Category Archives: Rock

Various Artists

Album Artwork by Mark Sasso

Album Artwork by Mark Sasso

Ronnie James Dio – This Is Your Life by Various Artists (Rhino Records)

Ronnie James Dio went from clean-cut boy band to hard rocking singer for the likes of Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath and his own band Dio.  His multi-octave singing and fantastic and humanistic lyrics always thrilled and comforted.  Dio may have left this plane in 2010 but his spirit lives on in the talents of thousands of musicians and the hearts of fans the world over.

Ronnie James Dio – This is Your Life begins with the fist-raising juggernaut Neon Knights.  Anthrax don’t hold back and Joey Belladonna knows how to belt and though he doesn’t hit the notes up high, his powerful vocals give tribute to the man that paved the way for him.  While anyone that knows Tenacious D is well aware of their absolute adoration of RJD, their cover of Last In  Line is rather odd with Jack Black’s vocals mixed too far above the rather generic metal instrumentation, making the song seem like karaoke, yet one with great vocals and a strange flute solo. It grows on you though.   I confess to knowing nothing of Adrenaline Mob but their take on Black Sabbath’s Mob Rules is killer.  I mean, this song wails, kicks ass, all those metal clichés.  The song was Sabbath’s attempt to remain relavent in the punk era is clear in the fast pace and raw power and the suitably named band distill all the fury of the original and spit out flames. Amazing guitars at the end too. Slipknot and Stone Sour singer Corey Taylor bellows like a titan along with Steel Panther guitarist Satchel and Stone Sour drummer Roy Mayorga for a stunning cover of Rainbow in the Dark.

Along with raising money for the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund listening to this tribute album should make some new fans for the respective musicians.  Case in point, Pennsylvania Grammy winners Halestorm.  Led by singer Lzzy Hale and drumming brother Arejay, on Straight Through The Heart the band hit all the notes with muscle and ease, playing close to the original yet showcasing the epic guitars and voice of Lzzy as a fresh new voice in metal. “Unleash the hounds!” Indeed.  Some guys named Lemmy and Saxon‘s Biff Byford follow with Biff and Motorhead‘s take on  Rainbow’s Starstruck, the titans trading lines like lions fighting for dominance of the pride, with that electrical wall of sound Motorhead are famous for.  Scorpions make  Temple of the King their own, sounding exactly like themselves, with soulful guitars and a nostalgic feel, as fantastic as when it first came out on Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow’s S/T debut in late 1974.  Doro and band put their own stamp on Dio’s Egypt (The Chains Were On), making a mysterious and powerful song even more epic with her beautiful and muscular delivery and the dense instrumentation of the band. Visions of Doro as an armored and sword-wielding warrior come to mind.  You don’t have to be a fan of Killswitch Engage to appreciate their buzzing and brash version of Holy Diver.  Except for the breakdown the song would seem right at home if played on the Sunset Strip in the mid-80′s.

Former Deep Purple and Black Sabbath singer Glenn Hughes, along with former Dio band members drummer Simon Wright, guitarist Craig Goldy, bassist Rudy Sarzo and keyboardist Scott Warren perform a super soulful and quietly powerful rendition of  Catch the Rainbow from the Richie Blackmore’s  Rainbow album.  Current Dio Disciples and former Lynch Mob singer  Oni Logan, former Dio bassist  Himmy Bain,  former Dio and current DC4 guitarist Rowan Robertson and drummer Brian Tichy (Foreigner, Whitesnake) take on Black Sabbath’s “I” as a gritty, bluesy bonfire, putting their own modern touch on an already excellent song. Rob Halford’s growl and roar is always a thrill to hear with Vinny Appice, Doug Aldrich, Jeff Pilson, Scott Warren, all former members of Dio ripping it up on The Man on the Silver Mountain, from Rainbow’s debut, the roaring guitars as well as Appice’s thundering drums more than a match for Halford’s energy.  In the first fiery chords of Metallica‘s Ronnie Rising Medley you’ll be yelling “hell yes!” They sample from A Light In The Black, Stargazer, Tarot Woman and Kill The King proving they still have that metal fire in them, sounding fresh and going for broke.  Closing the album is Mr. Ronnie James Dio himself, performing This is Your Life.  A tear-jerking piano ballad, strings swell, Dio singing  “This is your here/ This is your now/ Let it be magical”.

Listening to  Ronnie James Dio – This Is Your Life you’ll understand Dio’s message was always one of hope, faith and friendship, of perseverance in the face of adversity, of beauty and inclusiveness.  He was the Godfather of Metal and has touched so many lives.  So sing along with these songs and remember, the best days are still ahead. Raise the metal “V” and rock on.

(by Bret Miller)

LINKS
www.ronniejamesdio.com/
Buy Ronnie James Dio – This is Your Life on Amazon

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Nothing

nothing guilty of everything coverGuilty of Everything by Nothing (Relapse Records)

I am often interested in learning the past accomplishments of bands, especially when their current sound is vastly different than earlier in their career.  Domenic Palermo, vocalist for recent Relapse signees Nothing, previously fronted hardcore group Horror Show that put out a few albums/EP’s on Deathwish Inc. You can watch a set with Palermo and Horror Show from 2012 HERE.

Nothing is an altogether different endeavor in that Palermo and band are clearly enamored by such bands as Slowdive, Ride and My Bloody Valentine in their use of lush guitar textures and barely intelligible yet pretty vocals.  Searching back to their 2012 Downward Years to Come EP, you can hear the band’s evolution, involving the layered dissonant guitars in particular, the arrangements on Guilty of Everything are tighter and harder hitting emotionally.  Nothing‘s music is rich and subtle, songs to play loudly to catch all the melodic guitar interplay and keyboards swimming through the mix.

Photo Credit: Shawn Brackbill

Photo Credit: Shawn Brackbill

Opening track Hymn to the Pillory gets better after each listen, starting pretty and quiet,  Kyle Kimball’s drums come pounding in and the band gets epic on your ears, for maximum emotional uplift.  First single Dig takes the hardcore dissonance and puts it behind a wall of big drums, guitar fills and cavernous vocals.  Bent Nail is the most rhythmically propulsive song on the album, leading you to bang your head to the fast beat and distorted dual guitars.

The final third will have you blissed out at the beautiful noise Nothing blasts into the air.  Somersault‘s spacious mix helps showcase the dramatic guitar work of Palermo and Brandon Setta.  The song starts out all shimmery, a twangy guitar melody and drums kick in, Kimball sets his sticks to cymbals and the song slowly builds to a blistering climax, Palermo and Setta stomping on their pedals and pulling out some powerful chords to make your ears ring and your soul sing.  B&E goes all out in the thrash department, beginning in a pleasant mid-tempo, their wall of sound getting knocked down to an anxiously mellow segment reminiscent of Pink Floyd‘s Animals album before tearing into their instruments for a heart-wrenching finale that will leave you gasping for breath even as you’re reaching for the repeat button.

(by Bret Miller)

LINKS:
Facebook
Website
Bandcamp
Relapse

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The Glitch Mob

Glitch mob coverLove Death Immortality by The Glitch Mob (Glass Air Records)

On Love Death Immortality, the trio of ediT (Edward Ma), Boreta (Justin Boreta) and Ooah (Josh Mayer) have punched up the more visceral qualities of their past efforts, bringing to mind big beat giants The Prodigy, Chemical Brothers and Crystal Method.  If you hear the young punk vitality of Howlett, then the trio are doing something right.  The Glitch Mob want you to dance and nod your head.

Mind of a Beast opens the album with guitar slashes and skittering piano & synths then lively drums kick in.  A hard-edged synth line takes you by the ears and throws you into the mosh pit.  Nico Vega vocalist Aja Volkman adds her impassioned voice to Our Demons which starts soulful then becomes something epic, speeding up to a fast pace, dropping out and getting ever bigger, those itchy synths grinding into your psyche. Skullclub will get you dancing uncontrollably with a brilliant blend of rock and electronics.  The lead synth lines become The Glitch Mob’s signature sound on the album, taking the place of lead guitar.  

glitch mob skullsCan’t Kill Us is an industrial stomp with hard-hitting drums and metallic synths slicing and sawing away with a little soulful break just so you can catch a breath.  On I Need My Memory, Back Volkman’s vocals are chopped up for the Mob’s nod to Daft Punk, lighter drums and looser synths are set to a funky beat that will get your hands in the air and a goofy smile on your face.  One of the most captivating songs on the album is Fly By Night Onl,y which features Yaarohs’ lovely vocals.  This dancefloor filler best utilizes the guest vocals, letting her flow direct the song more than the beats.

Love Death Immortality’s closing track Beauty of the Unhidden Heart features the vocals of Sacramento duo Sister Crayon‘s Terra Lopez.  Her quivering and emotional delivery is backed by spacious ambience, chiming strings and booming percussion, a powerful meeting of talents.

Love Death Immortality is a big leap forward for The Glitch Mob.  These new tracks are made to be heard live where the speakers can vibrate the air of a large room.  See them on tour this Spring. They will play Club Nokia in downtown Los Angeles on May 10, 2014 with Ana Sia and Penthouse Penthouse. Wear your dancing shoes.

(by Bret Miller)

Links:
Theglitchmob.com
Facebook
Bandcamp

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Sunn O))) & Ulver

Terrestrials by Sunn O))) & Ulver (Southern Lord Recordings)

sunn ulver terrestrialsSunn 0))) played their 200th show at the Oya Festival in Oslo in 2008.  Two days later Ulver’s Krystoffer Rygg invited core members Stephen O’Malley (guitars) and Greg Anderson (bass) along with British multi-instrumentalist Daniel O’Sullivan (who had performed at that show) for an all-night jam at Crystal Canyon, Ulver’s recording studio.  After recording the instrumental jams O’Malley and Rygg edited and worked on the parts, O’Sullivan visiting over the years, adding strings and trumpet.

Ulver’s Childhood’s End album from 2012 reminded listeners that they could indeed rock with their energetic covers of psychedelic bands from the 60′s and early 70′s.  But Rygg and Ulver, with Daniel O’Sullivan joining the band after the Terrestrials sessions, have veered towards a more ambient, piano/keyboard led sound in the past decade.  So it is with much relish that fans of heavier music get to hear Sunn 0)))’s guitars on a release associated with Ulver.

Let There Be Light begins quietly with much portent as strings scrape and effects hum in the aether.  A throaty trumpet is introduced as the guitars build in their electrical crackling, along with the occasional bass thrum.  A piano tinkles in the background, the trumpet blurts and warbles , the guitars drone as if signalling sunrise, an outpouring of pent-up energy.  Then at the eight minute mark, the sounds drop except for a light trumpet burble, and a few seconds later drums roll and cymbals collide, the trumpet exulting in the rising of the sun.

Western Horn opens with bass moans, drum thumps and guitars slowly jangling as something darkly compelling develops in the mix.  Eerie metallic effects flitter and swell, Anderson’s bass thuds ominously and sounds are piled up like anguished moaning and crying voices.

Eternal Return puts some of Ulver’s atmospheric dark beauty into the alloy with O’Sullivan’s languid keys softening  O’Malley’s sharp guitar strums and drones.  As the music surges, violins and trumpet float in.  At about the halfway mark the arrangement segues to a looping and vibrant synthesizer and Rygg’s velvety voice.  The finale drifts in with sawed violins, percussive guitars and menacing atmospheres.  Quivering strings fade out at the end.

(by Bret Miller)

Links:
Southern Lord
Terrestrials on Bandcamp
Sunn 0))) Facebook
sunn.southernlord.com
Ulver.com
Ulver Facebook

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Reverend Horton Heat

rev cover_smREV by Reverend Horton Heat (Victory Records)

Get in, strap up and hold on tight for a kickass ride full of rockabilly and roots rock from the trio of singer/guitarist Jim Heath, bassist Jimbo Wallace and drummer Scott Churilla as they present REV,  their 11th album and first in four years.  REV warms up the engines with the instrumental Victory Lap, and peals out burning rubber with Heath recalling a tough girl named Betty back in high school who liked The Smell of Gasoline.  The boys play their instruments like that Chevy Nova rolling along at breakneck speed.

Zombie Dumb is the theme song for a fictional movie about surfing zombies that will get you shimmying and shaking in the sand along with those pesky brain-eaters.  Next up is a hard grooving reverendhortonheatrocker about a serial heart-breaker known only as Spooky Boots.  On Schizoid the band make insanity appealing, the trio keep up a fast beat and the guitars rave and wail, a creepy theremin crying in the background.  My Hat is a more traditional rockabilly song with plenty of smooth “go, cat, go!” guitars, punchy bass and drums.

On Let Me Teach You How to Eat, the Rev has more on his mind than watching the Food Network as he and the boys chant “Let me teach you how to toast/ make a bloody red roast/be the perfect party host” and when he sings about cooking tacos in the middle of the street and marinating meat you’ll laugh as you shake your ass.  Food porn set to a rockabilly beat!

REV is full of heart and humor and songs that will be soon sang loudly by the band’s rabid fans.  The album is a fine introduction to anyone looking for honest and authentic American rock’n’roll.

(by Bret Miller)

Links:
Reverendhortonheat.com
Facebook
Victory Records

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Junius

junius Days_of_the_Fallen_SunDays of the Fallen Sun by Junius (Prosthetic Records)

The man was a creature of shadow, of the world created by the obstruction of a light source, of the dark lands, of the early morning and the twilight.  Even the moon cast light and sometimes that was too much for him.  He reveled in the dark places yet understood the necessity of light.  When others got depressed over the shorter days he eagerly awaited that time of the year.  On those, and truly, all other days, but these times the most, of dying leaves and colder days, he picked a clear view of the sunset.  He knew when to find his perch and thought of the variation of colors and play of contrast in the clashes in the clouds as the orchestra performed a prologue to the story ahead.

Junius-Sutter-e1299615297870As the last piece of the sun was firmly tucked into bed, he settled in as the expectations of the night took over not just himself, but of his part of the world.  From his vantage point he watched the people go home from work and change their persona with their clothes, prepare for frolic and
bacchanalia or business meetings over dinner.  Lovers greeted in each other’s arms, or friends grasped hands before armoring themselves for seeking new mates, or to be entertained by acting and music, or some planned the conquest of a country.  He breathed in deeply the smells of freshly cooked meals, of perfume and musk, felt a pleasant chill as the trees and plants exhaled their life-giving oxygen.  Then the trumpet announced the arrival of the night and the audience got to their activities with a crash of cymbals.

After the heat of the sun on the earth was expended, the man would look up a the lights above, wondering if there were others in these distant places who enjoyed the symphonies of the dark places.  As a cloud passed over the light of the moon the man embraced the shadows until the next nightfall.  All was right in the dark.

(by Bret Miller)

Links: 
Junius.com
Prosthetic Records
Facebook

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Cheatahs

 cheatahs1Cheatahs by Cheatahs (Wichita Recordings)

I’ve fallen hard for a band called Cheatahs.  They’ve toured with Dinosaur Jr. and Wavves and Fidlar in the States and they hit all the notes that turn me on with heavily distorted guitars, quiet vocals as counterpoint to the noise.  With all the effects and volume you’ll also find a find sense of pop melodicism throughout, with some exceptional instrumentation.  Cheatahs could have simply relied on the template, with their use and abuse of effects and filters but this four-piece can truly play.

Their self-titled bull length follows two EPs, Coared and SANS, which where combined for stateside release as Extended PlaysCheatahs begins in earnest with Geographic‘s blast of fresh air, full of promise.  Nathan Hewitt and James Wignall’s distortion-drenched and finger-shredding guitars tromp and skitter, Hewitt’s vocals float on the heat rising from the fast-paced percussion.  Northern Exposure follows, guitars like torn speakers, accompanied by kilter vocals that exude innocence and light.  Mission Creep slows the pace, the bass and vocals taking on a smoky atmosphere as the guitars alternately shimmer and crunch.

cheatahs band shotFrom the opening riffs of The Swan, Cheatahs announce their intentions in blazing fashion, with a revved up lead and minor chord backing guitar and vocals that are more prominent in the mix.  The band wind you up, let you take a breather and then wind you up some more with muscle and harmony.  Just when you they can’t take you higher, the song climaxes in an all-out hackles-raising instrumental.  IV showcases Cheatahs’  love for certain early 90′s bands in their layered effects, abuse of the whammy bar, string-bending and guitar as atmosphere as well as once again tugging at your heart with their musicality.  Fall is the prettiest song on the album, Marc Raue’s snare cutting through the haze of slow, chorused vocals, chiming and churning guitars and Dean Reid’s subterranean bass.  Cheatahs’ self-titled album closes with the comforting Loon Calls, the drawn-out vocals offering hope as the guitars build and drop, pushing your troubles away with their dueling lines, the minor chords are joined by atmospheres that fill your head with sweet, sweet noise.

Even if you’re familiar with Cheatah’s touchstones you’ll appreciate their enthusiastic balance of heaviness and light.

(by Bret Miller)

www.cheatahs.net
www.facebook.com/cheatahs
www.cheatahs.bandcamp.com
www.wichita-recordings.com/artists/cheatahs

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Alcest

alcestshelter1_400xShelter by Alcest (Prophecy Productions)

Listening to the new album by Alcest, you might get the impression they’ve been listening to a whole lot of Sigur Ros.  Alcest leader, singer and multi-instrumentalist Neige and drummer/percussionist Winterhalter travelled from their home town of Paris to Iceland to work with Ros’ producer Birgir Jon Birgisson, using Amiina, the string section featured on a few Ros albums.

Neige was inspired by the idea of shelter, his being the sea.  Everything about the album Shelter is warm, comforting and uplifting with mystery and dramatic melodies sure to gain them many new fans.   A bright, optimistic feel is heard from the short opening track Wings, which leads to Opale‘s heavenly vocals and chiming guitar work.  While the lyrics are sang in French, the message is clear.  Le Nuit Marche Avec Moi features beautifully plucked guitars backed by a chorused guitar that sounds like keyboards.  Neige’s vocals are sexy and drawn out in a sense of longing.

alcest2013Voix Sereines starts slowly with a strummed guitar, evolving into a catchy rock ballad with light string accompaniment by Amiina.  Then the pace quickens and the guitars electrify and distort for a cathartic finale.  Neige’s vocal approach changes to suit each song and in the blustery guitar effects of the darkly beautiful L’ Eveil Des Muses his voice deepens and his pace slows to accentuate every nuance for maximum dramatic effect.

The title song is also the most accessible, with a stately drum beat, percussive piano and epic guitar work.  Neige’s vocals make you believe anything is possible, that all is full of love.  Away has some nice acoustic guitar and features vocals by former Mojave 3 and (recently reformed) Slowdive member Neil Halstead.  He’s joined by Amiina as Winterhalter taps on his snare drum for a wonderful little ballad.

Shelter closes with Deliverance.  Beginning very quietly, guitars evoking a contemplative mood., violins join a background guitar melody as Neige sings high and wistfully.  The song builds to a hackles-raising plateau, filling  your head with visions of  fireworks and flames or waves crashing on rocks or some other bold elemental activity as the echoplexed guitars sing like a choir to the stars.

(Review by Bret Miller)

Alcest Official Home Page
Alcest on Facebook
Alcest at Prophecy Productions

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Supersuckers

supersuckersgetthe1Get The Hell by Supersuckers (Acetate Records)

After a few years of touring and two Eddie Spaghetti solo albums, Supersuckers return with the mightily rawking Get The Hell.  The Greatest Rock n’Roll Band in the World pull out all the stops for their ninth studio album.  After a short Intro of alarms and people rioting, Supersuckers kick out the jams with the title track.  Guitars blazing, Spaghetti and company in crackling good form, you’ll be nodding your head and raising your fists and voice for the chorus “Gotta run for cover!“.

Six strings wail for the stomping Something About You, which sounds like a 50′s pop song with amps to 11.  Fuck Up follows with some sick-ass harmonica and a grooving rhythm.  Buzzing bass and a lighter feel buoys High Tonight, another singalong about the simple supersuckers252pleasures of altering minds with good company.  Pushin’ Thru is another in a long line of Supersuckers classics, full of positivity in the face of adversity.  The band has been doing their thing since 1988 and behind their swagger they also have  humility and compassion for their fellow rockers.  Spaghetti sings “I’m hoping the wind starts blowing my way…I’m hoping my friends have a place to stay“.

Supersuckers know how to cover a song, their version of Outkast’s Hey Ya a standout, and their barn-burning version of Depeche Mode’s Never Let Me Down Again will surely be a live favorite.  That’s What You Get For Thinkin’ is a cautionary tale about being too cock-sure, thinking you’ve got your shit together.  Closing out Get The Hell is Supersucker’s take on Gary Glitter’s Rock On, expressing the sentiment in true celebratory fashion, new drummer  “Captain” Christopher Von Streicher  pounding the skins in a rocking march sure to  get your ass on the dance floor, Dan “Thunder” Bolton and “Metal” Marty Chandler wailing on their guitars.

Recorded at Willy Nelson’s Arlyn Studio in Austin and mixed by Dwarves’ Blag Dahlia and Andy Carpenter, Supersuckers’ Get The Hell is focused on boots kicking, middle fingers raising, and singalong anthems sure to please the most jaded of music fans.  You can order Get The Hell on CD HERE and on vinyl in February via Reptilian Records HERE. Visit www.supersuckers.com for more info and tour dates.

(Review by Bret Miller)

Supersuckers on Facebook

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Sink Swim and Compare/Contrast

sinkcontrast_250xQuestion Everything Split by Sink Swim and Compare/Contrast (Self Released)

For all of the backstabbing and jealousies that go on within any local music scene, it is wonderful to see two extremely talented bands get together to present something positive and worthwhile. Both Compare/Contrast and Sink Swim are up and coming indie bands from the San Fernando Valley in Southern California, dedicated to their art, and ready to take a plunge headfirst into the big leagues.  Joining forces to create a Split recording entitled Question Everything, both entities present new material that absolutely soars.  In addition to their own selections, the front man for each band makes a guest appearance on each other’s songs – an inspired idea that renders Question Everything a thoroughly imaginative work well worth seeking out.

sinkswim2013_167xThe Question Everything Split commences with tracks by Sink SwimThe Fade is up first, dazzling the listener with its spiraling post hardcore melodies and impassioned vocals. There is a sense of urgency in this song that instantly reels you in for the sonic explorations that follow. Flee This Smallest City approaches with its gorgeous refrains and thoughtful lyrical content. Dispel then rocks you into a state of sonic bliss, featuring a guest performance from Compare/Contrast mastermind Fabi Benham. Why this band remains unsigned is as enigmatic as their own glorious compositions. Especially fine musicianship from Dane Petersen on vocals and guitar, Ryan Garvin on bass, and Corey Backer on drums.

In the midsection of the album is a track entitled Interlude (Questions Everything), where the camaraderie of both bands and the theme of the album are presented with on a grand and celebratory note. Then it’s time for Compare/Contrast to unleash their three tunes.

compare2013_250xApparently recorded after Fabi Benham’s life changing automobile accident, there is a lot of passion and introspection to be found within the powerful lyrics and dreamlike reveries of the Compare/ Contrast experience. Inference shows a dramatic step forward for the project, with Benham’s expressive vocals meshing exquisitely with the towering soundscapes. Porcelain Wings then flies off into the stratosphere featuring a powerful vocal performance and stunning guitar work that will leave your senses reeling. And the grand finale spins into your speakers with the moody inflections of Interpellation featuring an appearance by Dane Petersen of Sink Swim. The Compare/Contrast journey in sound in brought to you courtesy of Fabi Behnam on vocal and guitar, Ryan Garvin on guitar, Ryan Krouse on bass, and Stuart Wong on drums.

Question Everything is an ambitious collection of songs that will surely acquire both these talented bands a good deal of new fans. Repeated listening is essential to fully grasp the artistry of this wonderful recording. It will be exciting to see what’s in store for both Sink Swim and Compare/Contrast in the New Year. In the meantime, snag a copy of Question Everything and catch a rising star or two.

(Review by Ken Morton – Sink Swim Photo by Anthony Marcano )

Compare/Contrast on Facebook
Sink Swim on Facebook

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