Music reviews

Advance and Vanquish3 Inches of BloodRoadrunner

Four out of five stars

In the metal realm, the term”epic” is reserved for thosewho, through the strike of ahammer-on and the scream ofa banshee, can transport theirlistener onto a battlefield:waging war against demonicwizards while dragons swoopoverhead. It’s true: D&D dorkslike music too.3 Inches of Blood’s major labeldebut, Advance and Vanquish,is really, really epic.”Deadly Sinners” breaks downthe record’s gates with its batteringram of Iron Maidenmetal mayhem, while “Axes ofEvil” and “Destroy the Orcs”hold down the frontlines withdueling guitar glory and medievalmajesty.Tired of 21st century mediocrity?Ready to destroy themachines? Advance and Vanquishwill be your war cry.

Love Angel Music BabyGwen StefaniUniversal

Four out of five stars

Orange County’s pop princessGwen Stefani has tradedin her pin-up punk crown fora dance floor chic that’ll haveeven the purest of punks droppin’it like it’s hot. Love AngelMusic Baby effortlessly makesa path from ber-producersThe Neptune’s backed breakbeatson “Hollaback Girl” toNew Order new wave glamouron “Real Thing” (thanksto none other than New Orderthemselves), without missinga dance step.Yet, it’s the company ofAndre 3000 that Gwen trulyshines though. Andre’s beatmakinggraces the sugar-high”Bubble Pop Electric” and asthe duo gets all jungle-feveron “Long Way To Go,” LoveAngel Music Baby’s glitz goesneon.

Up All NightRazorlightUniversal Records

Two and a half out of five stars

Razorlight is treading thesame quicksand as garage rockrevivalists The Strokes andThe Hives. While most of itscrew have given up hope andsunk to the bottom, though,Razorlight is kicking with allits might.Up All Night keeps its headabove the sand on “GoldenTouch” and “Leave Me Alone”by tapping the artsy postpunkveins of Talking Heads.These tracks suck all strengthfrom the band’s limbs though,as “Rip It Up” chokes on rehashedrock clichs alongsidehipster-rock replay “Rock andRoll Lies.” Unless someonethrows these guys a branch,they’re doomed.

HarmoniumVanessa CarltonA&M

Two out of five stars

Vanessa Carlton is adorable.Harmonium’s chroniclesof summer love and schoolgirlcharades tug at just theright heartstrings to producea symphony of pop purity. It’sa shame that adorable music isso damn hard to stomach.Carlton waxes faux-philosophicalon the jazzy “Afterglow”and cites Steinbeckover coffee in the orchestral”San Francisco,” but in spiteof every ounce of espressobittersincerity, Harmoniumcomes off sweeter than aValentine candy heart withan “I Love You” engraving.When the grand piano grandeuris dropped, Hamoniumdoes manage to shine. “C’estLa Vie” inhales a breath offresh air with haunting FionaApple-esque minimalism, butsadly it’s just not enough. Harmoniumis simply to harmoniousto be taken seriously.

Siren Song of the CounterCultureRise AgainstGeffen

Three out of five stars

Rise Against’s past work haspoured high-octane hardcorefury and melodic punk melodyinto a Molotov cocktail ofpure, unbridled political angst.But on Siren Song of the CounterCulture, major label tinkeringdoused the fuse before iteven had a chance to burn.This watered-down revolutionis embodied by the record’slead single “Give It All”as it fights its hardest to staytrue, but strays into a desolatepop wasteland of cookie-cutterhooks and commercial appeal.The metal-armored “TipThe Scales” does its best to,well, tip the scales but it’s justnot heavy enough to do thetrick. Three stars for politicalangst! Minus two for pop posturing.Compiled by Dan Fletcher