Watch Them Die Bastard Son

The first album from this Oakland-based band — a self-titled affair from 2003 — showed big promise but felt unfocused and unsure. For Bastard Son, they not only replaced their second guitarist but also added a sense of what Watch Them Die are truly about: pain. Be it the wonderful misery of sitting through the band’s long sludge dirges, the violent outbursts of hardcore found within, or just the tense nervousness of wondering where the band are going to go next, pain is clearly their game. The cheesy metal cover art may give the wrong impression, as this is street-level stuff that sounds like it would be more at home on a small label such as Slap-A-Ham than on Century Media. Hopefully newcomers won’t be turned away from an interesting and rewarding metal experience; one that reaches that rare space where it becomes hard to describe and needs to be experienced. Interestingly, the problems with this disc are also its strong points: the variety can be a bit much but is also quite enjoyable, and the thing as a whole is pretty long, which adds to the overall feeling of importance and, basically, the sensation when it’s all over that you’ve just been beaten up hard by five tough guys, two of whom are named Pat, by the way. (Century Media)