To those of you not in the know, Just Like Vinyl is the relatively new project of former Fall of Troy frontman Thomas Erak and friends. Their sophomore album Black Mass is here, tighter and more consistently aggressive than the band’s self titled debut.

A few highlights include the crushing “Sucks To Be You,” the nifty fretwork on “ATM” and the melodic “Walk You Home” which features Sam McTrusty (from Twin Atlantic). “$$$” might test Erak’s vocal cords more so than anything he has recorded in quite some time. His clean vocals are still an acquired taste. “Pressure/Release” has a memorable riff and might encapsulate all of the best features of the band. In a lot of ways, it seems as though the album is backloaded with some of the more aggressive numbers, so stick with it.

Though the reigns have been loosened a bit here, the specter of Erak’s old band still looms large. The Fall of Troy seemed to thrive on spontaneity and showcasing each member’s individual skills. Just Like Vinyl is much more willing to play in-the-pocket and to work as a collective unit. That’s an admirable goal, but it’s also not as dynamic as some people were hoping for. Black Mass splits the difference and allows things to get heavier than this band ever has before. There are no throwaway experiments, just mostly solid songs. It certainly will make the live show more interesting as many of these would have a good chance of making a live audience go crazy.

It’s nice to see Just Like Vinyl starting to hit their stride and crafting some challenging, heavy tunes that are worthy of the expectations that have been bestowed upon them.

-J.J. Ellis-

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When J.J. Ellis isn’t writing as the Allentown DVD Examiner, his Decent Exposure Radio can be heard on the air every Friday night from 10:30 to midnight (EST) on WXLV 90.3 FM or wxlvradio.com!

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