As the summer tour season heats up, Hot Topic is carrying the official Sounds of the Underground compilation. Two CDs and one DVD filled with metal, and related genres, music and videos. I may not like everything that is included on the set, but there is no denying there is some killer tracks included. So, if you aren't going to any of the shows, this is the next best thing, letting you get a little taste of the chaos you are missing. For those who are going, this will likely be a nice set to remind you of the blood that was left out on the floor. 31 songs and 15 videos, how can you go wrong?
Disk one of the set contains one song from each of the bands on the tour, starting at the top and working thier way down. First up is GWAR with "Eight Lock," a thrashy track off their excellent latest release, Beyond Hell. I was surprised to hear that they would be the tour's headliner as the package seems to skew towards more recent acts rather than one that is nearing two decades of activity. Following that are the three acts that will rotate in the secondary headline spot. First up being Shadow's Fall with "Failure of the Devout," one of the heavier tracks from Threads of Life, next up is Chimaira's "Resurrection" from the album of the same name, it is a strong album, and they will likely impress, lastly is "The New Black" from Every Time I Die, and the first track to fail to impress me, there is something about the screamo stylings that just didn't really work for me.
Following the top four are 11 more tracks of metal, screamo, metalcore, death, or however else you would like to categorize it. Highlights from the remaining bands has to start with Amon Amarth, masters of Viking metal, their offering is entitled "Runes to My Memory" from With Oden on Our Side. Job for a Cowboy and Darkest Hour both offer up some very heavy tracks, with Darkest Hour truly impressing with their melodic yet crushing sound. Stepping away from metal for a moment, Necro is an interesting inclusion, a rapper with death metal influences and live instruments. His song, called "The Pre-Fix," is rather interesting, reminding me of Anybody Killa's style. Most of the songs deliver the goods, though The Acacia Stain's music is better than the vocals and 2Cents offers up some interesting narration at the start, but doesn't completely engage me. At the other end of the scale is The Number Twelve Looks Like You who I just do not like, ever since I first heard them on tour with HORSE the Band I just cannot get into them. Likewise, This is Hell doesn't really work for me either, their sound is a bit unfocused to me.
The second disk is more of a label sampler, comprised of other bands from labels whose acts are appearing on the tour. That isn't to say it is bad, not at all. This second disk continues the trend of offering up strong music from bands that are on the way up. Still, also like the first disk, it still has some weakness to offer.
Disk two opens with the thrashy hardcore of Throwdown with the song "Holy Roller." It kicks the disk off strongly with the head banging crunch of the breakdown rhythms. That is followed up with "Firewater Joyride" from A Life Once Lost, not a great track, but definitely serviceable. The third track is a killer death metal cut from Beneath the Massacre called "Modern Age Slavery." Other highlights include the heavy power metal of Cellador with "Never Again," the most melodic, and most pure metal, offering thus far on the collection, as well as Anterior's "The Silent Divide," a strong metallic track. Autumn also delivers a nice metal melody to the mix. The final trio make sure you leave happy with offerings from Skeletonwitch, The Minor Times, and The Human Abstract.
The third disk delivers videos for 12 of the 15 acts on the tour (Job for a Cowboy, The Devil Wears Prada, and Heavy Heavy Low Low are not represented), plus three videos for other bands on the participating labels. The disk runs about 50 minutes and comes complete with first rate video and audio quality. The video is presented in a 1.33:1 full frame ratio, while the audio is uncompressed LPCM stereo.
The disk opens with GWAR's "Eigth Lock" where you can witness the band in their full costumed glory. The videos are a 50/50 split between the songs that are on disk one and different tracks. For the most part the videos are good, I particularly liked GWAR, Shadows Fall, Chimaira, and Amon Amarth, while I still don't really care for Every Time I Die and The Number Twelve Looks Like You.
The disk is rounded out with videos from Kylesa, Terror, and Misery Signals, three bands that do not appear anywhere else on the set. All three of these bands turn in some good songs, making me want to check out other stuff from them.
Bottomline. You can't beat the value, $9.99 for nearly two hours of music, plus a 50 minute DVD of videos? The only thing is that it is exclusively available through Hot Topic, so your shopping choices are limited. Still, there is a ton of good music here, bands you know, bands you don't know rubbing elbows competing for your ear. Great way to find some new bands. I would have to say that this is a highly recommended set, even if I don't like all of it. Oh yeah, be sure to check out the Sounds of the Underground site for tour dates, and special guests like Lamb of God, Hatebreed, Mushroomhead, Testament, Behemoth, Suicidal Tendencies, and All That Remains.