Cannibal Corpse
The Bleeding
(Metal Blade)

In the press release accompanying this unrelenting piece of shit, the group's "vocalist" Chris Barnes says the titles of his "songs" tell you exactly what each one is about. He's not kidding; just get a load of these choice cuts: "Force Fed Broken Glass," "Stripped, Raped and Strangled," "The Pick-Axe Murderers" and, of course, the incomparable "Fucked With a Knife."

In defense of this last morsel, Barnes asks listeners to read the lyrics before deciding whether he's glorifying violence against women. A quick glance at the insert should acquit Barnes of all charges--he covers himself by singing "she liked the way it felt inside her." Ick!! Now Simi Valley, California (home of Metal Blade Records), has two stupid decisions to answer for--the Rodney King verdict and releasing this blood bath!

One last note before permanently closing the coffin lid on Cannibal Corpse. It could hardly help NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) to have Cannibal Corpse soliciting supporters for pro-pot legislation on a grizzly, blood-stained CD insert that has all the warmth of a just-zipped-up body bag. Maybe the band should change its name to Cannabis Corpse and play at all of NORML's rallies, just to prove that marijuana truly does lead to the stronger snuff.--Serene Dominic

The Funky Headhunter

And just when you thought it was safe to turn the radio back on comes the undisputed king of Oakland, California, the one and only Hammer, sans the M.C., with his attempt at original gangsta rap.

Headhunter is filled with sucka-soundin' weak beats that leave you with a Mr. Softie feeling. This album is too corny and clearly all commercialization, a last-ditch effort for Hammer to throw away his Sinbad pants and save his ass. I feel sorry for the man. Hammer needs help, and a lot more help than what he asked for from Teddy Reily, The Dog Pound (Snoop Doggy Dogg's label) and Roger Troutman from Zapp.

This album can in no way be considered hip-hop. I don't know why they even put it in the "rap" section. Apparently, the sales clerk got confused by the O.G. tissue paper Hammer wraps himself in. Guess what? The paper is see-through and so is he. Hammer needs to shop for a thicker brand like Scott T.P., and that's what this 100 percent whack CD should be wrapped in before you toss it out!

Hammer is an entertainer, a businessman, an entrepreneur, but not a rapper.--Danielle Hollomon Rollins Band


Remember the Scared Straight program? That was where juvenile offenders were taken inside a maximum-security prison to hear lifers talk tough to them about what it's like in the big house. Weight is sort of like that, except the listener gets to spend 53 minutes imprisoned inside Rollins' paranoia. It's a world of anger, a world of tears, a world where you can't even go out for a pack of smokes without being tied up, raped, dragged down the street and torn limb from limb. This album will have you so convinced it's a worse jungle on the outside that you might volunteer to spend the night in Leavenworth for your own safety.

"You're pathetic and weak/I'd like to crush you like an insect" is just one of guest speaker Rollins' many icebreakers. Every song begins like an intervention for the impressionable with Rollins gently addressing his wide-eyed pupils, then slowly building up a froth until by the chorus he becomes Ralph Kramden in Dante's Inferno.

But he's not going to take the heat for your stupid mistakes, which is why every man, woman and child should be required to listen to "Liar." On this tuneful tirade, Rollins warns that smiling faces not only don't tell the truth, they'll turn you into pathological, zombie liars just like him. Yet disdain is not a one-way street; in "Divine Object of Hatred," he invites all and sundry to "let me know your hatred's real." Even if you don't agree with all his tough raps, you've gotta love an album that pays tribute to both Black Sabbath (one song's titled "Vol. 4") and the Ray Charles Singers (abuse me with all of your heart, that's what I'm here for"). Truly heavy.--Serene Dominic

Far Beyond Driven

This long-awaited follow-up to the phenomenal Vulgar Display of Power was expected to be the thrash album of the year--but not so fast. Although Pantera is still quite heavy and immensely popular, the band no longer seems to groove the way it did on Display. One comes away remembering very few of the songs here, which is dangerous.

"Strength Beyond Strength" opens the album with breakneck speed and hellion guitar runs, but the album soon drifts into some bizarre keyboard passages and ruins its lethal sting. A general guideline for Pantera: A little keyboard is too much keyboard.

There are a couple of bright spots, though.
"I'm Broken," the first single from Beyond Driven, rings a bit much of classic Black Sabbath, but its lyrics are still classic, angry Pantera. Hearing vocalist Phil Anselmo belting em out is like hearing a one-way conversation with Satan on speed.

The downright evil track "Slaughtered" brings to mind the Pantera of old, ruthless and grooving. Here is a slice of the tight and intricate compositions which are closer to "Mouth for War" than anything else on the album. Here, one truly gets a sense of the sheer talent and tightness of the band.

But this fact remains: Pantera has lost most of the magic that fueled Vulgar Display of Power and now seems unable to even come close to its intensity. Such is the curse of releasing a standard-setting album. Nobody will be able to touch it. Not even Pantera.--Michael Lee Willis

A.K.A. the Rugged Child

Shut up and sit, cause here come the hits, y'all. Shyheim's A.K.A. the Rugged Child kicks a street game for a new generation and a lyrical style that'll have you believe he's no Mac-Daddy and no Daddy-Mac. This 15-year-old Staten Islander pumps lyrics with an Old School swing nonstop. He's light-years beyond Kris Kross. This is not Another Bad Creation.

Shyheim collaborated with the chart-climbing WU-Tang to create a blend of slammin' beats that provide you with a rough and rugged tempo to ride to in your Jeep or low-rider. And you can clearly hear what Shyheim's lyrics are about; no goo-goo, gaga babbling here. Shy wants you to hear his message, a hard-core reality from a 15-year-old's perspective. Shyheim takes issue with black-on-black violence, drug dealers, life in the projects, teenage prostitution and drug addiction, and sheds a stark light on the reality he sees on the streets. It's hard to believe this kid existed around this stuff. If Shyheim can pull off these rugged sounds on his next album, we're gonna hear a lot more from this kid. A lot of shorties come off with one or two singles, but nothing like this. Shyheim is outta here!--Danielle Hollomon

Vauxhall and I

On last year's highly successful album Your Arsenal, Morrissey achieved near-heartthrob status in the United States. Whenever he appeared on TV, you could hear teenage girls squealing in the studio audience as if they wanted to jump his celibate/homosexual bones right then and there; this album is designed to delight and enlighten that new sector of Morrissey fans.

The CD booklet opens up to reveal a soft-focus, head-to-crotch shot reminiscent of the lavish gatefold sleeve to the Here Comes Bobby Sherman album way back in 1970. Vauxhall and I's music also features a soft focus. The tunes are a lot less chipper this time around--don't expect to find rockabilly shuffles or "You're the One for Me, Fatty" here. Instead, you get a collection of baroqueish ballads reminiscent of the last Smiths album, the underrated Strangeways, Here We Come. One song, "The More You Ignore Me, the Closer I Get," is such a pleasant ringer for "Girlfriend in a Coma" that you can sing that entire song over the new number and achieve a bizarre, "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" effect.

The album's most poignant moment, "Hold On to Your Friends," wistfully recalls early Ray Davies. But it isn't long before Morrissey's back to his old miserable self, bitching about how his friends only call him when they're feeling depressed.--Serene Dominic

The Proclaimers
Hit the Highway

Are you still so sick of "500 Miles" that you'd run 10,000 miles just to get away from Scottish brogues? Well, don't. The hardest-working siblings in show biz since the Menendez brothers are back with an album full of worthy successors to that hit.

And Charlie and Craig Reid will do anything short of killing their Mum and Dad to put a song across. Scream. Plead. Sweat, toil and bleed. Sure, they look nerdy and their stage presence borders on epileptic. Regardless, this duo is guaranteed to wear you down with charming ditties like "Don't Turn Out Like Your Mother" and "The More I Believe," where the brothers wax mystical on such diverse topics as fear of God and reincarnation (I'm noot coomin' buck as a floower").

Admittedly, the Proclaimers didn't consult the Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul for the correct pronunciation of "loonely," but this reverent, drop-to-the-knees cover version of "These Arms of Mine" doesn't disgrace the Big O's memory in the least. An album filled with doo-woppish songs celebrating marriage, the work ethic, religion and family might seem terribly old-fashioned, and it is--proudly, stubbornly so! The boys leave no room for misinterpretation in the title track--Yoo goo muy weee, or heet the hueyweee!" Rest assured the highway won't promise as fun a ride as this.--Serene Dominic

Hsker D
The Living End
(Warner Bros.)

If Warehouse: Songs and Stories was Grant Hart and Bob Mould's Double Fantasy, this live set from the band's last days is its Milk and Honey. As on those albums, Hart and Mould alternate lead vocals, and even bassist Greg Norton gets to bellow a few in between. The Living End offers a healthy, 20-song sampling of the Hskers' career from "New Day Rising" right up to two unreleased tunes the band was readying for its next album, "Now That You Know Me" and "Ain't No Water in the Well." Though this stuff was recorded only weeks from dissolution, the music sounds like anything but a death knell.--Serene Dominic


This fifth Phish album is the audio equivalent of a Kellogg's Variety Pack, where every cereal tastes grrrrreat. Better yet, there's not that one indigestible box of All-Bran that hangs around in your cupboard for years. No matter what style of music Phish tries to tackle, be it barroom swing (Julius," featuring the Tower of Power horns), funk (Down With Disease"), psychedelic and stadium rock (Axilla [Part II]") or bluegrass (Scent of a Mule"), the band pulls it off admirably.

"Lifeboy" is easily Phish's best-ever song, ranking with the finest work Richard Manuel did with the Band (God never listens to what I say/And you don't get a refund when you overpray"). It helps that the group has toned down the overt cleverness of previous releases and enlisted Paul Fox to utilize the same imaginative production values he brought to XTC's Oranges and Lemons album. Don't pass up Hoist, because it truly is an uplifting experience.--Serene Dominic


Shortly after Elvis shuffled off this mortal coil to sing in that celestial choir, along came a guy named Orion who claimed he was "Presley reborn." He sported jet-black hair like you-know-who and sang exactly like him, too, but wore a Lone Ranger mask to conceal his secret identity. This Masked Marauder managed to convince Sun Records to record a couple of his albums before disappearing into a sea of Elvis-related curios.

The King had his Orion, and now Prince has his Ovis. This CD arrived mysteriously without any Ovis pictures or pertinent bio information. All we know from the press release is that Ovis is a successful studio engineer who set out to perfect "the archetypical pop album that existed inside his head." Or, more to the point, Prince's head! This forgery would be unforgivable except for one thing--it's the best Prince in ages! By penning Michael Pennish lyrics to songs that wouldn't sound out of place on 1999 or Sign of the Times, Ovis maintains a consistency of scope and vision long missing from the Purple One's work. Look for "Restless Thing" to be the next great summer single you hear. And who knows? Maybe there'll be an Ovis tribute album someday.--Serene Dominic


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