Various Artists, Houston Band Coalition Presents Music for the Masses, Volume 1

Various Artists, Houston Band Coalition Presents Music for the Masses, Volume 1

Compilation discs are difficult to review. It gets even more difficult with a disc like Music for the Masses, Volume 1, where all of the bands are a part of small but beloved local scene, I get a single song from each band to review, and I’ll probably get my face smashed in at Fitzgerald’s if I say anything particularly, um, poignant. Do I focus on each song, decide whether it sucks or not, who it sounds like, tally up the winners and losers, and post the score? Or should I look at the album as the “state of the Houston metal music scene” and proclaim that scene true or false? Or do I take the easy way out, and say that it’s all good music, some of it isn’t my thing, and coddle the bands and the readers into a kumbaya circle, where everything that is local is the best, dude?

Meh. It’s probably a combination of these options: I have to tell you what I like and don’t like, and in many ways, this is a reflection of the local scene, isn’t it? And these songs were chosen by the bands for the compilation for a reason, correct? And we are all in this together, correct? Well, metaphorically, since I’m not the one sleeping in a van scraping together gas money to get to the next gig. And because of that, I have a tough time deeming any of the bands on the disc false; they are all good — nay, supreme — and I deem them all essential.

(If this isn’t translating well, by the way, Google “The Laws of True Metal.” It’ll make more sense, I promise.)

Now that the ass-covering is out of the way… Let’s commence with the one-sentence-or-so-per-song review, front to back. Dine Alone’s “Coming to Senses” combines a powerful APC intro and rhythm with Three Doors Down vocal stylings; a strong start to the album. Hollister Fracus’s “The Power” sounds a bit too much like Disturbd for my taste, but kudos for sort of including a guitar solo (it’s more a bridge/breakdown, but I’ll take any sign of the return of righteous metal wankery). Prognosis’s “Torn” is the most derivative of the MTV metal-lite genre, but it kicks enough ass. I replayed this song a few times, as I’m a sucker for songs where the most important part is the vocal harmony, and there is, again, a guitar solo, even though it’s under the final chorus. Points lost for that. Rhenium’s “Jack” is more down-tuned guitars, soft verse/loud chorus describing, if I’m getting it correctly, a biography of Jack the Ripper (although it should have been sung with a Victorian accent for full effect).

Melovine’s “Take What You Want” is strong, awesome musicianship, and they do dig Lamb Of God, which allows me to deem them true. Trace Element’s “Oceans” starts, obviously enough, with watery echo guitar, following the tried and true formula of quiet verse followed by a thrashing chorus that, for once, doesn’t sound too stale. We also get a real guitar solo, although it’s left-handed, so I’m not sure it counts. Hectic’s Rise is harder than the previous bands, less nü-metal and more hardcore, with a wicked double-vocal attack that actually doesn’t sound like a gimmick. And another real guitar solo. Yes. LoneStar PornStar moves the needle to rap-rock with “Failure Is Not An Option,” comping Zack de la Rocha vocals and a wicked breakdown. Great bass sound. Copious gives us “The Bride,” vocals from the Doug Pinnick/Corey Glover school but thicker and heavier than both, sick-visual Frankenstein-parable story (“Back to the drawing board, but even Jesus makes mistakes”), awesome samples.

I would have liked to hear just a bit more separation amongst the guitars/bass/drums, but I’m nitpicking. Undermine’s “Wake Of An Eye” — have I heard this before? It sounds familiar. Sort of a guitar solo as well, nice and heavy. Then we hit Salting Job’s “Catcher’s Rye.” Fuck yeah, the singer sells it. Somewhere between Metallica, Korn, and White Zombie. Severin’s “Fade Out” is the closest we get to Cold’s emo-core, tons of energy. Truck’s “One Day Behind” is competent alt-pop-metal, sounds like pretty much everything on MTV2, which I guess is a good thing. Finally, Mindflow’s “Innerfaith” is okay, but it sounds like the singer is doubling himself, and one of himselves is a bit flat. But we do get another guitar solo — actually, two solos, and one is in a mid-song tempo change reminiscent of (dare I say it) Metallica’s “Orion.” And we can’t forget the double bass. Sweet.

So, the final score: if I counted correctly, in fourteen songs, we get six guitar solos. The dearth of solos depresses me, but since this compilation came out in 2005, and most of this music dates probably dates from about 2003 or 2004, you can’t fault these bands for riding the wave. And since apparently hell froze over and bands like Slipknot are including huge amounts of shred on their recent albums, maybe the things are swinging back to where they should be. It just sounds a bit dated now.

It will be my mission, however, to see each of these bands live in the future, assuming they don’t implode or get huge record contracts and I have to wipe the egg off my face. And what about the state of Houston’s metal scene? I DEEM IT TRUE. Every one of these bands is worth seeing, and every one of these bands is worth supporting. Any of these bands could be on MTV, could be national, could be famous. The songwriting is really strong, and the production is top-notch. If you are into nü-metal and are from Houston, this compilation is essential. If you just like strong songwriting, heavy music, and some serious talent from a growing music scene, you should pick this up, too. It is in rotation on my MP3 player, and that’s saying something.

(Houston Band Coalition -- http://www.hbclive.com/; N/A)
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Review by . Review posted Wednesday, July 26th, 2006. Filed under Reviews.

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