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Wastelander

Toxic Holocaust (of Portland, Ore.) may have unveiled the most polished post-apocalyptic metal release of 2008, but Michigan's Wastelander offers the most inspired with the no-budget, yet ferocious Wardrive, 11 tracks combining thrash, punk, black metal and tape-recorded excerpts from crazed AM-radio Christian-apocalypse broadcasters.

How "no budget"? Well, the drums sound like cardboard boxes, and the guitar tone lies somewhere between a Black and Decker chainsaw and a helicopter with a broken rotor. But Wastelander wears poor production values like a badge of honor, relying instead on nifty arrangements and unreserved passion to carry each song. Besides, we all know that once the bombs start falling, a decent recording studio will be hard to find.

The spooky synthesizer that doubles the main riff of "Knee Deep in the Dead" is a nice touch, as is the sudden melodic hook provided by vocalist/bassist Matt War at the end of "Wastelander." Indeed, just about every moment on Wardrive has a neat surprise buried beneath layers of sonic crust. Guitarist Sean "Xaphan" Peters and drummer Ian "Pit Viper" Sugierski play it close to their radiation-proof vests, making War's biker yowl and Mad Max lyrics the center of attention: "No way to stop this onslaught / No comfort in this massacre / Biological tragedy," he shrieks.

With any luck, we'll avoid a McCain/Palin White House, and Wastelander's dreams won't turn into grim reality.

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