Aug 302012

This is a review of Reprisal, the fourth album by Devolved. In writing it, I feel conflicted. On the one hand, I’m delighted that the band have given me the chance to hear the album in advance of its release. On the other hand, I feel a sense of guilt because it is so far in advance that our beloved readers won’t be able to share in the full awesomeness of the music until November 20, 2012, which is something like 80 dog years from now. It’s so far in advance that I can’t even feed you a link for pre-orders.

Obviously, my sense of guilt hasn’t stopped me from forging ahead. I just want to be clear that it’s not because I enjoy torturing you. Except, of course, those of you who enjoy being tortured, and you know who you are, and to you I say, “Happy to be of service!”

And yes, Reprisal is awesome, Devolved’s best album yet, and one of the year’s gems. It benefits significantly from the changes that founder/lyricist/drummer John Sankey has made since the band’s last album, taking greater control over the songwriting process and bringing on board two new performers — Mark Hawkins (guitars and bass) and Mark Haggblad (vocals) — both of whom are simply superb. Between the three of them, they have constructed an unstoppable killing machine.

The music delivers cold, mechanized power with almost inhumanly fast, ridiculously precise drumming and riffing. The rhythms have an industrialized quality — jabbing, hammering, jolting, in a start-stop flurry of pneumatic, piston-driven blows, with the drums, guitars, and bass often tightly in sync. The sound conjures mental images of some giant robotic factory in overdrive, fabricating ominous ranks of weaponized cyborgs ready to begin crushing and blasting our frail humanity. Continue reading »

Apr 292012

(groverXIII reviews the recently released second album by Soul Cycle, a two-man project consisting of Chris Catharsis and Mark Hawkins.)

Dawn Of The Shred. Evil Shred. The Quick And The Shred. Shred Poets Society. Better Off Shred. Shred Rising. Shred Man Walking. Shred Alive. The Shred Pool. Things To Do In Denver When You’re Shred. Shred Reckoning.

OK, I think I’m about out of “movie titles using the word ‘shred’ in place of the word ‘dead'”. I couldn’t think of a better way to start my review of the new Soul Cycle album, Soul Cycle II, which is an instrumental album full of, you guessed it, shred. Soul Cycle is the brainchild of guitar wunderkinds Chris Catharsis and Mark Hawkins, the band’s sole members; Catharsis handles writing, production, bass, and drum programming in addition to guitars, while Hawkins provides mostly guitar leads. The first Soul Cycle album (the cleverly-titled Soul Cycle) was a great collection of instrumental guitar pyrotechnics with bits of groove and, yes, a little bit of djent mixed in, and they have not deviated from that particular mix on their sophomore release.

However, in order to up the ante a bit, they went out and assembled the largest group of guest soloists I have ever seen. Seriously, this is like a combination of the Avengers and the Justice League, except instead of super heroes, this group is comprised of some of the most talented guitarists (and a couple of keyboardists) you’ve never heard of (and a few you have). To put things in perspective, I’ve compiled a list of each guitarist, along with a link to some of their work, in order of appearance: Continue reading »