CD Reviews - March 2021
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ANTHROPHOBIA – ALTERED STATES/GRIND EP’s (Code 3 Records) History lesson: Anthrophobia first surfaced on Reading area punk stages in 1985, and evolved into a do-it-yourself touring force in the 1990s with their hard-hitting meld of metal, punk, grunge and rock. They achieved national notoriety after signing and issuing recordings with BMG/EMI subsidiary Mausoleum Records, plus gaining a spot on the 1998 Vans Warped Tour. The group stepped away from it all in 2007, but returned to action in 2015. Their latest recordings – the six-song EP Altered States and the five-song Grind (both released together as a full album on vinyl and download) – show that Anthrophobia has returned with a vengeance. Remaining founding member, snarler and chief lyricist Frank Phobia, guitarist Brent Black, bassist Rob DiJoseph and drummer Dickie Delp deliver go-for-broke, aggressive and visceral rock. The newest of the recordings, Altered States, detonates with the rampaging “Cliff Notes,” with Anthrophobia’s firepower on full display – Frank’s full-frontal vocal howl, Rob’s raw and throbbing bass, Dickie’s driving drums and Brent’s roaring guitar. The group delivers bristling punk and thrash-like velocity on the speed burners “Ghosts” and “Running Out of Time,” and brings forceful thunder on “Technical Difficulties,” the tension-and-release assault “Mute” and the cynical and socially-charged “Take One for the Team.” The Grind EP portion of the set launches with the volatile title track, and also features the introspective rampage “Nerve Endings,” the cellphone addiction rant “Over Reaction,” the classic rock-toned “Ancient History” with its Jimi Hendrix “Third Stone from the Sun” nod, and Anthrophobia’s lengthiest recorded number, the darker 7-minute-plus epic “Before the Crash.” Included with the download version of the album are four previously-unreleased bonus tracks – including the fast-firing theme song Anthrophobia created for Amazon Prime’s animated series “Fundamentally Cynical,” the swaggering rocker “Dropping Like Flies,” and updates of the group’s 1988 number “Cracks in the Ceiling” and 1994 vinyl single burner “Glue.” Anthrophobia displays no-holds-barred intensity throughout all of these numbers – Frank barks and howls his words with drill sergeant-like, in-your-face authority; and the group unleashes full fury and attitude. Both EP’s were recorded and mixed at Magpie Cage Recording Studio in Baltimore, and engineered and produced by J.Robbins (who has worked with Jawbox, Clutch, Local H, Against Me! and more); the sound is clear, edgy and powerful. Anthrophobia leaves no doubt that they are back in the game with the Altered States/Grind EP’s set, unleashing quality sonic mayhem that is made to be cranked loud. (The CD recording can be obtained through the website www.anthrophobia.com; the full package of EP’s and bonus tracks can be downloaded through the group’s Bandcamp page.)
JOHN HAHN – UNDISCOVERED WORLD (no label) 1980s Harpo alumnus and guitar adventurer John Hahn continues to explore hard-rocking musical frontiers on his latest solo offering, Undiscovered World. Through the album’s 11 instrumental tracks, John takes listeners on a journey through progressive-leaning, hard-hitting terrain, assisted by Carl Canedy (The Rods) on drums. He ups the ante here, as each composition inspires and sets up the next on the album, making for a cohesive, comprehensive listening experience. Fans of guitar shredding and virtuosity will find plenty to celebrate here, but John’s detailed, intricate and varied arrangements should also satisfy fans of Dream Theater or Rush. The opening salvo, “Fuel Injection,” comes out the gate firing fast on all cylinders, jolting the listener to attention to commence the adventure. With a foundational intro passage slightly reminiscent of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Diary of a Madman,” “Heaven’s Fury” plots its own darker-toned direction, touching base with the initial passage to separate sections of John’s guitar explorations. Created in memory of his parents, John’s “Remembering You” starts off delicate in tone, but progresses into a celebratory, uplifting vibe. Consistent with its title, the determined assault “Thrill of the Chase” charges forward with dramatic twists and turns, with John’s guitar displays guiding the pursuit. The album features two lengthier chapters; the ethereal and nuanced “After the Chase” leads into the 8-minute “Epic Journey,” featuring Dream Theater-like soundscapes and backdrops for John to continue his guitar adventures. The multi-tiered 8-minute “Air” provides closure to the journey with its dramatic and fast-shifting currents, trailing off to its cosmic finish. John provides technical prowess throughout the album, delivering fast and fluid execution on the guitar strings, mastery in running scales, and evoking mood and feeling in his delivery. The album stays compelling throughout with its variations in chords, tempos and intensities. Produced by John, the album sounds crisp, vibrant, balanced and powerful. Undiscovered World shows John Hahn continuing to explore and expand his hard-rocking musical landscapes, as well as advancing his artistry and creativity. (The album can be obtained through John’s website, www.johnhahn.com.)
MALEENA – BRUISES TO PROVE IT (no label) Maleena is bassist and a singer with Pittsburgh-based rock band Chip & the Charge Ups, as well as the teenage daughter and bandmate of that group’s namesake and founding member, Chip Dominick. At age 18, Maleena has issued her first solo album, Bruises to Prove It. Through the album’s six songs, Maleena channels the emotions and experiences during her teenage years through a variety of musical flavors, spanning gentle acoustic-geared pop and folk to alternative to punk-edged rock. The lead-off song, “I Can't Find You,” is about searching for direction and purpose. The song was recorded during Real Life Music Camp, a program for young musicians operated by Rusted Root's Liz Berlin, who contributes backing vocals on the song. Showing a harder rock direction consistent with her father's band is “On the Run,” where Maleena sings of seeking her own individuality and identity. The acoustic-geared “Homesick” looks for stability and grounding, while the alt-pop-toned “Something More” expresses youthful yearning. Maleena grapples with heartbreak and embracing pleasant moments on “Flashbacks,” and her heart seeks a home on the gentle album-finisher “Rest of My Life.” This is an honest album, as Maleena shares her feelings and vulnerability with a steady and sincere voice. Maleena also plays acoustic guitar here, with father Chip contributing additional guitar and Ed Gourley playing drums on several songs. The album's overall sound is clean, full and balanced, with Maleena's voice front and center in the mix. Named after the 'bruises' of hard work it took to achieve the goal of Maleena's first album, Bruises to Prove It is a solid first effort, and provides an insightful musical snapshot of a young artist establishing her own identity. (The recording can be obtained and accessed through iTunes and other online music platforms.)