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CD Reviews – January 2017

toothlessepTOOTHLESS – TOOTHLESS EP (no label) Surfacing from the Wilkes-Barre area in 2015, hard-hitting quintet Toothless captured Metal Act of the Year honors at last year’s Steamtown Music Awards. Their self-titled, six-track EP defies their name, as Toothless delivers a toothy, savage, metalcore-rooted bite. Guitarists Eric Novroski and Brian Zannetti, bassist Scott Wood and drummer James Slattery generate menacing backdrops that blend elements of power metal, hardcore and punk rock, topped by Travis Antoniello’s feral bark. This group knows their turf – their riffs stir the hornet’s nest and quickly escalate the tension factor on each song, and beneath the turmoil reside well-crafted melodic structures that ingrain themselves on the cranium. The disc-opening prelude “Code Blue” sets the monstrous tone, building up to the frantic “Parasite” and its rant about social leeches. With its multi-tiered melody, “Two Worlds Apart” is darker in tone, paying homage to a fallen friend. Toothless incorporates math-rock maelstrom into the torrid “Sensory Deprivation,” modeling its melody around an ever-changing multi-tempo structure. Choosing words wisely provides the lyrical emphasis of the fast and furious “Speak,” while the tense disc-closer “Ennui” addresses societal lethargy. Toothless plays these numbers with all-out ferocity, yet their execution is tight, clean and coordinated. The guitars snarl where they should, the rhythms dynamically batter and punish, and Travis’ vocals ride the edge between melody and rage. Recorded, mixed and mastered by the band, Toothless sounds appropriately thunderous and dangerous, enabling the group’s songs to achieve full brutality. Toothless bares its fangs on their debut EP, a convincing calling card that fans of aggressive metalcore need to look into. (The EP can be obtained through the group’s website, www.toothlessbandpa.com.)

sherrimullen4SHERRI MULLEN – RISE (no label) Her sixth studio album, Rise is Middletown-based singer/songwriter Sherri Mullen’s follow-up and companion piece to her early 2015 piano-driven album Shadows. While Shadows purveyed darker tones and a theme of life’s struggles, Rise offers more hope and a theme of rising up and moving forward from those struggles. In embracing her hopeful theme, Sherri explores some different modes of musical terrain over the album’s 11 tracks, assisted by her son Shane on electric guitar and vocals, Dave Kelly (who co-produced the album with Brian Levering) on guitars, Doug Stockton on bass, Dennis McLaughlin on drums plus several other musical cohorts. With its rising, spacy and ambient arrangement, the album-opening prelude “Daylight” signifies the start of a new day, and turning of a new page. Sherri dabbles in electronica with the trip-hop-edged “Halo,” her ode to trying to follow life’s higher road. Another adventurous highlight is the rhythmic a cappella number “Geography,” about staying in touch. Sherri follows a theme of resiliency on hopeful numbers such as the acoustic-driven “Not Done Yet,” the proud and harder-rocking title track “Rise,” and “Worth Dying For,” about seizing the moment. Other songs are more reflective and contemplative, such as “Everything’s Changed,” “Life Is” and the darker-toned disc-closer “Blind Faith.” Sherri’s expressive voice rings strong throughout the album, as she runs the gamut from sullen lows to joyful highs plus various emotions in between. Her melodies engage and captivate, and her range of styles keeps Rise sounding fresh from start to end. The production is sharp and clear, enabling Sherri’s voice to shine while complementing her with instrumental variety and depth. Rise presents a compelling listen, and provides closure to Sherri Mullen’s two-album examination of life’s adversities and the strength to overcome them. (The CD can be purchased through Sherri Mullen’s website, www.sherrimullen.com.)

 

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