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The Darkening Season (PKSMetal.com)

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Formerly known as Planet Killswitch, PKS is far from new frontiers -- but it's also far from bad. Recorded by Bill Korecky (Mushroomhead, Integrity), the band's second full-length, The Darkening Season, plants the group's flag in some well-explored turf, then rules it with an iron fist -- as well as the occasional machine-gun blast from the rhythm section.

Evan Nave's vaguely apocalyptic lyrics arrive in a conversational cookie-monster tone (they're not as low as Slipknot's Corey Taylor, but are closer to a Drowning Pool chorus). Dawn is one of Cleveland's top women guitarists; she and axeman Jacob Scum churn out downtuned riffs that ooze along somewhere between sludgy and lethargic. In fact, the songs are almost a mess -- until a groove comes together, and the band unites for a raging sprint around the pit. It's exactly what you'd expect from a band whose bassist is named War.

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