Harder Beat Magazine Online
Riverboat Gamblers - Underneath the Owl, Volcom Entertainment
Wow! If this review could only contain one word, that would do it. Wow! The Riverboat Gamblers have always done Texas proud, but their new disc is on a whole new level. Seriously… Wow!
Mike Wiebe and his fellow Gamblers have matured a great deal since their last offering. The eleven tracks on Underneath the Owl have all the energy and brutal force that previous albums have offered, but these new tunes present a beautiful, subtle depth that elevates the disc.
It also helps that they can be sung along to – whereas previous discs were more or less scream-along anthems. That slight touch of pop really goes a long way in making the 36 minutes of punk more appealing to a wider audience.
Forget about naming a best track. This album is so tight and solid, every one shines. And when the final chord is struck, the final note is sung and the final cymbal is crashed, expect to exclaim “WOW!” ****** (Jason Janik)

Thaxton - Self-Titled EP, Self Recorded
This collection of heavy-edge alternative rock could have come from Collective Soul or Dust For Life, but it is Dallas’ own Thaxton behind the wheel of this rock and roll machine.
The trio, made up of guitarist/vocalist Jeff Thaxton, bassist/vocalist RickWayne and drummer/vocalist Jordan Brown, hits hard on tracks like “Best Of Me,” “Life Unwinds” and the highlight, “What The Hell Have I Become.” Check out the band’s infectious sound and get your copy at (Kevin White)

Dirge Within – Force Fed Lies, E1 Entertainment
Force Fed Lies just begs to be cranked up. Ex-Soil guitarist Shaun Glass offers up plenty of guitar shred on “Eulogy” and “Spit.” Drummer Jimmy Knight has no shortage of skills, which is evident as he switches between double bass and thunderous drive on “As I Walk.” Jerms mixes up the vocals between vicious scowl and clean on tracks like “Self Medicate” and “Forever The Martyr.” The songs on Force Fed Lies are hard driving and catchy and beg to be cranked up. Just make sure you don’t blow your speakers on this one. ***** (Travis Tutwiler)

La Coka Nostra – A Brand You Can Trust, Suburban Noize Records
What do you get when you combine House Of Pain, Non Phixion and Special Teamz? A Hip-Hop super group ready to unleash mad skillz on the hip-hop world with a little help from some friends. Everlast, Danny Boy and DJ Lethal from House Of Pain have joined forces with Ill Bill and Slaine on A Brand You Can Trust. “Bloody Sunday” has a great beat, fuzz guitar riff and features Sen Dog from Cypress Hill and Big Left. Snoop Dogg make an appearance on gansta track “Bang Bang.” “That’s Coke” features a sick thumping beat. Cypress Hill’s B-Real makes his mark on “F*ck Tony Montana” and “I’m An American.” While LCN can bring the mad skillz they need to leave the guitar/singing vocals of “Cousin Of Death” and “The Stain,” the rapping is where it’s at on A Brand You Can Trust. **** (Travis Tutwiler)

Here, In Arms - Outlaw, Self Release
Here, In Arms has brought something back to Dallas that’s been missing for quite a few years – straight ahead, honest to goodness rock and roll. The band’s new disc, Outlaws, sounds like a modern take on Born In The USA, and it feels good.
Brent Engel leads the band with a raspy voice reminiscent of 1980’s biggest roots rockers. His vocal tone is a good mix of Bruce Springsteen, John Cougar Mellencamp and Bryan Adams, with a touch of Jon Bon Jovi thrown in for good measure. Backed up by the kind of guitar and piano expected from a 1965 Mustang blasting its AM radio, the tunes feel as honest as an apple pie.
“Texas Rose” and “Me & Eddie” are instant classics. Other tunes like “Georgia” and “Lawman” don’t quite deliver on their potential. Of the album’s eleven tracks, there are way more winners than losers. Overall, it is quite a pleasing disc. (Jason Janik)

23 Link Chain – I’m All In, Self Produced
On I’m All In, this California trio delivers a raw, live, funky vibe on “Pull,” and “Loyalty,” showing off Shannon’s great bass grooves. Most of Mr. J’s vocals are shouts, rapping and talking. Though out of beat at times, the vocals are very rough yet do seem to fit with the band’s sound. Most songs have an almost live feel and give a good sense of what 23 Link Chain might put out during a show. The songs may be a little raw but you may want to see what 23LC can deliver live. ** (Travis Tutwiler)

American Lab Rat - Movements and Assassinations, Independent
Movements and Assassinations, American Lab Rat's freshman offering, culminates as a cohesive CD. The material is listed in a specific order as if to present a concept. It’s metal but strays from the traditional sense and boards its distinction from the late 90's era. This blend of unique musicianship pairs particularly well on Movements and Assassinations. All members move in the same direction with no one person taking complete control. Rather, each has a special time to shine. “What's Past is Prologue/Scapegoat” serves as drummer Aaron's first chance to display his technical diligence, and “Maniacal” shows off Geramy's sometimes-witty guitar workout. Throwing down fat bass lines are no feat for Jake, and Jarod can hold claim as an impactful lyricist and crushing vocalist. Nonetheless, every song is brutal and nonconforming. (Misty Johnson)

Bright Nights Dark Days – Cavo, Reprise
Have you bought the new Daughtry disc? Have you picked up anything by Seven Mary Three, Nickelback or 3 Doors Down? If so, you already own this disc. It’s not that Cavo intentionally ripped off all the other “blah rock” acts out there. They just chose to continue carrying the torch for this terribly boring genre.
The songs are tight and polished, and the entire package seems very professional. It’s hard to fault these guys for creating eleven tracks of generic radio hits. A lot of mindless sheep will eat this up and ask for more. However, nothing on the album sticks out. None of the songs even remotely challenge the listener. It’s a shame, because the band isn’t bad; they just aren’t good. (Jason Janik)

Ahab - The Divinity of Oceans, Century Media
The Divinity of Oceans is the third and final installment for Ahab's sea faring CD trilogy, coined The Nantucket Saga. It embraces nautic funeral doom by hammering the last nail into the coffin with tomb-awakening force. The title track summons the vision of a relentless and maniacal death dealer, that comes only from alien-like ocean depths. Then, after having its bloody fill, it returns peacefully to dark waters. Throughout The Divinity of Oceans, the musicscape is down-tempo and drowsily hypnotic. Christian Hector (guitar) injects tasteful solos that are just enough to keep you from dosing off. On the other hand, Daniel Droste (vocals/synth/guitar) redefines guttural with growls that register lower than a grizzly. The rest of the time his vocal harmonies provide the perfect counterweight. Ahab's The Divinity of Oceans is as epic as one of its literary influences, The Wreck of the Whale Ship Essex. ***** (Misty Johnson)

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