CD Reviews

BY DI ARTS STAFF | JULY 28, 2009 7:07 AM

Backward steps

Divine Heresy: Bringer of Plagues
*** out of *****

Dino Cazares — the heavyset guitarist known for playing pummeling riffs in Fear Factory — has been in several metal acts since an internal dispute with vocalist Burton C. Bell left him out of the band in 2002. Most of these groups were just weaker imitations of Fear Factory.

In 2007, Cazares started up Divine Heresy and released the album Bleed the Fifth, which features the trademark machine-gun guitar playing alongside double bass riffs à la old school Fear Factory.

The album was heavier than any Cazares has released before, and it saw the guitarist diversifying his sound.

Nearly two years later, Divine Heresy is releasing Bringer of Plagues, an album that starts off strong but ends up once again sounding like a weaker version of Fear Factory. Part of the reason for this is the replacement of vocalist Tommy “Vext” Cummings with Travis Neal. Cummings had a powerful voice that added to Divine Heresy’s sound, while Neal has more of the now generic nu-metal voice that Fear Factory helped pioneer in the ’90s.

Cazares still delivers some heavy riffs alongside drummer Tim Yeung and bassist Joe Payne, but most of the music has a “been done before” feel to it. Despite all of this, there are still some great moments on Bringer of Plagues.

“Facebreaker” opens the album with a spiraling guitar lick that kicks things off into high gear.

“Anarchaos” features some groove metal instrumental work complete with pinch harmonics, and the track sees Neal delivering his best vocal performance on the disc. “Monolithic Doomsday Devices” is the most aggressive track on the album and is one of the best.

However, for every badass track on the album there are two generic ones that follow, which doesn’t make for that great of an overall listening experience. Now that Dino and Bell are back together writing music with Fear Factory (legal dispute pending) maybe he will make the album that fans have been wanting after all these years because it’s definitely not Bringer of Plagues.

Eric’s Picks: “Facebreaker,” “Anarchaos,” “Monolithic Doomsday Devices”

— by Eric Andersen

No pleasure here

Ashley Tisdale: Guilty Pleasure
** out of *****

The Disney Channel phenomenon continues to leave the entertainment industry chock-full of teenyboppers attempting to make their mark on a legitimate career. The worst, of course, being Ashley Tisdale — best known for her role as Sharpay Evans, the snotty high-class brat of the “High School Musical” series. Tisdale just released her sophomore album, Guilty Pleasure, to an plethora of tweens.

To be fair, this album, following her solo début two years ago, Headstrong reflects Tisdale’s yearning to be taken seriously as a mature artist, with sultry pictures littering the pages of Guilty Pleasure’s booklet.

Unlike her 18-year-old Disney character, this 24-year-old showcases her developed mezzo-soprano voice in a vocal range that rivals Demi Lovato.

Just what Disney manufactured it to sound like. Her Warner Bros. album is hardly distinguishable from Miley Cyrus’ release last year. Just what the JoBros would sound like if they just hadn’t hit puberty.

If that’s not bad enough, there’s absolutely no separation of sound between songs. Zilch. The first track, “Acting Out,” meshes so easily with the second “It’s All Right, It’s OK,” which sounds exactly like “Hot Mess.” To market Tisdale as a versatile singer would be absurdly laughable — despite the faux somber tune she ends on, “Me Without You.”

But the real catcher is the depth of her lyrics. And by that, I mean in “How Do You Love Someone,” Tisdale cries about her emotionally abusive parents who have left her unable to form a sustainable relationship with anyone and now she “walks around broken, emotionally frozen.”

For all of the teenagers who still watch “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” or believe that Britney Spears hasn’t hit her prime, Tisdale has got to be a godsend. With fabulously Disney fabricated vocal skills and the body and face to match (she just wants the youth to know the honest truth about her nose job), she scores with a summer album. Definitely fun, that’s for sure, but Guilty Pleasure offers just as much as Kevin Jonas before his wedding day.

Kristen’s Picks: “Hot Mess” “Me Without You” and “It’s All Right, It’s OK”

— by Kristen Peters

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