Death By Stereo Into the Valley of Death

From the opening strains of "The Plague,” the lead-off track from the SoCal quintet's latest album, it's clear the DBS lads are on a mission of conversion. Whether it's to bring together the hardcore and the metal kids or to raise awareness of the issues they hold near and dear, the band's third offering is by far their most focused and cohesive, fusing their melodic hardcore with old-school DRI-influenced crossover thrash metal. And the band is the first to admit that. "I think it was definitely a lot more thought-out," says vocalist Efrem Schulz. "We took a lot longer writing it, we put a lot more into the production, we've learned a lot more since the last time around and also we're just expanding on our influences and playing different styles to touch on the heavier elements of the music we like. There's no reason we should have any boundaries or any reason not to play any of those styles." The result sounds akin to the Middle Eastern-tinged politically charged metal of System of a Down, a comparison they are not uncomfortable with, either. "I've heard that quite a bit," says Schulz. "I think it's a compliment because I like that band a lot." Then they'd better get ready for many compliments not just because of the similarities but because this disc stands alone as a crossover classic in waiting. (Epitaph)