- One of 2003's best local releases came from Kent's pastoral Six Parts Seven.
Not since the halcyon days of Nine Inch Nails and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony in the early '90s has Northeast Ohio had a better year in music than it did in 2003. Kent's Black Keys were nominated for the prestigious Shortlist Award and toured with Beck. Cleveland metal combo Chimaira sold close to 60,000 copies of its sophomore effort and stole the show on the Ozzfest side stage. Another local metal act, Mushroomhead, continued its steady ascent, moving 30,000 copies of its latest in a single week. Because these bands entered a new tax bracket in the past year, we've left them off the list of the top 12 regional records for 2003. Read on for a dozen more acts just as worthy of acclaim.
1. Cobra Verde, Easy Listening (Muscletone)
Cobra Verde could do breast strokes in all the critical drool spilled over its latest. But CV lives up to the hyperbole on its most cocksure, rockin' album yet. Frontman John Petkovic leads a seminar in sexology -- a curriculum of his own creation -- panting and posing over guitars that move more ass than the RTA.
2. Deyampert, Shapes and Colors (Sonar Kollektiv)
Deyampert's dusky, seductive debut suggests dark clubs and dangerous women. With sensual beats and an acoustic lilt set to vocals as inviting as a warm bath, Shapes and Colors is an album capable of heating up both the bedroom and the dance floor.
3. Integrity, To Die For (Deathwish)
With metalcore surging in popularity and dozens of newjacks biting scene forebear Integrity, Dwid and company bite back on To Die For. The band's comeback LP makes up for lost time with karate-chop breakdowns and guitars that sound as if they've been in the weight room for the past three years.
4. Kiddo, Kiddo (Drive-In Records)
Kiddo's eponymous debut is as effervescent as the bubbles in your beer and almost as intoxicating. Flush with candied, two-part harmonies and a backbeat hard enough to chip concrete, Kiddo is just about the only thing in town capable of eliciting as many grins as a Browns victory.
5. Six Parts Seven, Lost Notes From Forgotten Songs (Suicide Squeeze Records)
The Six Parts Seven's sweeping instrumentals have long been full of wide-open spaces in which listeners may wander freely. On Songs, the Kent band enlists such indie rock notables as Isaac Brock and Pall Jenkins to add vocals and shepherd fans through the intricate and engaging material. Along the way, these forgotten songs become unforgettable.
6. Party of Helicopters, Please Believe It (Velocette)
Jaime Stillman's arcing leads are so hot, you can practically warm your hands at the speakers as he pulls out one slobbering solo after the next. Combined with the cloud-nine vocals of PoH frontman Joe Dennis, who sounds as if he sings from the lotus position, Please Believe It manages to be ethereal and anthemic at once.
7. California Speedbag, The Fire of Misery (Smog Veil)/The Cowslingers, Cowslinger Deluxe (Shake It Records)
Two of Cleveland's most debauched Americana acts belly up to the bar for a pair of LPs that ensure you'll never have to drink alone again. On California Speedbag's debut disc, moanin' pedal steel and spirited button box enliven world-weary honky-tonk that's careful to point out that "White Trash Is People Too." Likewise, the Cowslingers energize their beer-fueled cow-punk with mandolin, fiddle, banjo, and a classic cover of G.G. Allin's "Drink, Fight, Fuck" that's almost as much fun as its subject matter.
9. This Moment in Black History, "The Cleveland Finger EP" (Exit Stencil)/Roué, Fuckin for the Future (www.roue.org)
Two short, sharp debuts that come on like a power surge. TMIBH twists and shouts with convulsive, firebrand funk tailored for both dancing and demonstrating. Roué mates the rhythmic bombast of the Jesus Lizard with droll, observant lyrics and vocals that go from sneer to shriek in the blink of a black eye.
11. Soulless, Agony's Lament (Crash Music)
This Parma five-piece is as metal as the plate in Ozzy's head. Wrist-spraining leads, Satan-with-a-hangover vox, and lots of Razor, Ripping Corpse, and Destruction tees make Soulless Cleveland's finest thrash offering since Destructor.
12. Allergic to Whores, 1331: Chaos Before Death (Dark Front Records)
A.T.W. lived fast, died young, and left behind a good-looking corpse in the newly formed Nightbreed. It also went out on a high note, with the dynamic, depressive 1331, an album that spiked the band's breakneck gutter thrash with shards of black melody and an obsession with death that proved prescient.