February 2015 Review Round Up

Happy March, everyone.

2015 is shaping up nicely already. Napalm Death’s new album is an absolute wrecking ball of an album. It has that effortless quality to it, as though the band were so confident in what they were doing that the album was always going to come out perfect.

There was a fair bit of competition for the honourable mention too, but I eventually settled on KharmA. Incendiary grind at its best, SubReal is sonic arson.

I have finally got around to setting up a Facebook page too. Drop by and give me a like. If you like.

Until April, enjoy.

Album of the Month
Napalm Death – Apex Predator – Easy Meat
(Grindcore – United Kingdom)
Century Media Records – 2015/01/27

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The Godfathers of grind are back with their fifteenth album. They’re not struggling for material either. Greenway’s vocals, sublimely harsh and expertly spat, are an intelligent examination of the relationship between consumerism and slavery. The music itself is a way more catchy than grindcore has any right being. It still has the visceral hostility that has made them one of the all time greats, but is delivered as a rally cry not raw invective.
Try before you buy: Metaphorically Screw You (YouTube)

Honourable Mention
KharmA – SubReal
(Death grind – Venezuela)
Self-released – 2015/02/06

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I’m a pretty chilled out sort of guy on a day to day basis. I don’t have great insight into revolutionary zeal. KharmA, on the other hand, are made of fiery conviction. Their uncompromising blend of grind and death angries up the blood like few releases I’ve heard recently. The brutal vocals and severe guitars assault the ear drums, with the blasting drums beating a death march for the speed addled. I’m impressed by how well they use music as a medium for rage.
Try before you buy: Obliterados (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Addaura – …And the Lamps Expire
(Black metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/01/19

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I probably shouldn’t have listened to this while feeling a bit bummed, as it turned a mild funk into a spiralling depression. Then again, every band should be seeking to make a genuine emotional impact on the listener, so in this regard, Addaura is a raging success. The two long-ish tracks (separated by a short interlude) hit the right combination of guitars, keyboards, and vocals to make a poignant listening experience. Stunningly harrowing.
Try before you buy: Amid the Tumult and Clamor (I Look for the Light Through the Pouring Rain.) (Bandcamp)

Annúlond – The Baker of Aljubarrota
(Blackened folk metal – Australia)
Self-released – 2015/02/17

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An Australian band who self-describe as viking metal doing an album about a figure from Portuguese folklore. Good to see another female folk figure getting some attention. A seven foot tall woman with six fingers on each hand and innate knack for killing is pretty metal. Surprised the good baker doesn’t get more attention to be honest. The music itself is on the dour end of folk, like someone sucked all the joy and energy out of Finntroll. An interesting diversion.
Try before you buy: Rise of Penthesilea (Bandcamp)

Antareth – The Mask of Truth
(Doom metal – Canada)
Self-released – 2015/02/12

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Didn’t have high hopes for Antareth. That cover art set off all sorts of alarms. Being described as avant-garde didn’t sit well either. Pointless weirdness played slow didn’t sound appealing. Happily, the Mask of Truth exceeded my expectations. It’s a little bit dull, but not nearly as excruciating as it could have been. The clean vocals need to be scrubbed from future recordings too. Yes, it’s dull, but it does at least manage to sound original. A small victory.
Try before you buy: The Pearly Road (Bandcamp)

Archgoat – The Apocalyptic Triumphator
(Black metal – Finland)
Debemur Morti Productions – 2015/01/27

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If you want a blueprint for straight to the point, straight for your throat black metal, you could do worse than following Archgoat’s lead. The Apocalyptic Triumphator is an anti-cosmic high mass, leading the profane in worship most blasphemous. It does this through one of the finest combinations of guitars, drums, and vocals in black metal today. They’re not particularly strong on innovation, but given the performance, they don’t need to be.
Try before you buy: Grand Luciferian Theophany (Bandcamp)

Cowards – Rise to Infamy
(Blackened sludge – France)
Throatruiner Records – 2015/02/09

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I feel slightly uneasy about the thought of hearing this live. The malice broadcast through these ten songs should whip a live audience into a dervish of hatred that would tear apart the venue. They strike a fine balance between the heft of sludge’s mighty riffs and black metal’s coruscating fury. Balancing these elements creates an atmosphere of primal anger that the band only just contained long enough to successfully put to wax. Scary stuff.
Try before you buy: Beyond My Hands (Bandcamp)

Death Engine – Mud
(Sludgey hardcore – France)
Throatruiner Records – 2015/03/02

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I love Throatruiner. The label make all their releases available for free download. Rest assured, I went back and purchased a copy of Mud. Death Engine’s speciality is harsh and unrelenting music. Sludgey hardcore doesn’t seem entirely appropriate as a descriptor, but it’s as close to a specific genre as I can get. The raw barks of the vocalist collide with the pitiless melodies in a jagged rhythmic battleground. It’s an exhilarating experience.
Try before you buy: Organs (Bandcamp)

Eall – Scents of a Wandering Ghost
(Atmospheric black metal – France)
Self-released – 2015/02/07

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I detect the fear of failure in this demo. There are some movements that have the potential to be truly spectacular, but they always pull up too short, leaving the listener feeling short-changed. It’s like the band doesn’t fully trust their skills, which would explain why they so readily slide back into the murk of generic Burzum worship. This intermingling of the awe-inspiring and the insipid leaves the demo sounding disjointed. It’s disappointing rather than bad.
Try before you buy: That Brought Shining Visions In A Cold Water Stream (Bandcamp)

Ethereal Shroud – They Became the Falling Ash
(Blackened doom metal – United Kingdom)
Grimoire Cassette Cvlture – 2015/02/21

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This is more grandiose than I expected. In many ways it is a union of miserable metal’s soul mates, dsbm and funeral doom. There’s not an once of doubt that the three long tracks are bleak, but there’s definitely something else to it. There’s a grandeur to it that would be equally appropriate for an epic doom act, were it not so depressing. It’s the guitar movements. There’s a sweep to them that allows the band to generate a dark energy to hammer home the misery.
Try before you buy: Look Upon the Light (Bandcamp)

Gomgoma – Medicine Apophthegms
(Doom metal – Greece)
Self-released – 2015/02/07

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It’s a bit of a dog’s breakfast. The vocalist would be better served in a funeral doom act, rather than this somewhat sludgey affair. The drummer is wasted here; easily an A+ performer in a C band. Lays down a triumphant beat that gives the songs at least some semblance of energy. The guitar work is a buzzkill; there’s not a lot to enjoy here. They either need to be slower to pack some wallop or faster to build some energy. Tempo limbo is a killer.
Try before you buy: Asstray (Bandcamp)

Karmageddon – Preborn
(Southern metal – Hungary)
Self-released – 2015/02/08

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Southern metal: typically a term used by bands who owe so much to Dimebag and Vinnie Paul, they might as well drop a sack of royalties off directly at the House of Abbott. Karmageddon don’t exactly distance themselves from this assessment. They’re pretty hard to hate though. The vocals aren’t brilliant, but the rest of the music has an infectious energy to it that you can’t help but enjoy. They’ll never be critical darlings, but they are good, solid fun.
Try before you buy: Faith in Me (Bandcamp)

Marduk – Frontschwein
(Black metal – Sweden)
Century Media Records – 2015/01/19

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This is a punch in the face with black metal. The military theme is well executed, turning the album into a mighty blitzkrieg. I think what appeals to me more is that Frontschwein manages to arrest the Funeral Mist-ification that Marduk was undergoing. I love Mortuus’ other band, but I got into Marduk with Panzer Division Marduk. I’m all about the war themes and the militaristic rhythms, which this album delivers on in a big way. Brutal and hellish.
Try before you buy: Afrika (YouTube)

Misþyrming – Söngvar elds og óreiðu
(Black metal – Iceland)
Fallen Empire Records – 2015/02/07

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This is a fine addition to world of intellectual black metal. It sounds like it belongs to the wonderfully fruitful French scene that spawned Deathspell Omega and Arkhon Infaustus. Rhythm and melody are tortured into twisted abominations. The vocals, while mostly harshly intoned venom, have a range not commonly seen in this particular neck of the blackened woods. It’s an album that revels in bleak inhumanity. As monstrous and unforgiving as hell.
Try before you buy: Friðþæging blýþungra hjartna (Bandcamp)

Mortum – Ascending Calamity
(Black metal – United States of America)
Vanguard Productions – 2015/02/14

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Mortum, we need to talk. It’s about your intentions. Do you plan on remaining an underground act, only heard by the trve and the occasional falsey (such as myself) who stumbles upon you? Or do you want to be bigger and have wider exposure? I hope it’s the later, because your talent is wasted on basement recordings. I’m very grateful to Vanguard. They did put this out for you and I heard it as a result. But you have talent that deserves to be heard above tape hiss.
Try before you buy: Scourge of Suffering (Bandcamp)

Rusco – Demo 2015
(Grindcore – Italy)
Self-released – 2015/02/22

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As relentless and destructive as an archetypal slasher film villain, Rusco’s demo doesn’t mess about. There isn’t even the illusion of respite during the ten tracks on offer. Bass heavy and jammed to overflowing with blastbeats, they still manage to make each song stand out on its own; they have succeeded in cultivating relentlessness without falling into the trap of monotony. It’s also good to hear organ-gargling vocals outside of goregrind.
Try before you buy: Cloaca (Bandcamp

Seventh Dimension – Recognition
(Progressive metal – Sweden)
Self-released – 2015/02/13

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An entertaining effort from Seventh Dimension. They’re out on the power metal end of prog’s spectrum, so expect something closer to Symphony X, albeit without their panache, than Dream Theater. It maintains an upbeat pace and avoids self-indulgence. It’s crowd pleasing. The cynic in me thinks they have a specific label they’re trying to woo, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that they have produced an album geared up for broad appeal.
Try before you buy: Third Eye (Bandcamp)

Sumac – The Deal
(Post-metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/02/17

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Aaron Turner’s latest musical venture, in collaboration with Nick Yacyshyn and Brian Cook, sees him once again venturing into the realms of post-metal. It’s an impressive release. The Deal comes across like Jovian gossamer; delicately crafted but astronomically heavy. It’s so heavy it forms its own gravitational pull, keeping the listener drawn in until the final note fades. But it’s effortless in its heavyness, allowing the listener to bear the full brunt of its atmosphere.
Try before you buy: Hollow King (Bandcamp)

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February Review Round Up

Lots to like this month, but nothing could quite top Grand Magus’ latest effort, although Amnesian’s No Atonement came soooooo very close. I strongly recommend getting them both.

I’m thinking about expanding my reviews, making them a bit longer. Can’t help but feel I’m restricting myself. No promises though, because as much as I can write forever about the top albums, getting those extra words out for the mediocre albums is going to be tough.

See you next month, first Monday as usual.

Album of the Month
Grand Magus – Triumph and Power
(Heavy metal – Sweden)
Nuclear Blast – 2014/31/01

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Gotta paraphrase Homer Simpson, because at first I was like, ‘Yes. YES! This rocks!’ and then I was, ‘No. NO! Don’t stop rocking!’ Triumph and Power has everything you could possibly want in a metal album: anthemic choruses, towering solos, fist-pumping rhythms. Even the quiet, folkish instrumental tracks work, because you just know they’re building to something. It’s a masterfully crafted piece of modern heavy metal.
Try before you buy: Triumph and Power

Honourable Mention
Amnesian – No Atonement
(Grindcore – Canada)
Self-released – 2014/02/08

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I love a surprise and this visceral slab of grind nastiness more than fit the bill for me. I simply didn’t expect such a well developed sound from a self-released album. More on the punk end of the grind spectrum, No Atonement allows each song to develop its own character. I could easily ramble about the quality of the performers, but I’d rather marvel in the creation of a sound that is distinctly, and uniquely, Amnesian.
Try before you buy: …Mania

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Aleph Null – Nocturnal
(Stoner doom metal – Germany)
Self-released – 2014/02/15

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A tough one. The critical me acknowledges this is a good album. It’s uptempo by doom standards, it’s well performed, it’s catchy, and it’s well produced. By rights, it has everything I look for in this sort of album. And, yet, I don’t like it. I know I should; it ticks all my critical boxes, but I still don’t like it. It sounds like it was recorded to earn a record deal. The end result is it sounds good, but lacks the soul of a great album.
Try before you buy: Muzzle of a Sleeping God

Behemoth – The Satanist
(Black metal – Poland)
Nuclear Blast – 2014/02/03

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The blackened titans have sailed through uncertain seas over the last few years with Nergal’s cancer diagnosis casting a pall over the band’s future. But he survived, the band have thrived, and this is a glorious reaffirmation of what Behemoth is. More blackened than their last couple of albums, The Satanist’s infernal sonic wrecking ball should annhilate any doubt about the band’s future. Revel in their balefire.
Try before you buy: Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer

Castration Rite/Nihilistic Holiday – Split
(Noisecore/Grindcore – United States of America/Pakistan)
Subsidence Recordings – 2014/01/12

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Castration Rite don’t really do music. It’s more like crescendos of anger expressed with instruments as well as shrieks. Disjointed and jarring, the songs don’t allow you to fall into any rhythm. Nihilistic Holiday’s take on grind is more coherent than their splitmate’s, but that doesn’t make it any less furious. Their four tracks compliment the previous fourteen by providing direction to the mindless fury.
Try before you buy: Too Sober

Corpsessed – Abysmal Thresholds
(Death metal – Finland)
Dark Descent Records – 2014/02/04

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The debut album by these twisted Finns harkens back to the early days of the Florida death metal scene. It’s willfully dirty production trades crispness for evil and the end result is a wall of Lovecraftian malevolence that crawls across your soul as well as hammers your ear drums. This is a reminder of what death metal in its purist form should be: an ugly noise that gives voice to the primal, raging darkness.
Try before you buy: Trepanation

Cynic – Kindly Bent to Free Us
(Progressive rock – United States of America)
Season of Mist – 2014/02/14

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If Focus is their metal album, and Traced in Air is their transitional album, that means Kindly Bent to Free Us is Cynic’s rock album. People may disagree with my assessment, but it’s hard to call this shining beacon of light and spiritual fulfilment, ‘metal’. There’s something fundamentally uplifting about this album; the lyrics, vocal style, and instrumental rhythms all come together to make this a joy to listen to.
Try before you buy: Moon Heart Sun Head

Decades/Failures – 002
(Darkwave – United States of America)
Dead Tank Records – 2014/02/06

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What I know about the goth approved subgenres could fit on a postage stamp, but I know what I like. And I like this. The sythns and drum machine are looped and fuzzed out to create an ethereal dreamscape, while the vocals are washed out and distant. To my mind, this is what a shadow would sound like. It’s an album that would feel appropriate being spun at a goth club around 3am, just as the pills are wearing off.
Try before you buy: City Streets

Dragons Bane – Harbingers of Glory
(Stoner metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/02/08

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Not going to lie: the artwork for this E.P. didn’t get my hopes up. Seemed cheesy as hell to me. But the music well and truly exceeded expectations. What becomes clear very quickly is that these guys have spent a lot of time listening to High on Fire and Kyuss, because they’ve clearly learned that you don’t need to play low and slow while off guts. It’s not terribly original, but who cares? Good time chunky riffs all round.
Try before you buy: The Wolf Goddess

Gilla Bruja – Clubbed Hands and Fist Full of Snakes
(Sludgey death metal – United Kingdom)
Self-released – 2014/02/11

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It’s not a bad E.P., it’s just dull. There. I said it. It’s not that the band is unskilled or incompetent but there is little to nothing to distinguish these five tracks from the myriad of downtuned growlers. It doesn’t help that it also sounds like nu-metal played at half speed. I guess the best way to sum up is that it’s festival filler. It’d kill time before another band without irritation, but it’s not what you came for.
Try before you buy: One Pinch of Blackleaf and Three Across the Eyes

Jackals – No Solution
(Hardcore – United Kingdom)
Hardware Records – 2014/01/15

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With the alternative festival season passing at the time of review, you would be forgiven for having a sense of despair regarding the hardcore scene. Juvenile mindsets and psuedoactivism do seem to dominate. In this light, Jackals came as a warm hug of anarcho-punk fire. Ten blistering tracks, none of them over two minutes, all of them stuffed full of piss and vinegar. Good to see true punk lives on.
Try before you buy: Manipulation

Kindergarten Hazing Ritual/Cedric’s Lettuce – Kindergarten Hazing Ritual x Cedric’s Lettuce
(Grindcore/Harsh Noise – United States of America/United States of America)
37564 Recordings – 2014/02/09

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Kindergarten Hazing Ritual’s blend of 8-bit sound effects, samples, and a.d.d. grind is always entertaining. Thirteen blistering tracks, all with tongue planted firmly in cheek. Good time party grind. Not a description applicable to Cedric’s Lettuce. I truly worry about the sanity of those who listen to this for fun. It sounds like server noise and a car crash run twice through a moog. When I say harsh noise, I mean it.
Try before you buy: I Just Wanted to Show Her My Pokemanz

Lazarus Blackstar/Black Shape of Nexus – Black Shape of Nexus/Lazarus Blackstar
(Sludge metal/doom metal – United Kingdom/Germany)
Alerta Antifascista Records – 2014/02/20

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Going into this, I knew very little about Lazarus Blackstar and some about BSoN. Both bands surprised me. The former’s downtuned, swampy riffs really draw the listener in. Ordinarily, I like low and slow sludge, but I think it often lacks catchiness. Not a problem here. The later surprised me by not being a black hole of drone. Not that I’m complaining. This foray into doom is immensely satisfying. And, again, very catchy.
Try before you buy: Whispering Through Broken Teeth

Parfumerie – Transmundane and Unprofessional Delocation of Superfluous Extremities and Rare Tissues
(Goregrind – Canada)
Self-released – 2014/01/10
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A band I’ll continue to keep my eye on, because, as much as I feel this particular E.P. was merely average, they have the potential to be great. The blastbeats are pummelling, the guitars are dirty yet precise, and the vocalist is so guttural he sounds like he’s gargling organs. The technical elements are all there, but too many tracks sounded the same. They need to improve the sophistication of their songwriting.
Try before you buy: Irrational Phobia of an Untied Navel

Perfect Beauty – Obsidian
(Drone doom – Poland)
Self-released – 2014/01/16

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I have a soft spot for drone; I love how bands operate within such repetitive parameters. Perfect Beauty, in transforming from industrial electronica to drone doom, have produced an album that embraces the repetitive nature of the genre with open arms. One heavily distorted bottom end note feels like it is played continuously, while other notes rise up from it. Its intentional monotony is a thing of beauty.
Try before you buy: III

The Seaford Monster – Live at ‘303’
(Brutal death metal – Australia)
Self-released – 2014/02/25

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Ahhh, the interchangeable chug of mediocre brutal death combined with the terrible audio quality of what sounds like a straight to iPod live recording. Drums dominate the mix, with guitars and vox fighting for what little audibility is left. And there’s more bass in a castrato choir. Still, gotta give ’em props for the entertainingly puerile song titles and admitting that brutal death can be pretty funny.
Try before you buy: Backpack Full of Shit

Sun Worship – Elder Giants
(Black metal – Germany)
View from the Coffin – 2014/02/22

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These Teutonic misanthropes specialise in drawn out sonic barrages. In many ways they remind of the USBM band, Krallice. And I love Krallice. Minimalist lyrics and hypnotic guitars are meshed seamlessly with blasting drum rolls. It all comes together to create three tracks of malicious menace, which in turn are rounded out by a final track of droning alienation designed to leave the listener unsettled.
Try before you buy: The Absolute is Becoming

Sunn O))) & Ulver – Terrestrials
(Ambient drone – United States of America/Norway)
Southern Lord – 2014/02/03

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It’s amazing what can be done with a minimalist attitude; that so much can be conveyed with seemingly very little. Both bands’ styles are blended to create an album that simultaneously portrays a sense of great desperation and a feeling of total resignation. Sunn O)))’s rumbling bass and distortion combines with Ulver’s judicious use of synths and horns to ably foster this juxtaposition. It’s haunting in its simplicity.
Try before you buy: Western Horn

Thou – Ceremonies of Humiliation
(Doom metal – United States of America)
Dead Tank Records – 2014/01/29

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A compilation of these prolific doomster’s split releases, this is a solid introduction to the band and great warm up to their upcoming fourth LP. It shows the length and breadth of Thou’s talents, from the crushing downtuning to the bile-fuelled vocals and all the way through to the gentler movements that allow a brief respite from the negativity. This may be my first exposure to the band, but it won’t be my last.
Try before you buy: Fleurs de Mal

The Vintage Caravan – Voyage
(Rock – Iceland)
Nuclear Blast – 2014/01/10

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Possibly the best thing to happen to rock since Clutch, The Vintage Caravan is what happens when you take three lads from Iceland and feed them a steady diet of Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. Voyage is no mere nostalgia trip though; it’s packed solid with infectious grooves and memorable hooks. It’s the sort of album that instantly lodges in the brain. Air guitar; desk drumming; and bad singalongs are inevitable.
Try before you buy: M.A.R.S.W.A.T.T