heavy/doom metal. Prior to that, 2004-2007 to be exact, the group was known as The Coven. Track number 4 was actually featured on The Coven's 2006 demo, "Beltane", but this is a unreleased, re-recorded version with the Cardinals Folly line-up that was done in 2008. The "new" version of "Serpent Nights" is reportedly longer (I didn't check the details out for myself sorry) then the old one. Either way it's a cool song. The next 4 tracks are from the long out of print 2009 EP, "Orthodox Faces" which was originally well received in the doom community and it's easy enough to see why!. My favorite of the bunch is "Blood Axis Raider". It's a psychedelically-charged doom rocker that is evil spooky. Simply cool. Track number 9 is another unreleased song. "The Model" is Kraftwerk cover and a quite interesting cover at that! It's quite a different take on the song as Cardinals Folly takes this one-time electronic track and gives it a health dunking in Black Sabbath! And then we finish things off with another unreleased track in "Transmission From the Mad Arab". Again, it's some pretty cool doom material even if it is slightly off-kilter and, at under 2 minutes in length, way too short! Thankfully 10 minute plus tracks like "They Found Atlantis" make up for it. All in all this is a nice collection especially if you're looking for something "different" from the regular 9-5 doom. The only down side is that either Mikko Kääriäinen sounds really wicked and sinister ("Serpent Nights"and "Blood Axis Raider") or just "off". The first few tracks actually had me disappointed as I didn't like his singing, but it seems as if maybe he was just having a bad day or something then as I liked him more as the album moved on. The band certainly has their own take on the doom genre and I like that they were not afraid to twist and turn their own material around.

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Interview with Xcel

Yes, this really was the fashion! Xcel back in the day.

Recently I had the great pleasure of sitting down and talking with cult eighties power metal band Xcel. Their album, "Deliver This Dream", is getting a re-release thanks to the fine folks at Arkeyn Steel Records. You can read my original review of the re-release, a simply shredding affair!, at the link at the bottom. Much thanks goes out to Xcel for taking the time to chat with us. Be sure to pick up your own copy of this killer, limited-edition, re-release! It's a must have for eighties heavy metal fanatics!

HEAVY METAL TIME MACHINE – ‘Xcel’ US Interview, April 2013

Andy-Could you introduce the members of the band?

Kevin: Well it is Barry Duncan and I on guitars, Kevin Luke - lead vocal, Peter Voight - bass guitar, and Dag Gabourel - drums.
Andy-How did Xcel originally come together? 

Barry:  Xcel was born out of a band called Wizzard.  I had left Wizzard to play guitar with another group of guys.  Wizzard replaced me with Kevin Cox, at my suggestion (See?  I told you he was good!).  Several months had passed and I got contacted by one of the Wizzard guys to come out and see them play at a local bowling alley.  I was blown away!  There was so much life and energy in the band that had gone missing over time.  They had new, original music.  I was astounded.  I called Rob Duplantis, the drummer, and told him I’d like to come back if they lost their other guitarist (not Kevin, mind you).  A few days later he called me back and said, “Come back!”  That move caused a bit of strife in Wizzard and they subsequently lost their singer too.  So, we’re left with Rob Duplantis on drums, Peter Voight on bass, Kevin Cox on guitar and me rejoining the band on guitar. 
The four of us sat down and made a conscious decision to change the direction of the band.  A new name, a new look, new original songs (not so many cover songs).  Wizzard, in my opinion, was already headed that direction naturally, we just made the decision to push it in that direction.  That’s where the band “Xcel” came from.
Peter: We were getting good feedback on our originals, so we decided to take our music in a different direction.  We performed only our originals and would fill in with covers as needed. I knew Kevin Luke from him singing in his high school pop choral group, so I told Kevin Cox I knew of a guy that could sing. So Kevin Cox & I went to the local skating rink where Kevin Luke was working, and asked him if he wanted to audition for our band’s type of music. Getting Kevin Luke in the band led to the association with Dag Gabourel from them going to school together. I was very impressed with Dag; he had the musical ability and the looks to go with it.
Kevin: The guys have pretty much summed it up on the formation of Xcel.   But before Wizzard, I was in a band called ‘Bandit’ that just wanted to hang out and get wasted and I was anxious to get out and play.   I knew the guys in Wizzard, was already friends with Peter, had seen them play several times, and really looked up to Barry, so I became a roadie/guitar tech for them a bit.  So when they asked me to come and audition after Barry left, I was nervous but I couldn’t wait for the chance.  So I guess the chemistry was already there before I came in and having Barry come back made it perfect.  We then set out to find the remaining pieces of the puzzle in Kevin Luke and Dag Gabourel.  And we were lucky when we found those two, it just all fell into place.
Andy-And the name?

Kevin: I keep hearing it was me!  But then I thought it was Barry.  Who knows? I don’t remember honestly.  There’s not some cool story behind it unfortunately.  But the thing I think we ended up focusing on was the fact that it was a positive name, energetic, and was associated with achievement.  So it made perfect since in one regard.  You want five guys who are going to work their tails off for something really important to them?  Well you’ve found them!  And they happened to be called Xcel!  Brilliant!
Barry:  I don’t think anyone really knows where the name came from.  Some say I was the one that came up with that name.  I don’t remember that, to be honest.  And, oddly enough, I do remember I didn’t particularly like the name “Xcel”.  I couldn’t tell you why, I just thought it didn’t sound too good; it didn’t roll off the tongue.  However, it took on a whole new meaning for all of us and has come to mean a great deal over the years.  Also, the logo design, I think, looks surgical...and, that’s how our music was developing, into this surgical, precise, progressive style.
Peter Voight: I don’t think anyone really remembers who came up with it. I do recall us considering the name Mako at one point. Kevin Cox came to practice with “Excel” and its definition written on a piece of paper; we all like the meaning of the word, and agreed it fit the direction we were headed with the band. Barry designed the logo and shortened the name to “Xcel”. I was impressed with the design’s looks and everyone agreed to go with it.
Andy-Who were some of your influences when you started off?

Peter: I grew up listening to the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Grand Funk Railroad, BTO, and Black Sabbath. In my teen years I began listening to KISS, Judas Priest, Rush, Iron Maiden, Queensryche.
Barry:  Everyone had their favorites, but I especially liked Queensryche and Iron Maiden.  I’m sure it’s not too hard to see those influences.  But, there were a lot of others:  Fates Warning (I still love those guys), Dio, Black Sabbath with Dio on vocals, Whitesnake.
Kevin:  For me it started by listening to KISS Alive II and staring at the inside cover of that album for hours on end.  I used to listen to my older brother’s Black Sabbath, Grand Funk Railroad, Deep Purple, etc.  I love the early Queensryche when they had Chris DeGarmo, and of course Iron Maiden and Judas Priest.  I still, even today, gravitate towards the power guitar and riffs.  I listen to a lot of Primal Fear, Brainstorm, Accept, UDO, and Disturbed now.  Notice the mostly German theme there?
Andy-I've just got to say that "Deliver This Dream" is a really cool album. Tell us a little about how it was recorded (and how you ended up at a studio more known for country and western than rock and heavy metal!) and what you remember from that time period.
Barry:  Well, to be honest, I don’t think anyone of us really realized that the little studio we recorded in was a Country and Western studio.  For me, I didn’t care what you recorded, if you had lots of equipment, you should know how to use it, and how to use it for whatever genre of music you were recording.  That wasn’t the case.  I’m sure there were studios out there that could do that, but we didn’t have access to them or the money to afford the really good studios.  So, our ignorance got the best of us.  Remember, there was no Internet at that time and there was no really good way to research a studio.  I guess we could have gone to Houston, but again, that was money we didn’t have.
Peter: Recording studios were surprisingly hard to come by in our area of Southeast Texas, considering some of the big name talent that has come from here. The owner of Tri-Plex Studio was a music professor at Lamar, and one of us must’ve known him from that. Country music was very popular at the time, so the studio was probably just catering to the trends of the time. We recorded the majority of the album at night; I remember being very nervous about getting all my parts right on the first take, in order to keep costs down. It was also my first opportunity to see each band member perform individually, and I remember being very impressed with each member’s ability & talent.
Kevin:  As Barry mentioned, we really didn’t know any better.   We thought we were doing what we had to do to get noticed, and that was hit a studio and get it out there.  Along with Peter, I’d have to say what I remember the most about being in the studio was getting to watch Dag specifically.  Since the rest of us were usually out front in shows or rehearsals, I would stand and watch him through the glass during the recordings and think “wow, I didn’t know he did that!  This is cool.”  The other thing was being a bit stressed to get it right in as few takes as possible so that we could keep costs down to the penny in all areas.
Andy-What happened in the end? What made you guys decided it was time to put Xcel to rest?

Peter: To make a long story short, I saw Xcel’s popularity start to plateau, and the economy at the time was declining. We lost investors, and I only had a year of college left to graduate, which seemed like the more practical opportunity. There were no arguments, no fighting, no disagreements; we’re all still friends even today.
Kevin:  Man, that was a tough time.  I remember it well.  It was a 5 way divorce that no one wanted to do.  But I think that we ran out of options and there were no opportunities coming our way where we were.  The desire was there, the avenue and money to do it was not.  Picture having this dream you’ve always wanted, it is right there in your grasp, and then you come to the realization that it is not going to happen and you don’t know what to do next other than go to college.  I was sick about that for a long time, which is why I moved away to start school.  I just had to reboot.   We have always remained friends and I would consider them close friends.  It is nice to talk music again with all of them and re-live a part of that.
Barry:  I was just burnt out.  I had put in 2+ years of my life into Xcel and gotten nowhere.  A lot of time invested in creating the music, getting it recorded, trying to push the product and no real results other than lost time and spent money.  We had a lot of fun, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything, but the goal was to get signed and go on tour.  We never got close.
The coup de grâce for Xcel was losing all of our potential investors.  We had been working with several different people about investing into us (yes, we perceived Xcel as a business venture) and then October 1987 happened.  “Black Monday”.  The stock market fell.  All of the investors we had gathered up said they could not/would not give us any money because they had lost in the stock market.  I think that really deflated everyone.
Andy-Were you surprised at all to see Xcel turn into a cult heavy metal band over the years?

Peter: Yes, very surprised. I guess it was in the mid-90’s that I realized it due to receiving calls from Europe asking about the band and wanting to book shows. It’s still amusing to me even today how many search results you can get from Googling “Xcel Deliver This Dream.” Also, I had mixed feelings when I heard that someone had bootlegged our album without our permission, but without that coverage, the dream would never have stayed alive this long.
Kevin:  Aw man, most definitely!  Like Peter, many years later I too started receiving phone calls even from different people here in the US.  There was one in particular at some rock festival in Chicago.  If I recall, this guy read about us online and somehow found me?!  I thought it was someone playing a joke at first.  Now, I’m hearing from some people associated with the worldwide South By Southwest music festival showcase in Austin, TX asking us to play, and using that as an Xcel kickoff of sorts.  This thing still breathes life, and you just sit and scratch your head.  I’ve been approached by entertainment lawyers as well who have heard about all this.  It's just crazy.
But without question, the people in Europe who love this type of music, as well as record collectors and others, are the ones that have kept this alive.  This ‘cult’ status as you put it is thanks to them.
Barry:  Yeah!  I would have never guessed that!  We knew our stuff was good, we just never knew so many other people thought so too.

 Andy-Can you tell us how the deal with Arkeyn Steel Records came about? 

Barry:  Kevin Cox had discovered looking around on the Internet that the name Xcel popped up on a few websites.  One guy in particular, Chris Papadakis, had some really nice things to say about the album at his Forgotten Scroll website (link below), I mean, really nice, Kevin e-mailed the guy and told him, “Hey, I’m one of the members of Xcel and just wanted to say ‘thanks’ for the nice review of our album.”  The guy freaked out!  He e-mailed Kevin back and said he’d been trying to find us and this and that, and before you know it, he’s telling Kevin that he’s part of a record label and would we be interested in re-releasing the “Deliver This Dream” album through that label.  Geez, are you kidding me?!?  We couldn’t believe it.  We all said “yes” and we’re now a part of the Arkeyn Steel family.
Andy-"Deliver This Dream" has held up surprisingly well. Who wrote the bulk of the material or was it a group effort?

Peter: Most of the songs for Deliver This Dream are written by Kevin Cox and Barry. They would present their ideas to the band and the other members would take them in their own direction.
Kevin: Yeah, I think that our bringing in ideas and letting everyone run with it and add their own interpretation is how we developed our own sound.  However, Peter and our sound guy, Andy Owen, were also starting to contribute ideas to the mix and they were some really cool songs.  Andy had some great ideas and we were fortunate that he had the ability to work with writing the lyrics that worked in the music structure.
Barry:  Everyone did their part to each of the songs.  We really let everyone stretch out and didn’t limit anyone unless it simply didn’t work.  We worked and arranged for the song, not to highlight any particular member.  As for the writing, I wrote the lyrics and composed several of the songs on the album and Kevin C. wrote the others.  And, several had some collaboration: Kevin Luke had written the lyrics for “I’ll Make It Someway” and brought it to me to write the music.  Other parts of songs might have just needed a little tweaking or a segue into another area.  Since we never put restrictions on each other, I think that helped the songs come out better than we even imagined.
Andy-Did you ever think when you were recording it that all these years later you'd be getting such a royal treatment for a re-release?
Peter: No, not in a million years.  Of course, we had hoped that we would get signed at the time, but when nothing really came of it at the original release; I pretty much dropped the idea.
Barry:  No way.  Chris and Kostas at Arkeyn Steel have been great to work with; “royal” is definitely the correct word to use.
Kevin Cox:  Ha, not even remotely!  I don’t think we planned on it turning out the way it did originally, much less reading about us 26 years later and gaining fans in other countries.  
I completely agree with the guys on this one.  Kostas and Chris at Arkeyn Steel have been great.  They do quality work and release professional grade results.  It’s funny, we’ve seen more promotion for Xcel in the past year than all 26 plus years combined and I am humbled by it.  They have definitely given us the royal treatment and appear to really appreciate our music.  For that I am grateful! 

Andy-What does the future hold for Xcel? Do you guys have any plans to release new material?

Peter: It’s hard to say at this point; I, for one, would love to record new material. However, we all have responsibilities to our families and careers, which makes getting together rather difficult. Let’s just say it depends on the success of this re-release....
Barry:  There’s a lot up in the air for us.  The band members have moved to different cities over the years and it’s proven difficult for us to get together, even just to visit and hang out.  All of us have families, from toddlers on up to college students and that takes a lot of everyone’s time and resources.  So, logistically it could be troublesome to release more material.  The good news is, we actually do have new material.  When I say “new”, I mean unreleased material from 1986, 87 and 88.  Any “new” release would be our “sophomore” effort from that time.  I believe that we’re all hoping the “Deliver This Dream” re-release goes ballistic and gives us some real motivation to record some more.
Kevin: Man, it’s hard to say at this point.  I’m probably pushing the hardest to make something else happen.  But, I’m also one of the ones that live in a different location from the rest of the guys.  Although, I’m not going to let that stop me.  I want to do something with it.  I think what excites me the most is, if people like what is on Deliver This Dream then I am confident that they will like the “new” stuff we have.  I thought it was more powerful and heavier personally, and I would love to get that out there and let the world hear it.  I think it is good even by today’s standards and songs that are out there. I’ve had many people ask when Xcel will do shows so they can see us.  I’m all for it, but we’ll have to see how this re-release goes over and if the market even wants it.  I’m also not opposed to doing it just for ourselves, so we can have a copy to keep.
Andy-What would you say to all of the fans who have kept the spirit of Xcel alive all these years?  It's got to be pretty amazing to think that your lone record had that much of an impact on people right?

Kevin: Wow, just a great big “Thank you!”  You guys are amazing.  There is no greater satisfaction to have something you’ve poured your heart and soul into go on to be enjoyed by others.  I really hope we can bring you more in the near future.  Our engineer, George Coyne in Austin, TX is the one that made this happen when things looked bleak with our master tape.  Chris and Kostas took a chance on us and brought it to you.  So if you are fans of metal of any sort, show these guys your gratitude for what they bring to everyone.  You US metal fans need to go out and show support for these bands.  Demand the music and demand the shows. 
Peter: All I can say is “Thank You” for all the support; it’s been a blast!  I feel as if the entire band is humbled by the recognition, and that we would never be where we are without the fans.  I also want to wholeheartedly thank Chris and Kostas from Arkeyn Steel for giving us this opportunity as well as seeing what we believed our music was.
Barry:   I’m still numb from all this.  I had no idea there was this whole underground International metal movement…and we were in the middle of it!  God Bless all of our fans and a heartfelt “Thank You” from Xcel for keeping this little album going!
We’re really hoping everyone enjoys the re-release of “Deliver This Dream”.  The remix and re-master was an amazing process and we can’t thank George Coyne over at Parrot Tracks Studios in Austin, TX for bringing out what we truly had in mind for this album.  Also, a huge “Thank You” to Chris and Arkeyn Steel for jump starting this whole process and bringing our music to even more people!
Andy-I'll wrap things up by letting you have the last word.  Final thoughts?  Are there any words of encouragement to other eighties heavy metal bands trying to start things up again? The mic is all yours!
Barry:  You’ve heard the phrase “Never say ‘never’”?  That certainly applies here.  We would have never thought we’d see this amount of recognition and this amount of excitement from the music community.  But, here we are, about to re-release an album from 1986.  How outrageous is that?!?  I’ve always felt, and told people, that you can do anything if you put your mind to it.  A lot of the lyrics and messages in our music said that too.  There will always be people who tell you that you can’t do something.  Call me stubborn, but you’ve just given me that much more motivation to prove you wrong…so, don’t give up!
Peter: If any other heavy metal bands get a similar opportunity, I encourage them to take it!  Life’s too short to miss out on magical moments like these. You don’t realize how much you miss it until you get back into it.   Andy, I want to thank you for your time & efforts in pushing this project.
Kevin:  When we stopped, it was as if a part of me was taken away.  So when you get the taste of it again, it is even sweeter because you didn’t realize what you were missing until it wasn’t there anymore.  If you enjoy it and the music moves you, and you are passionate about what you do, then keep doing it.  It is a drug that will never be replicated.  You’re going to have those that have nothing good to say about what you’re doing.  They’re going to try and find every reason you can’t or shouldn’t.  There are those that hide behind a computer screen on some blog and spew hate, so what!  Do what you love to do.  If you have that opportunity to get together with your band mates again and do something special, then what are you waiting for?!  PS: Go buy the album!

You can check out the Forgotten Scroll article here:

Read my review of the re-release here:

Order yourself a copy here on Ebay (while supplies last!) 

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