Maximum Perversion

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There have been some dramatic changes in the underworld since the release of Mephiskapheles' debut album, God Bless Satan, three years ago. Most notable was the departure of Mikal Reich, with Wayne Dunton arriving in his stead. Reich was an excellent reggae drummer; Dunton, however, is far flashier, and judging by his solos began life in the rock/punk world. His more extravagant rhythms herald the group's own shift into more experimental territory. From the funky breaks and avant-garde solos of "Break Your Ankle Punk" to the occasional forays into metal/hardcore territory and even more genre fusions, the band has decided to take chances. Unfortunately, not all of them pay off. The irresistible melodies are what made the debut CD so memorable, but now the band is expending more energy on unusual arrangements and broadening its sound than in composition. And this shift is reflected in the Grand Invidious' (the singer formerly known as the Nubian Nightmare) own performances, as he often sounds uncomfortable with the music around him. Still, there are plenty of upbeat skankers to keep much of the massive happy enough. The brass players, for all the meandering into new fields, continue to sound top-notch, while the rhythms propel the album along with gusto. But this is no longer the devastating party band with a grown-up sound that listeners once adored. Perhaps, given a bit more time, the music and musicianship will all come giddily back together again, but for now Mephiskapheles seem to be caught betwixt and between.

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