The Atlantic Manor
Blueline Medic
Circulatory System
Diafana Krina
Mel Graves
The Hermit
ceVin Key
Mercury Rev
Brendan Murray
Erik Sanko
Trespassers William
Utah Carol

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Vine of Souls
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Donít let the name Iowaska fool you. This band has absolutely nothing to do with either Iowa or ska. This is a very British, and very Black Sabbath/Hawkwind-esque "space rock" four-piece from Essex, England. On first listen, I found this album almost comical. The hollow, heavily accented vocals of lead singer Sam (female), and the lyrical references to pagans and Earth mothers and the like, lent the album a distinct Spinal Tap feel. Remember that scene where the band dances around the miniature model of Stonehenge? Oh, never mind.

Once I got past that, however, I found the music darkly compelling. Blending the heavy guitar riffage of Black Sabbath with the same kind of mystical eeriness I associate with Siouxsie and the Banshees, Iowaska makes an intense sort of pagan rock. "Modranicht", the album's first song, opens with a voiceover from Sam about women, witchcraft and the worship of Diana, then erupts into some kind of latter day ritual hymn (on speed). "Out Of My Head" is a great dreamscape of washing cymbals and echoey vocals -- at once the most "space rock" and the most Siouxsie-like song on the album.

"Mother Earth" is a sludgy environmentalist indictment. While the song has a great heavy groove, I find the chorus of "destroying the planet/destroying the trees/destroying the future/spreading disease" almost laughably simplistic. Politics in rock have never bothered me; hey, Iím a Dead Kennedys fan! But lyrics like that, coupled with the heavily accented vocals, are occasionally jarring for me, lending the songs more of a Monty Python tone than a Poly Styrene one.

What I like best about this album is the blending of punk, proto-metal and Samís feminine touch. I donít mean to knock her vocals, because she definitely has a powerful voice. There arenít a lot of women in hard rock, and her influence in the songs is a welcome change from alternatives like Kittie and Gwen Stefani.

-- Alex Zorn
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