The Impossibility of Reason (Roadrunner)/Faceless (Universal)

Chimaira/Godsmack 

The Impossibility of Reason (Roadrunner)/Faceless (Universal)

With their minds on their money and their money on their minds, major-label musicians have been stooping to new tactical lows in the ongoing effort to hinder online leaks of unreleased product. Would-be pirates who tried to download new efforts from Eminem and Linkin Park were treated to "digital decoys" that continuously looped a frustratingly small portion of the song. Madonna added a personal twist last month. A week before the April 22 release of her latest opus, American Life, file-sharing networks were flooded with fake copies of each track. But instead of new songs, the MP3s contained only La Isla Bonita's most famous resident screeching, "What the fuck do you think you're doing?" Hackers promptly waged a hostile takeover of the Material Girl's official Web site, posting the entire Life album --plus remixes -- along with a countermessage: "This is what the fuck I think I'm doing."

Taking the war to absurd new heights, a pair of heavy-metal bands is attacking supply rather than demand. Advance copies of Chimaira's The Impossibility of Reason are prominently labeled with a warning that states: "This CD contains an audio stamp on every track." The stamp -- a voiceover intoning "Chimaira, The Impossibility of Reason, in stores this May" during each song -- presumably is intended to thwart potential sales on eBay and to used-record stores.

Sadly, the strong-arm tactic hasn't proved 100 percent effective, and countless copies of the audio-stamped disc have made the retail rounds. Dozens of copies have already traded on eBay, fetching prices between $10 and $50. On April 27, an Italian eBayer called mr-punisher was among the numerous auctioneers hawking copies of the disc. To his credit, mr-pun correctly noted that the stamp "[does] not allow the integral songs to be savored" -- which is exactly the problem with sending stamped CDs to music reviewers. It's impossible to suss out a record's sonic nuances with some digital Big Brother whispering in your ear every few minutes.

Not that Chimaira and nuance have ever had much in common. The Cleveland sextet's major-label debut blended hardcore and electronica into an intriguing package that pounded listeners over the head. Two years later, the group is content to emulate Slayer, scrapping the bulk of its electronic high jinks for Cookie Monster speed metal tempered by big choruses and fuck-the-world sourpussing.

Looking to avoid the digital bootleggers altogether, Godsmack issued review copies of its latest effort, Faceless, on cassette. If an audio-stamped CD is insulting, a cassette-only preview is downright injurious. Cassettes are well-known for producing some of the crappiest sound quality in the known universe, certainly not the sort of thing one wants a music critic to hear. Regardless, this reviewer can't offer much feedback on the new Godsmack because he doesn't own a cassette player -- or an 8-track player, or a reel-to-reel deck, for that matter. However, given Godsmack's history of issuing bland, sound-alike metal, one can safely assume that Faceless lives up to its name.

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