"When the Dust Settles" (Self-produced; 2008)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Amalgama comes through with a full-length CD that holds up the quality of their previous EP and, in fact, surpasses it in many respects.

First and foremost, I don't know if the band has done re-mastering or re-recording, but "When the Dust Settles" sounds even better than the EP that preceded it. I played both versions of the opening track, "Before the Winter Comes," side-by-side and the full-length version is brighter and fuller than the EP version. John Salka's vocals sound improved and his guitar leads are sharper. The bass and drums sound fuller and bolder, too. And that's saying a lot considering how impressed I was with the EP's high quality sound.

As far as everything else is concerned, my review of the EP below could just as easily be applied to the full-length CD. The music here is, more often than not, fast and furious and, when it's not, it's crisp and sharp as a razor (as on "Slip Into Darkness"). The production is near perfect and the band is tight and intense. As I mentioned earlier in this review, John Salka's vocals seem better here than on the EP and my minor qualms with the songwriting have all but completely vanished (despite the fact that the five songs on the EP also appear on this full-length).

It could be that I'm just more familiar with Amalgama's music now, thanks to the EP, and that's why everything here sounds slightly better. But I don't think that's the case. Instead, I think this is one great band that's just getting better as time moves along, and I am anxious to see what they come up with next.

Amalgama: John Salka - lead/rhythm guitar, vocals; Dylan Lindstadt - rhythm guitar; Greg Laruccia - Drums; Nate Scheid - bass.

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"Stainless" EP (Self-produced; 2007)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

"Stainless" is one of the most descriptive album titles I've seen in some time. Why? Because this five-track collection of speed metal / thrash is notable for its clean delivery and razor sharp sound. 

This CD is much more melodic and much cleaner than most of the other thrash that's making a comeback out there these days. Whereas legendary speed metal bands like Motorhead and modern thrash bands like Municipal Waste are known for their grit and grime, "Stainless" is remarkable in its sheer technical sheen, both in performance and in production. Fiery leads rip through galloping rhythms, drums throb with a double-bass rage. The vocalist is a cross between the clean screams of Rob Halford and the growling roars of James Hetfield. The pace from song to song changes regularly, sometimes within the same track. You can't help but get caught up in it. 

Amalgama was apparently formed in 2005 and, despite the brilliance of this album, there is some room for growth. John Salka is a good vocalist but needs a bit more control to be a great one. And the songwriting, while more than adequate, could use a little more fine tuning. But these are minor gripes. Fans of speed metal and thrash, especially the more melodic type, will find new heroes in Amalgama.

Congratulations also to Steve Goldman, who recorded and mixed the CD, for delivering an collection of stunning clarity and balance.

Amalgama: John Salka - lead/rhythm guitar, bass, vocals; Dylan Lindstadt - rhythm guitar; Greg Laruccia - Drums.

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright ? 2008 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.