Short Cuts: Prong, Drowning Pool, Conan, Celtic Frost

CD Review: Drowning Pool – Hellelujah
eOne Music
All Access Rating: B+

Drowning Pool - Hellelujah 2016
The accursed nu metal ship known as Drowning Pool hasn't completely run aground yet. Since the 2001 death of singer Dave Williams – his passing coming at the very height of their popularity – they've shuffled through singers and defended misinterpretations of their smash hit "Bodies" in the wake of the 2011 Arizona shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Dealing with the fallout of reports that bassist Steve Benton said he was honored that the U.S. Military was using the band's music during enhanced interrogations of Guantanamo Bay prisoners only made their public relations nightmare worse. So, forgive Drowning Pool for wanting to vent a little on their newest album, Hellelujah, as flame-throwing vocalist Jason Moreno settles in as the band's frontman after debuting in 2012 with a fistful of singles and, later, the 2013 album Resilience. Teeming with aggression and rousing, confrontational anthems packed to the gills with surefire hooks and call-and-response shouting, Hellelujah could spark a most pit in a convent, as "Push," "Goddamn Vultures" and "Stomping Ground" throw their heavy weight around with brawling, vicious grooves and slamming riffs. "Sympathy Depleted" finds the Texans bouncing off the walls in a violent waltz and "My Own Way" locks in with tight, Helmet-like precision, but it's the nasty, mean guitars and infectious, seething energy of "We Are The Devil," as well as the melodic, acoustic tangle of "Another Name" – a fully realized, affecting post-grunge ballad – that would make anyone shout Hellelujah to those within earshot, even if Drowning Pool's sound hasn't really progressed much over the years.

CD Review: Prong – X – No Absolutes
All Access Rating: A
Prong - X - No Absolutes 2016

About as prolific as anybody these days, Prong has been on fire since returning from a brief hiatus with 2012's Carved Into Stone, releasing two more blistering albums of originals, plus a covers LP of punk and rock classics, since then. The band's latest fiery epistle of punk-metal fury is X – No Absolutes, and with intense thrashings such as "Ultimate Authority," "Sense of Ease" and "Cut And Dry," Prong gnashes its teeth with more grit, substance and raw energy than practically all of their peers combined. Immaculately produced to harness their power, ensure the hooks are tight and gripping and enhance the melodic character of these songs, X – No Absolutes is also a fairly diverse listen, at least for Prong, with "Do Nothing" coming off as a sort of an alternative-rock power ballad lifted by a fountain of guitars. "Belief System" is heavier and it buzzes with electricity, while the swarming, meaty riffs of "Soul Sickness" and the frenzied speed of "In Spite of Hindrances" remind everyone that Prong's punk-rock heart is still beating strong. Their hard-hitting socio-political commentary hasn't softened either, nor has Victor's sharp guitar work lost its edge.

CD Review: Various Artists – Morbid Tales: A Tribute To Celtic Frost
Corpse Flower Records
All Access Rating: A-

Various Artists - Morbid Tales:
A Tribute To Celtic Frost 2015
What started off as an homage to blackened extreme-metal legends Celtic Frost by Corpse Flower Records in the form of an illustrated comic would eventually expand to include a tribute album that shows a healthy respect for the source material by not treating it with kid gloves. Some of underground-metal's most malevolent hordes are gathered here, and they set out to befoul the already dark, gothic brutality of Celtic Frost with their sonic malignancy. Spreading like some horrible affliction mercilessly attacking a vulnerable immune system and leaving its victim almost lifeless, Persekutor's "Procreation Of The Wicked" methodically breaks down the original with diseased vocals and trudging riffs, while Acid Witch's enormous version of "Cherry Orchards" is carried off by monstrous, plodding guitars and dies in a thermonuclear meltdown. Municipal Waste downshifts efficiently from ferociously fast punk to mean, mid-tempo metallic riffing in bringing "Nocturnal Fear" back to life, before Hayward (featuring Scott Kelly and Jason Roeder of Neurosis) envelopes "Jewel Throne" in harsh, almost incomprehensible noise. Philip Anselmo appears with Child Bite to lay waste to "The Usurper" in a swamp of sludge that morphs into a riot of punk energy, and Temple Of Void ride roughshod over "Os Absmi Vel Daath" with vim and vigor, a sky-scraping guitar solo and dirty cymbals splashing filth. Celtic Frost deserves all of this and more.

CD Review: Conan – Revengeance
Napalm Records
All Access Rating: B

Conan - Revengeance 2016
The churning follow-up to 2014's Blood Eagle, Conan's Revengeance is made of gradually evolving, ponderous doom metal that practically drags its large knuckles on the ground as it walks. With its hulking mass, "Thunderhoof" plods along grimly with down-tuned heaviness, its distant vocals crying out in the gloaming and then turning guttural as its grey clouds darken, becoming more dense and brooding. Somehow moving even more slowly, as if that's possible, "Wrath Gauntlet" is a crusty wrecking ball of giant riffs that would be a total bore, were it not for its brutally psychedelic crescendo. This is where Revengeance takes a turn for the better, as the feedback-scratched title track and its successor "Every Man Is An Enemy" pick up the pace, with fuzzy coatings blanketing pounding, chaotic energy, while closer "Earthenguard" becomes a hypnotic, mind-bending experience that implodes at the end in glorious fashion. The Beatles came from Liverpool, and so does Conan, who seem intent on bulldozing everything in their way into the ground. However, the power trio could learn a thing or two about melody and song structure from their hometown's favorite sons.
– Peter Lindblad

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