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Cellblock One, Cellblock One 

(Self-released, CD)

Barre hard rockers Cellblock One are extraordinarily confident about their destiny. The quartet's official bio states that they want to be "the biggest rock band in the world," suggesting that an essential blend of "talent, charisma and a tad bit of arrogance" will help 'em accomplish this feat. But the band's latest effort, Cellblock One, leaves some lingering doubts.

With its scraggly mix of dude-rock clichés and undercooked production, the record sounds seriously dated. It's hard for me to imagine this stuff taking off beyond North Country barrooms, but, hey, it's an unpredictable world.

The performances are conventional at best. Down-tuned guitars, start-stop riffs and tonally challenged vocals come together in a barrage of metallic mediocrity.

The disc opens with a minute-or-so of sinister sound effects. This is ostensibly to get the listener pumped, but I found it distracting. Subsequent track "Bleed In (Dying from Within)" condenses the lamest aspects of '90s aggro into one overlong riff-wreck. But it does feature a healthy amount of cowbell.

The band gets quasi-political with "Revolution," or, as vocalist Matt Coles pronounces it, "rav-o-loo-shaw-un." Ever hear South Park co-creator Trey Parker poke fun at macho metal? Well, I don't think this is satire.

"Love My Hate" has a decent intro, but loses the plot by the first verse. An awkward riff and rhythmically spotty vocals make for what Jack Black would call "weak sauce." Then there are the lyrics, which seem culled from a high school notebook: "Tried my best to make you see but it never really was

enough / In the end the soul I gave was trampled into dust," Coles sings. A cautionary tale, I suppose.

"Freedom Takes Its Toll" is a hard-rock report on current affairs. The track's main riff tumbles like an unbalanced laundry load, but the focus is on the message. "Nuclear bombs, that's what they claim / What about bin Laden? Oh, he got away / Make up some excuses, get Saddam Hussein / Are we any fucking different than him today?" Coles bellows. It's like dollar-draft night at a Washington think-tank.

I didn't want to shit on this disc, but it's just not very good. If Cellblock One truly desire star status, they should probably spend more time working on their material than boasting about it.

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