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I'm from the "metal is life" school of thought, but I need rock 'n' roll in my life. Whatever their outward trappings, only bands steeped in rock 'n' roll stand a chance of reaching the inner sanctum where the crazed fan in me resides.

Bones released their debut (Planet Metal, 2011) two weeks ago, and became the one old-school death metal revival band that I give a deep-down fuck about. Don't get the impression that their music is "death 'n' roll". It's three ex-Usurper members sounding like their dirty old selves, but in a really good mood. They recorded basically live in the studio. Sanford Parker mixed the results raw, leaving plenty of breathing space around the trio's weapons. And the sticker on the cover reps Master, positing Bones one generation away from the Motörhead-inspired ground zero of death metal. The rock 'n' roll produced as byproduct of this chemistry is as inevitable as a hangover.

The first riff on the CD melts Sodom's "Witching Metal" into something slower and raunchier, revealing what it’s always been: "Bad to the Bone" sped up, stretched out, and folded over on itself. Carcass Chris occasionally lights up his thrashing death with full chords of both the life-affirming AC/DC and creepy Voivod varieties. When he takes a solo sans rhythm track, Jon Necromancer's crumbling distorted bass fills in. The bass is hard-panned like a second guitar, adding immediacy to dramatic rests and pounding single notes. On headphones, this sounds quirky but massive. On the stereo, it’s a total deathquake.

The coolest thing about Bones is hearing Joe Warlord play drums again. "Apocalyptic" Warlord was the x factor that made early Usurper so aggressive. Even when the band played three chords at a moderate pace, the jarring double bass accents and fried-sounding cymbals made the music feel fast and brutal. No one else peppers traditional metal drumming with as many 32nd note stabs as this guy. Plus his drums always sounded strange, like they were made of extra-hard materials. Parker's mix takes the weird assortment of timbres and makes it Bonham-sized. The playing gets sloppy at times, but as Planet Metal boss Chris Black points out, Joe plays the song on drums, mapping every line with non-repeating fills. These strutting, whip-cracking grooves would be funky if they weren't so damn barbaric.

Bones is a unique and strangely musician-ly band, without trying to be. Rockin', thrashy, brutal, catchy, doomed, dirge-y, upbeat - the moves blend as naturally as accumulated experience. If you love morbid death metal and the eternal rock 'n' roll party, give Bones a listen.

— Matt Altieri

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"March of the Dead"


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