Five Foot Thick Blood Puddle -- If the title didn't clue you in as to what this album might hold in store for your already thoroughly tortured psyche and shriveled eardrums, a listen to the first few seconds of the opening cut, "Unfounded," will clarify everything for you in a hurry. Though slightly less hefty in execution than Five Foot Thick's leaden debut, Circles, the latest from Spokane's most polished nu-metal act, by no means represents an acquiescence to the influence of emo. Cripes, they still sound pissed as hell (why so aggro, man?) and deliver precision metallic assaults and profanity-laced rants with more authority than many on the national scene. But what this? Is that melody I hear (on "Ducked Out," "Nothing" and elsewhere) creeping into the mix to bust up singer Bryan Dilling's mostly screamed, mostly rapped lung-hurling vocals? Yes, by god, and it's most welcomed. Not everyone's cup of poison to be sure, but fans of heavy (and I mean heavy) modern rock should consider picking up this passkey to FFT's curiously and resolutely angry world. -- Mike Corrigan
Sittser Road to Anywhere -- When Sittser was still five unnamed Whitworth College student musicians, they were confronted at their first gig by an MC who insisted they have some kind of name before they hit the stage. Their bass player at the time jokingly yelled out "The Jerry Sittser Band," in reference to one of Whitworth's most popular and prominent professors. The crowd loved it, the name (in truncated form) stuck and the rest, as they say, is history.
With the first "thank you" in the liner notes going out to Jesus Christ, I wondered if I was perhaps too much of a cigarette-sneaking, whiskey-slugging, jaded and demoralized agnostic to be reviewing Sittser's second effort. But folks, I was impressed. The first track, "Price of a Past," started out a little too much in Dave Matthews Band territory, but Tyler Kumakura's articulate, resonant voice and the addition of fiddle and cello rescued the situation in short order. "One More Stop" delivers some competent blues action, and the surprisingly pretty guitar arrangements on "Best of Me" lodged in my head for hours. Their sound is along the lines of Matchbox 20, but I found Sittser much more interesting. The professional quality of this CD, along with the announcement on their Web site that Sittser was recently selected one of www.cornerband.com's best 30 emerging artists, indicates that this band might just be going places in the near future. --Sheri Boggs
Elderstaar Sterling Dreams -- Elderstaar has become one of the premiere hardcore bands in the Spokane area in a relatively short time, and its most recent endeavor, Sterling Dreams, captures their energy and heaviness.
The album's opening track, "Intro," is exactly that. A soothing piano gives way to disjointed yet melodic guitars and just as it begins to take shape, it fades. The "hard" in hardcore makes its presence known through the remainder of the record. The guitar work is characteristic of nu-metal but isn't your run-of-the-mill stereotypical drop D mayhem. Intricate interludes of layered guitars pop up inside of the distorted madness, adding interesting dynamics to the song structures. Rapping between spoken-word jaunts is the vocal delivery of choice here. Instrumentation on this album also includes a bit of piano, a dash of the cello and a guest female vocalist.
The production is very clean, showcasing the music of Elderstaar accurately. The guys are currently working on a new album, so be on the watch for even more new material in the near future. -- Clint Burgess
Cosmic Dust Journey -- One of the great things about musicians in Spokane is their tolerance, even encouragement of artistic diversity. Where some cities have a music community that draws rigorous lines between genres, styles and artists, Spokane has a large group of performers who appreciate skill and taste regardless of the music's origins.
This is particularly apparent on the album Journey by the Cosmic Dust Fusion Band. Based around the easy jazz keyboard work of Jim Templeton, the album is neverthess fearless in utilizing Gary Edighoffer's fusion jazz winds, Scott Reusser's trippy percussion, Clipper Anderson's funky bass and Myles Kennedy's clear rock guitar licks.
The results can occasionally seem schizophrenic, as Dixieland gives way to rock which moves easily aside for jazz band grooving. But the eclecticism is always under control in these seven pieces written by Templeton. And every time a new element or musical influence makes its way into the musical texture, the musicians sound dedicated and appreciative of the style at hand. -- Marty Demarest
Mourning After Six Weeks Away -- Mourning After (formerly Suffice) presents a well-crafted, tightly knit group of songs on the band's first release, Six Weeks Away. The first half of the album consists of melodic but not lacking in heavy rock tunes dealing with loss, triumph and the usual metaphoric nods to former loves. Just about midway through the album, however, a kind of bipolar break is revealed. Whereas the songs on the first half of the album are pretty much straightforward rock (refreshingly devoid of growls and screams), distracting vocal histrionics surface on the latter half. Fortunately, this fractured focus of style is only minor a minor inconvenience.
Standout tracks would have to be "Regretting What You Said" and the title cut "Six Weeks Away." Both evolve from a strong riff and are offset by memorable vocal hooks and energetic performances by all band members. The album is impressively produced and exhibits considerable radio-friendliness. Since leaving its former moniker behind, the group has been relentlessly playing local clubs in support of the disc. Catch it live. -- Clint Burgess
Scatterbox Run Faster, Jump Higher -- Run Faster, Jump Higher is a collection of lean, adrenalized and fast hardcore from a group of dedicated and focused Coeur d'Alene natives. The four-piece band's first full-length work boasts open-throttle tempos played with latex-tight precision, arrangements stripped down to bare essentials and just enough melody to offset singer Tom White's mostly barked vocal observations and commands to action (he sounds like a hopped up Stiv Bators). It's all terrific and mosher-friendly. The slower tempo and slightly more (but not much) intelligible lyrics of "Thicker Than Blood" reveal a songwriting depth sometimes glossed over amid all the acceleration and guitar overdrive. "Wasted Day" is equally approachable and fun with a mighty attractive lead guitar signature. Lace up those gnarly thrash boots and head into the pit! -- Mike Corrigan
Paradox Under the Lights -- I know that I would have liked this a lot more when I was 15 years old, when I was a lot more na & iuml;ve about music and art in general. Not to say that Under the Lights is horrible. This band makes heartfelt, powerful music that they obviously put themselves into completely. It's just that it doesn't push any boundaries. It doesn't make you weep or laugh or dance or do much of anything. The vocal harmonies are great, and the lyrics, although frequently amateurish and even clich & eacute;d, do hit a note of poetic beauty on the title track when lead vocalist Josh Albright sings that "All I see is the outline of your face in the stars / capturing every thought inside my head." Paradox also deserves credit for defying easy categorization. This music is emo, garage rock, adult contemporary and power pop all at once. Surely these guys will grow and develop as a band in the future. Perhaps they'll use their musical talents for something more than the status-quo sounds of Under the Lights.