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Music Review: Fifty Caliber Kiss – Armor Class Invincible

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Fifty Caliber Kiss is the latest metal act to emerge from the Reading, PA scene, a town which boasts a higher murder per capita rate than Los Angeles. What does that have to do with the music? I do not know.

I guess they couldn't think of anything else to say about the town and are using the murder rate as a way to gain some sort of "street cred" in the metal game. I am thinking they should have put a little more thought into the music, a combination of death, grind, and hardcore in a generic mash of uninteresting music. Then there is matter of the publicity blurb which raises expectations to levels  they are not ready for: "Fifty Caliber Kiss have entered the stage to rival the faux cash cow bands that have taken the spotlight in the past year and a half."

When I first saw the rather poor cover art, I would have sworn I was in for some eyeliner wearing screamo kids. I guess they didn't have any other ideas. It is dark, lacking in detail, and makes you stare at it trying to figure out just what the hell it is, not to mention discovering the band name and album title. It features the artistic renditions of the four piece band on a staircase; they are standing around a pile of gray bodies, while the silhouette of a knight stands forebodingly in the back, at the top. Take out the liner notes and you find the lyrics, in a variety of non-inviting fonts, superimposed over grainy black and white photos of the band members, obviously meant to look like they have passed on from this level of existence.

Slip the CD in, press play, and you are greeted with a scream emanating from an empty room, just before the music kicks in to reveal some rather poor production values. Now, I can live with low production values, as it is not the production that makes the music (although good production can help). Excepting the low production value, the music quickly reveals itself to be rather generic, there is nothing to really make it stand out. When you get right down to it, it offers little to truly enjoy, despite the band description leading with " Iron Maiden meets Pantera… yes, Metal is back!" Now that is just not true, I challenge anyone to listen to Armor Class Invincible and convincingly draw comparisons to those two legends.

The more I listened, the more the voice grated on me. It is raw throated screaming of the worst kind. It is purely unintelligible, and has an overall sound that is similar to everything else, absolutely nothing special. Then there are the clean vocals, sometimes lead, sometimes doubling the scream, which always sound just a little out of step with the rest of the band. The guitars move along in the normal routine for this style of music, no leads to speak of, and no real rhythm of interest. There are the occasional drum fills, but hardly anything to write home about.

Fortunately, the album barely crosses the half hour mark, so it isn't long before you can put the experience behind you. By the time you reach the midway point, you will realize a particular song's title is more than just a little clever, "The Moment You Realize You've Made A Terrible Mistake," it is very close to accurately describing the experience. Okay, maybe that was a bit harsh, but it isn't much of a stretch to imagine listening to someone better.

I will admit to liking some of the song titles, which come across as being a little tongue in cheek, indicating a band that has a little fun with itself. Unfortunately that's as far as it gets, as the music strikes me as coming from the deadly serious school. The two best song names have to be "This Wire Cuts Easily Through Meat and Bone" and "The Epicness of Saganess." Those are clever names.

Not to be completely harsh, if this was the first output of a local act on the rise, I would be apt to give them a few chances to see where they go with their development, but this really sounds as the upper echelon of their ability. I do wish them the best, perhaps they will continue to grow and develop and impress with future endeavors.

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