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J. Clark RSS Feed (Canyon Country, CA USA)

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Through the Dark Matter
Through the Dark Matter
Price: $11.80
5 used & new from $7.28

5.0 out of 5 stars Get your cosmic fix, July 12, 2014
This review is from: Through the Dark Matter (Audio CD)
This little EP from The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic is completely in line with the band's self titled LP released last year. It's experimental rock with a retro flavor that will appeal to the "stoner" rock/metal genre fans. UEMG does a great job of exploring auditory space without being too wanky or self-indulgent by the use of the occasional riff to reel things back in.
As with the previous release the recording is well balanced with the details of Ed Mudell's guitar work that neither gets lost in the mix or over shadows Collyn McCoy's funky bass work, which in turn locks in with Rick Ferrante's tight drum work. The drums do have a little too much of that "live" sound that some people like, but I can take or leave it.
The biggest departure on Through the Dark Matter is Spoonful, a cover of an old Willie Dixon song that takes on a life of its own in the hands of UEMG. This track also features vocals sung by McCoy, done in a super dirty delta blues style. Lovers of the jam band style may find the structure of this song too confining, but I like the break from their usual all-instrumental songs.
It's a fun, great little CD to add to your list of albums to put on in the background while letting you mind explore your inner cosmos.

Using the Useless
Using the Useless
Offered by Fulfillment Express US
Price: $19.04
19 used & new from $6.20

4.0 out of 5 stars Fun, riffy metal, April 30, 2014
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This review is from: Using the Useless (Audio CD)
I saw House of Broken Promises playing a show a few years after this CD came out and was immediately interested in getting their CD. A lot of what is out there in the world off metal is very serious, moody or interested in trying to break a record for the number of notes played in a song. I sort of miss old style heavy metal that encouraged drinking, hanging with your buddies and just making a general nuisance of yourself. This CD reminds the listener that chugging downtuned guitars can still be fun. Songs like Blister and Road Grit are the sound track to every backyard party you wish you had gone to. Obey the Snake harkens back to a time when it was OK for a guy to be a guy, a girl to be a girl, and buying copious amounts of liquor wasn't a one way ticket to an episode of Law and Order SVU. There are no shortage of memorable riffs and sing along choruses for a crowd to scream back at the band.
My only real complaint is in regards to the mix. Being a bass player I never thought I hear myself say this, but the bass is too loud both in volume and low frequencies. I believe the singer/bassist on the CD is Eddie Plascencia, who is an excellent player, but on some tracks the bass just runs over the guitar. When I'm listing to this CD in my car, especially to The Hurt, I roll back the Bass EQ so I can hear it better. I believe another album is in the works for HOBP, on which I hope new bassist Joe Mora will have a more even tone without disappearing in the mix, as is common for the style.

Really a top notch first release from i band I hope to hear more from. If you have a chance to see them live go check them out, they are a blast.

Age of Winters
Age of Winters
Price: $10.00
57 used & new from $5.09

5.0 out of 5 stars In the beginning...., April 30, 2014
This review is from: Age of Winters (Audio CD)
I started to get into The Sword just after their second album came out as I was looking around for something new to add to my steady diet of metal. Of the "We sound like Black Sabbath" CDs I went through this one really caught my attention. The recording is a little on the raw side, which for me isn't a bad thing, but at least the instruments are all clean and properly represented in the mix.
The open track Celestial Crown sets the tone for the whole CD, giving the listener a pretty fair idea of where the music is headed. Barael's Blade always reminds me of the first Conan movie with its fantasy sword swinging lyrics. My favorite track is definitely Freya which embodies the blues infused energy of the first three Sabbath albums and is guaranteed to make you want to bang your head. Other tracks like The Horned Goddess and March of the Lor have some almost thrashy speed to them which, alas, doesn't appear in their later CDs.

Great sounding first release from an under rated band
Great example of Stoner Rock/Metal
Fun and heavy

Fans of their later work may find this one a little too simple
Some people hey just write them off as a Black Sabbath knock off
You have to like sludgy downed tuned guitars

Ultra Electric Mega Galactic
Ultra Electric Mega Galactic
Price: $15.18
12 used & new from $10.25

5.0 out of 5 stars Tripped out retro jam, February 17, 2014
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I found out about Ultra Electric Mega Galactic from a friend and quickly became a fan. Normally I'm not into instrument-only post rock or Jaco style punk jazz, but this trio managed to keep my attention. The most notable member of the group is Ed Mundell formerly of Monster Magnet, along with Rick Ferrante (who also drums for Sasquatch) and session bassist Collyn McCoy. Being a bass player myself, I was most drawn to the tight interplay between the drums and bass. While Ed is exploring the outer reaches of sonic universe on the guitar, Ferrante and McCoy keep things things anchored with solid, catchy grooves.
This self titled debut sets the tone pretty quick as the first track meanders psychedelically through some Timothy Leary sounding quotes. After that, the album does a good job of switching up the tempo between songs so as not to wear out the audience's attention, while also providing the occasional classic rock riff. For a small semi-indie release the recording and production is excellent. Each instrument is carefully orchestrated to come up further in the mix when necessary and then slip back to bring the instruments together.
If I was so inclined, this would probably be fantastic album to trip on if under the influence of something. Since I'm a little old for that, I'll merely enjoy the great playing and composition.

Prone to Destroy [Explicit]
Prone to Destroy [Explicit]
Price: $8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Heavy, doomy, metal, February 9, 2014
I saw this band play in LA a few months ago so I thought I'd check out their album. After listening to a few tracks I went ahead bought the digital version of the album. Prone to Destroy is just super heavy. The riffs are catchy, the choruses are memorable and get stuck in your head, plus the lead guitarist shreds in a way rarely seen today in rock or heavy metal. Crowned By Fire is a modern spin on classic 80's and 90's style metal, without musical pretension or gimmicks. I hear hints of classic Ozzy, Alice In Chains, Orange Goblin and Down.
The production of this album is top notch. Every instrument is properly balanced in the mix, each having its own space to be heard. The vocals very from throaty grit to fairly clean, so there is enough variation to keep the listener interested. This genre can sometimes become repetitive, sticking to well worn roads of pace and sound, but luckily songs like Black Moon Shine and As Above So Below shift gears to something more laid back. Another nice thing is that the 11 tracks give you your moneys worth, at a play time just over an hour, you get more than the typical 8 songs/45 minutes that is customary these days.
This is a rare find worth checking out.

13 [Deluxe Edition]
13 [Deluxe Edition]
Price: $11.88
91 used & new from $5.19

4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A great, flawed return, July 14, 2013
This review is from: 13 [Deluxe Edition] (Audio CD)
I've waited a while to write a review of this CD because I wanted to give it a chance to grow on me, to see if I could make an informed judgment about a band that I enjoy a lot.
I think its fair to say that Black Sabbath's 13 is good album that spanks what passes for "rock" these days, but in the context of the entire band's entire catalog, there are some issues that keep this from being "the greatest Sabbath album ever." Most of my observations hold with what other reviewers have brought up as the albums high points and low points.
First and foremost, this is absolutely a Black Sabbath release. The Black Sabbath name has been used on some pretty questionable stuff over the years, mostly due to record labels not letting Tony Iommi release a solo or side project. Some Sabbath CDs simply aren't Sabbath and they were never intended to be; luckily this isn't Seventh Star or Forbidden. Tempo and tone wise it falls very much in line with the Heaven and Hell's "Devil You Know" and Geezer Butler's solo project. Its slow tempo, heavy and percussive. Unfortunately a lot of Sabbath's original blues influences only show up on the track Damaged Soul, which I think is my favorite. A lot of the energy on their early releases and Dehumanizer is also missing. Black Sabbath was never known for long songs so I was surprised to find so many of the tracks clocking in around 6 to 7 minutes. Personally I would have preferred shorter songs since the tend to border on repetitive.
A lot of comment has been made about this "reunion" CD missing the key ingredient of Bill Ward. There are only 4, maybe 5 if you include Sharon Osborne, people that know what the real problem was that prevented him from being on this CD. Whatever the issue, given the age and health of the members, they really should have just fixed whatever the problems were and moved on. If Bill wanted more money, give it to him. Why? So everyone in the world doesn't constantly bring it up. All that aside, Brad Wilk does a great job as a fill in. He is a talented and versatile drummer that imitates Ward's grove pretty well; something Bill should have kept in mind when negotiating with the band over this record.
The worst performance on the CD is Ozzy. The man will turn 65 by the end of 2013, lived a hard life that has put a lot of miles on his pipes, so its not surprising that his voice isn't very dynamic anymore. People try to blame Rick Rubin, but if you listen to Ozzy's most recent releases you can year the same straining and reliance on post production that is present on 13. I love the man and what he has done for music, but the voice is an unforgiving instrument because its your body. Even Dio was showing signs of weakness in his voice on Devil You Know; it happens.
Where Rick Rubin needs to be made to answer is to the charges that he is the foremost propagator of the "loudness war". The mixing/production of this CD is cluttered, much like his infamous work on Metallica's Death Magnetic. Depending on how you listen to this CD your mileage may very; it doesn't distort like Death Magnetic and at least the drums don't sound like they are right next to you head. To capture the classic essence of Black Sabbath I would have preferred an approach taken by bands like Witchcraft, Graveyard or The Sword where there is at least an attempt to give the instruments more space. There is little organic warmth in this CD, which 60% of people will never notice, but I find slightly grating.
Finally the songs themselves. Two are simply redone Ozzy era songs. I suppose there is some kind of irony in End of the Beginning sounding a lot like their self titled track Black Sabbath, which then bookends the fade out on Dear Father which is the same rain/bell track as Black Sabbath. Its cute, but a tad of a cop out. Then Zeitgeist is just Planet Caravan 2.0. The tempo change is nice, which shows us a little more of that experimental feel early Sabbath was known for, but they could have been a tab more original with it.

This is real heavy metal the way it should be. Dark, pummeling, heretical and completely unrepentant. Everything a Black Sabbath CD should be.
Tony Iommi redeems himself and the Black Sabbath brand. If they hadn't done this they would have been a band that merely relived former glories and had to rely on Forbidden as their swan song.
Geezer Butler's playing is a master class in how metal bass is done. Forward in the mix, dirty, with attitude.

This is a pretty safe release. They didn't tread a lot of unknown territory with 13 or embrace any new musical memes. It often seems like they are trying to be the slow sludgey band people think they are rather than the experimental, energetic band they actually were.
To make this work they needed Ozzy. His voice isn't what it once was, with him often sounding tired or uninspired. Was it him or the writing/production I don't know.
The mixing of 13 is a mess. The guitar and bass are fighting with each other for space, while the dynamic range of the instruments suffer from too much compression. A more organic, classic mix would have suited the release better.

Bottom Line: 13 sits solidly in the upper middle of Black Sabbath's releases. They have some genre defining albums and some truly forgettable albums. 13 will not displace Paranoid as the most beloved Black Sabbath release, but I don't regret buying it or wish it was something else. I don't know what time has in store for the varied members of Black Sabbath, so this may be their worthy swan song or the beginning to a new chapter in this band's career. If you are fan of Sabbath's entire catalog you must buy this CD, if you are a fan of Ozzy era Sabbath this is still a very good CD, if you are fan of what passes for metal today you should get this CD and learn something from your elders.
Comment Comments (10) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 6, 2013 7:26 AM PDT

The Last Spire
The Last Spire
Price: $13.52
45 used & new from $4.36

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fitting swan song, June 12, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Last Spire (Audio CD)
I'll admit to starting to like Cathedral a little late in the game considering I remember hearing "Ride" back in 1993 and brushing it off. At the time, compared to other metal acts like Sepultura, Napalm Death, Carcass and Morbid Angel, Cathedral seemed slow and oddly retro. Which, in its own way sums up what most people need to know about Cathedral: They don't care about trends and what other bands are doing, they are doing to do what they want to do. That philosophy is demonstrated on The Last Spire, which according to the band, will be their last album as Cathedral. Things like that tend to change, but for now I'll take them at their word.
Through out their 20 year career and 10 full length studio albums, Cathedral as shown an amazing amount of flexibility, finding ways to blend slow as molasses doom metal with progressive and 70 retro elements. Some of their CDs are more straight ahead metal (Ethereal Mirror, Garden of Unearthly Delights) while others (Guessing Game, Supernatural Birth Machine) explore some pretty far afield musical ideas. Spire combines elements from all of their albums so as to be a almost a recap of everything they've done, although I think the doom elements outweigh the progressive elements.
The doom elements are things like long, around 7 minutes on average, sludgy songs that are about decay, death and all the things you'd expect lyrically. The progressive elements show up in some very abrupt time changes, retro elements like xylophone interludes, and melodies that somehow remind me of the Beatles. As other reviewers have mentioned the first track is appropriate, but a complete waste of time. Its filler that goes on just a little too long. The first single, Tower of Silence, contains what I believe to be a good-bye to their fans as Lee Dorian growls about the wheels of time stopping and the Tower of Silence calling him. One thing I noticed is that this album doesn't have a single song about witches on it, which I think is rare for them.
Production wise Spire is top notch. Gaz Jennings guitar work is thick and sick as usual, Brian Dixon's drumming is a little withdrawn because of the slower tempo of the CD, and new bassist Scott Carlson sounds good although he lacks some of Leo Smee's style. Some people have never liked Lee's voice, and that won't change with this CD. Personally I think his performances usually match the tone of the songs well.
Where this album falls short for me is that some of the songs are too long and a little random, almost to the point of being meandering. Some of the songs could have been broken into 2 that would have been more cohesive. This is also their slowest, "doomiest" CD since Forest of Equilibrium, which fans of Sleep or Electric Wizard will enjoy, but my death metal inclinations make me prefer faster beats.
Cathedral has gotten this far by doing whatever they hell they wanted, doing it for themselves and their fans, which is a brave decision in this world of music charts, focus groups and careful marketing. They never reached some of the high platitudes of their peers, sacrificing income opportunities for musical integrity. My hat's off to you gentlemen.

Because this CD is their last by choice, the band has made a statement about their musical journey that says "In case you missed it, here's what we've done."
Fans of Cathedral will find something to like on this CD to like regardless of what aspect of the band they like.
If taken completely out of the context of the band, this is a wonderfully dark and morose album.

The bass and drums are a little uninspired due to the slower tempo of the CD.
The songs can be a tad ponderous and take hard turns.
I can't say I'm in love with Cathedral's fascination with 70's psychedelic cheesiness. I know it's their thing, but I don't get it.

Bottom Line:
It's kind of sad to see these guys trudge off into the murky darkness, but as they point out in their songs, all things die. The Last Spire is a strong final release by a band whose musical identity is trying not to have one. Current fans and fans of doom metal will enjoy this CD; most of everyone else will shrug it off as a curiosity, as they have for 20 years, and move on to something else.

Fosmon S-Shape Flexible TPU Gel Case for Samsung Galaxy S3 - Black
Fosmon S-Shape Flexible TPU Gel Case for Samsung Galaxy S3 - Black
Offered by SF Planet
Price: $4.29
4 used & new from $0.50

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inexpensive, basic case., April 28, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I'm usually very good with phones, and keep them much longer than most people, so I didn't really feel the need for some crazy case for my Galazy S3. Without a case, this phone is sort of slippery since the edges are very smooth, so getting something that made me feel like I had a secure grip was important.
This Fosmon S-Shape case does what any basic case should. It provides basic protection from scratches, let's you keep a grip on your phone, and provides a minimal amount of shock prevention if you drop your phone. This case has molded buttons for the on/off/sleep button and volume buttons exactly where they should be. The cut outs for the power, headphones, camera and flash are properly located and sized.
The case is pretty thin and will not protect your phone from serious abuse. It fits pretty sung over the phone which may be difficult for some users, or may peel your screen protector if it reaches too far over to the edges where the case goes on. I personally experienced none of these problems.

1.) Simple, slim and cost effective.
2.) Fits the phone perfectly so as not to hinder use of any of the features.
3.) Quick shipping from the seller.

1.) Very thin, it will not protect your phone if you are clumsy.
2.) Some people may be frustrated by the snug fit in terms of getting it on and off.

Bottom Line: I'm not one for super decorative phone cases. The design of this case is basic in a way that I like and essentially gives me everything I was looking for. I know that there are better cases out there in terms of protection, but they are also a lot more expensive and bulky. Its cheap, its simple, its no frills; that works for me.

VSONIC GR02 Bass Silver Cord Earphones Earbuds Ear Canel IEM for MP3, iPhones, iPods and iPads - Black
VSONIC GR02 Bass Silver Cord Earphones Earbuds Ear Canel IEM for MP3, iPhones, iPods and iPads - Black

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Really good earphones for the money, April 24, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I decided to get myself some decent earphones for listening to music on my Sansa Clip and Galaxy phone, but thought that my $15 Sony pair from a big box store just wasn't doing the music justice. I dove head first into the frighteningly complex world of In Ear Monitors (IEMs) in order to make sure I got the best deal for the dollar.
I settled on the the VSonic GR-02 IEMs after a month of research comparing reviews of the various models in my price range. I had never heard of VSonic, or 50% of the companies I was reading about even though I'm a musician with some knowledge of Pro Audio, so I just had to get over that. Then there was the fact that this is Chinese product, which instantly screams sweat-shop and low quality to me. After reading enough reviews I was able come to terms with Chinese IEMs being as good or better than their US or EU competitors.
When I received my package from Amazon I was immediately impressed with VSonic's packaging and presentation. The box was easy to open, not requiring a chainsaw or blow torch like so many plastic packages do, and the product was snugly set in a form board to prevent damage during shipping. The box contained A LOT of different tips to meet the user's needs; unfortunately without any instructions on how to tell them apart. There were three "hybrid" tips (foam inside of a latex cup), one set of two flange tips, three shallow plain black latex tips, and six pairs of clear latex tips of varying size. After sorting through them for an hour I was able to figure our that the colored canals indicate sizes (relative to what I don't know) and that there were two basic shapes of each size; slightly oval and a perfect half circle. The IEMs themselves are well constructed, felt solid to the touch and have a nice rubber pumper around the edge that goes down the cable a half an inch. My only gripe is that some of the glue that sticks the rubber to the driver housing is smeared a little, giving it cheap look.
Plugging them in right away gave me sub-par results, which is to be expected. Speakers of any real quality need to "break in" before they loosen up to a point where they give the listener any warmth. Some of the bad reviews may be results of people that were expecting them to be awesome right out of the box. I had to let them run for several hours with either music or white noise playing through them before I finally "got it." I also had to get the tips right. The wrong size or shape will affect the isolation, which will then let the highs and lows bleed a little, creating a tone that is nasal and mid centric. I opted for the rounded, large, hybrid tips to get the best results for me.
Once I got the GR02s set up right, the difference between them and my Sony earphones were like the difference between low-def and hi-def TV. You know you like it, but you aren't really sure why until you go back to your old stuff and realize its terrible. The sound is bigger and give an impression of space between the instruments that I couldn't hear before, as well as allowing me to hear subtle little background details. The sound profile matched a lot of the descriptions I had read: solid bass, nice mids, and highs that are sufficient but lack any sparkle. Since I don't have a $100 pair of IEMs handy, I'll take their word for it. There are times where the highs do seem a little lackluster. Bass freaks that like hard hitting sub-bass are going to be disappointed by the natural, rounded bass of the GR-02s.
For the money I spent on them, I think this is one of the better investments I've made. The VSoinc GR02 earphones present sound in a way that simply makes enjoying music that much easier. The tone isn't 100% perfect, but still far better than anything I've been able to get from the cheap ear buds and earphones I've used before. The improvement in audio quality is so much that I can't help but wonder how much better the $180 VSonic GR07 IEMs could be. I may become an IEM junkie now.

1.) Until you try a quality IEM, you don't know what you are missing. The details of what you are listening to become so much clearer when you are using the right equipment.
2.) The packaging and accessories are top notch. It gives the product a sense of quality and value to the customer you won't get from Klipsch or Sennheiser at the same price point.
3.) I find them comfortable to wear for an hour without thinking about it.

1.) If you don't break them in and don't use the right tip for your ears, they just won't sound that good. Its up to the user to figure out the tip situation.
2.) In regards to the tips, they are a bear to get on and off. While this is a plus in that they won't just pop off at the wrong time, some users may become frustrated as they try different tips.
3.) These aren't easy to find, so you are gambling a little with something you really can't try or return if you don't like them.

Bottom Line: I really dig the VSonic GR02 IEMs. They make me want to listen to music not just as a distraction, but as an experience to be enjoyed. Since I have a real love for music, that is pretty special to me. Some people may not be willing to roll the dice on a set of $35 earphones from a company they have never heard of just to listen to some poorly ripped 160 bit-rate MP3s while they walk the dog. That's totally understandable, and these may not be for those people. But if you listen to music to LISTEN to music, treat your ears to a little sugar.

UPDATE 07/14: I accidentally left these in the pocket of my pants when they went through the wash (not the dryer). To my surprised THEY STILL WORKED! I wouldn't suggest doing this yourself, but these are rugged enough to get wet, have detergent on them, and sloshed around in my HE washer. I let them air dry before testing them. I'm relieved and impressed.

Realm of Chaos
Realm of Chaos
6 used & new from $7.68

5.0 out of 5 stars A classic Death/Grind album, April 12, 2013
This review is from: Realm of Chaos (Audio CD)
If I had to list my top 10 best ever Grindcore/Death Metal albums, this would be near the top of that list. Released in 1989, is album combines all the things that make the genre what it is: brutally heavy, emotionally dark, adrenaline pumping fast, music that makes you want to crush someones skull. It is just clean enough and just crusty enough to let you hear everything that is going on, while still offering auditory chaos.
I first found out about Bolt Thrower and Realms of Chaos while flipping through a copy of White Dwarf magazine, published by Citadel for fans of their table top and role playing games. Being a fan of the Warhammer 40,000 universe I was immediately interested in getting this CD, but found it hard to get in the US. After finding a place that would order it for me (remember this was 1990, no internet, no Amazon) and waiting for weeks my patience was paid off with this metal feast. Because of the partnership with Citadel on this CD, there are several Warhammer inspired songs and the original artwork (which is no longer available but I have) displayed Space Marines doing what they do best; blowing the heads off of things. The music on this album conveys so much of the dark violence inherent in the WH40k universe that the pairing is nothing short of art.
Fans of more modern Death Metal fare will probably find this CD slow and messy. Early Grind wasn't pretty and Bolt Thrower was never the fasts band in the genre, but RoC is by far their fastest offering. Their later CDs are more cleanly recorded, better produced, and the drumming is cleaner as they grew as musicians. However, the raw energy and emotion that comes out of this recording is undeniable. All That Remains truly makes you feel like you are the last person left on a planet on which war has claimed the life of every else. Eternal War clearly states Bolt Thrower's philosophy that arcs through all of their recordings, that humanity is bound to a destructive path of warfare. My favorite track, Through the Eye of Terror, not only has one of the tastiest riffs in metal, but creates perfectly the image of The Warp, the sub-reality where the Lords of Entropy turn human emotion into nightmares according to the WH40k mythology.
Dark, heavy, sludgy and just brutal in musical sense, Realms of Chaos is a timeless masterpiece.

The recording is the perfect combination of low and high production to provide something that is listenable, but unclean.
If you are a Bolt Thrower fan, you MUST own this CD. The difference between RoC and Those Once Loyal, is pretty big, but there is still a connection between them.
If you are a fan of WH40K, this CD is the sound track to the Dark Millennium.

People that are more into current technical Death Metal like Decrepit Birth or Obscura might find this CD simplistic and sloppy.
Due to legal reasons the current version of the CD has some lame artwork that would have never grabbed my attention the way the original did.
As much as I love the original line up with Andy Whale on the drums, the simple truth is he wasn't that solid of a drummer or that inventive. I would like to hear what Martin Kearns could do with this album.

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