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Karma and Effect

CODE: B00097A5HC

Price : $18.98

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Seether's follow-up to their promising, moderately successful 2002 debut, Disclaimer, and its spottier, hastily repackaged 2004 sequel, was reportedly beset by fighting with their label--friction that dictated everything from profanity-free lyrics to a title change (the original name was the telling Catering to Cowards.) Yet the band effectively rises above those constraints, if only by largely sticking to Disclaimer's tried-and-true formula of seasoning the generous blasts of angst-metal (such as the raging opener "Because of Me") that are its true stock in trade with more evocative ballads like "The Gift" and "Plastic Man." The latter tracks hearken back to "Broken," singer Shaun Morgan's duet with girlfriend and Evanescence singer Amy Lee, yet find their own restless, emotive substance without her. --Jerry McCulley
 

Mezmerize

CODE: B0007Y4TVU

Price : $18.98

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Four CD's and nearly ten years into their career, System of a Down continue to be the Gilbert and Sullivan of this generation, delivering razor-sharp political commentary via beautiful, quirky melodies and discordant harmonies.

The group has mastered the ability to be both successful and subversive--with 2001's Toxicity selling over six million copies and debuting at number one on the Billboard charts, their success in indisputable. As far are their subversive-ness, the lyrical content on Mezmerize is a solid stream of anti-war, anti-corporate and anti-celebrity sentiment. The disc's first single proves as beautifully schizophrenic as anything the band has released. "B.Y.O.B." opens with guitarist Daron Malakian's rapid-fire riff, then frontman Serj Tankian's anti-war screams of "Why do they always send the poor?"; less than a minute later, a nearly-surreal jump to a facetiously perky, beach party chorus that could easily be found on a Britney or Justin record: "Everybody's going to the party/have a real good time." Guitarist/co-songwriter Malakian takes increased vocal time on the disc, including the hilarious, size-obsessed "Cigaro" and celeb-slapping "Radio/Video". Witticism aside, musical and lyrical intensity peaks with the operatic "Question!" and the emotional piledriver that is "Sad Statue", the group¹s unflinching statement on war and Lady Liberty.

The only shortcoming of Mezmerize is, quite simply, that it is short. Clocking in at a mere 38 minutes, the reason given is that this release is one-half of a two CD set--with part 2, Hypnotize, expected in late fall 2005.

--Denise Sheppard
 

Octavarium

CODE: B0009A1AS2

Old price: $18.98

Discounted price: $18.03

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Octavarium opens with a lean and enthusiastic-sounding Dream Theater, one that continues to move forward without compromising its classic sound or its classic progressive metal appeal. Bassist John Myung propels album opener "The Root Of All Evil" with a weight equal to that of Mike Portnoy's forceful but finessed drumming and guitarist John Petrucci's masterful riffing which seems once more to widen the realm of possibilities available on the instrument. Keyboardist Jordan Rudess lends subtle and deft touches throughout helping further solidify the outfit's equally strong footing in the worlds of heavy and progressive rock. But the best evidence that Dream Theater remains alive and well rests perhaps in the final 34 minutes of the album. The 10-minute 9/11 meditation "Sacrificed Sons" finds vocalist James LaBrie giving one of his most convincing performances to date. The closing, 24-minute title track serves as the sound of a progressive rock orchestra delivering one more classic epic symphony, one more that lengthens this unit's ever-long prime. Both tracks stand as testament to the quintet's virtuosity, integrity and ingenuity and will fast become favorites. Further evidence of the group's diversity also exists here in the form of the unapologetically commercial (and U2-inflected) "I Walk Beside You," a song that seems destined to connect with a crossover audience--at least one up for an unforgettable adventure. --Jedd Beaudoin

Album Description
Dream Theater has maintained a rare combination of stellar musicianship and unwavering passion for over a decade, selling millions of albums and filling concert venues worldwide. The band once again confirms its status as progressive hard rock's standard-bearers on their latest studio epic, Octavarium.

 

Out of Exile

CODE: B00097DX3U

Old price: $13.98

Discounted price: $13.28

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In what was widely predicted to be a short-lived supergroup/side-project, Audioslave has instead gratifyingly yielded a bonafide band. The follow-up to their promising, if not quite artistically congealed '02 debut finds singer/songwriter Chris Cornell contributing a slate of songs that would have done his former Soundgarden proud, while guitarist Tom Morello and his former Rage Against the Machine bandmates cast them in a focused rhythmic groove that suggests that the old school can still yield a timely lesson or two. Cornell's best songs may still lurk in the shadows (the funeral hypno-blues of "Heaven's Dead," the martial metal of antiwar opener "Your Time Has Come," "The Worm" as anthem for self-loathing), yet they're now brightened with such surprisingly sunny fare as "Dandelion," "Doesn't Remind Me"'s charged, existentialist daydream and even a hook-rich, dangerously optimistic back-to-the-future power ballad in "Be Yourself." Morello's work on the title track and elsewhere is a study in taste and less-is-more efficiency, a telling hint of how forcefully these iconic '90s stars have sublimated their egos as their new music has blossomed; who said there are no second acts in American (rock) lives? --Jerry McCulley
 

With Teeth

CODE: B000929AJQ

Price : $13.98

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Trent Reznor has always been a one-trick-pony, but it's a damn good trick: sunny melodies filtered through ferocious electronics. Unfortunately, the trick's impact was often watered down by a tendency toward petulance and self-absorption. Still, almost six years after NIN's last release, The Fragile, the trick itself has lost none of its Teen-Beat-from-hell appeal. With Teeth blisters from the start with "All the Love in the World," and tracks like "The Collector" take full advantage of Dave Grohl's sledgehammer drumming. Reznor stretches occasionally, trying out different tactics, from crunchy, overtly commercial rave-ups ("The Hand That Feeds") to borderline New Wave ("Only"). But Teeth isn't about stretching. It's about doing the same trick, only better, with less clutter and more bite. By neatly distilling the sparseness of Pretty Hate Machine with Downward Sprial-style density, it ends up being the most focused record in the NIN catalog. –Matthew Cooke
 

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