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Sappy Bell 

"Call to Rise" (

The problem with a lot of extreme music these days is that many bands seemingly spend more time coming up with genre designations than they do fashioning an original sound. As if the underground weren't cluttered enough with silly subcategories -- "screamo," anyone? -- now we have "heavycore," a hardcore hybrid whose distinctiveness often seems negligible.

Sappy Bell counts itself among this burgeoning breed, but unlike many of its peers, this bunch is unique enough to warrant a new class. Though the band's sound is rooted in a metal/ hardcore crossover first popularized by the likes of D.R.I., guitarist Greg Castillo adds real fretboard acrobatics to the mix, while singer John Sloboda's delivery is as dynamic as Kurt Brecht is tone-deaf. Occasionally that works against the band: The vocals tend to be too high in the mix, especially on the opening cut, "Thousand Miles Away," on which Sloboda sounds downright flat at times. This, combined with a few clunky arrangements, limits the effectiveness of "Call to Rise," though it doesn't obscure Sappy Bell's promise. Superb stompers like "Walk the Dead" and "Departure" signal a potential force in the making. "I may strike out, but I will be back again," Sloboda bellows at one point. We'll be waiting.

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