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Tainted (Dead Skin Music)

Singer-keyboardist Dread (Dann Simmons) recorded, engineered, and mixed this album at Cleveland's Groove Room studios last year, and it has a heavy industrial rock sound that sounds like mid-'90s Nine Inch Nails. The mere fact that Simmons plays everything on the album himself (as NIN's Trent Reznor used to), has assembled a band to play live (as Reznor does for every tour), and writes about his inner demons (as Reznor does on every song) suggests the extent to which Dread is derivative of NIN. In fact, self-deprecating lyrics such as "I have no use for myself" ("Control"), "All I want to do is get away" ("Walk Alone"), and "I hate today" ("The Face of Pain") come off as blatant attempts to evoke Reznor's particular brand of angst.

The album opens with "No One," a song that features heavy guitars, parched vocals, and something that resembles the sound of a cracking whip, as Simmons sings about the "darkest of days." The tone of the album remains the same throughout, as Simmons includes samples from films such as The Shining, Pulp Fiction, and Natural Born Killers, and urges "Bring it on, motherfuckers." While songs such as "Sorrows End," "One Step Below," and "Speed of Fate" bristle with energy, with Simmons trying his hardest to evoke the gruff vocals of Metallica's James Hetfield, they ultimately rehash themes of searching for meaning in a despondent world. The percussion-heavy instrumental "Pulse" comes off better, simply because it experiments with hissing synthesizers and rattling bass. For the live show, Simmons has assembled a group of musicians, whom he maintains are the result of a "sequential cloning process." They include bassist Trip (Scott Artrip), drummer Drum. 1 (Randy Kish), guitarist Kramer (Jesse Kramer), and guitarist CW.3PO (C.W. Howell). Maybe they'll be able to use their special powers to shed some new light on the hackneyed material here.

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